Cecilia Bartoli in Händel’s Semele, Zürich
This is unfortunately not a review. I wish. But, no, I have not been to Zürich to see Cecilia Bartoli as Semele. I wish I had since I love la Bartoli and since I know this wonderful production which I saw some years ago in Cologne.
It was my first experience of baroque opera on stage and I must admit I only went because my friend Carsten dragged me there. And I was completely swept away by director Robert Carsen’s inventions and the wonderful music.
Semele was one of Jupiter’s lovers (mother to his son Dionysos), who was tricked by the jealous Juno (Jupiter’s wife) into asking the supreme god to see him in all his glory. Which kills her since she is only human.
In this staging Juno is a most true copy of Queen Elizabeth II both when she is dressed up with the crown jewels and when she is wearing her Mackintosh and out with her pocket torch to wake Somnus.
It’s a very humourous portrayal and that goes for the whole cast.
The Opernhaus Zürich has been generous enough to put some video and audio clips on their web page.
I put a little bit here to let you see what it’s like. Semele sings about Endless pleasure, endless joy and it certainly looks like it is fun being in Jupiter’s hands. And then Juno (Birgit Remmer) sending away her secretary Iris, the rainbow(!), (Isabel Rey) in Iris, hence away.
I can really recommend seeing the whole video by going here. Especially the clip from the aria Myself I shall adore is hilarious. Juno visits Semele disguised as her sister Ino. She paints her future bright by letting her try on the crown jewels. Semele seems very content when she looks in the mirror.
I remember a marvellous remark Carsten made back in Cologne – that her reflection as she adores herself in the mirror is also in the music as echoes. I love that idea.
I think it’s interesting that Cecilia Bartoli is taking on soprano roles. She was always more a soprano than a mezzo to me.
My other friend Francisco is going to love all this, so here is one last picture for him: