Entertaining, charming, musically superb and simply put...a pleasure
Semele may not be my favourite of Handel's operas, that's Giulio Cesare, but it entertains and warms the heart on every hearing/viewing and the music(Where'er You Walk and Endless Pleasure being the highlights) is wonderful. Directed by Robert Carsen, this was a delight and on par with the Cecilia Bartoli(Zurich?) performance.
For modern dress, the production looks lavish and very tasteful in the costumes, Joshua and Connolly's costumes are particularly well done. The production is always dynamically lit, with even the darkly lit scenes not feeling too dark and instead having somewhat of a luminous look and the sets are not too bare or complicated. The picture quality is clear and the video directing is appropriately stylish and unobtrusive. Robert Carsen's directing style is one that appeals to some and not to others, his directing in this production to me is some of the best he's done, the bawdy parts are sensual, the funny parts are genuinely funny, hilarious even with Iris, and it's emotionally investing, Semele in Act 3 is heart-breaking.
Do not have any kind of personal bias against concept or modern dress productions, but it depends on the execution. If the production is entertaining, makes the characters interesting, the story clear and allows an emotional connection then it in my eyes is a good production; however if static, muddled and adds touches that add absolutely nothing to the storytelling and perhaps even distorts, then it's a failure. This Semele is a strong example of the former, doing a splendid job in bringing his own inventive style while still keeping true to the story and the characters and their motivations, with the only reservation being some of Iris' stage direction in Juno's Iris Hence Away coming over as a touch overdone.
Musically, the production is just superb, with stylistically and dramatically alert orchestral playing, that are also alive to depth and nuance, a chorus that is well-balanced and involved and conducting from Harry Bicket that's authoritative and accommodating. The sound quality has remarkable clarity, and doesn't favour the orchestra over the singers or vice versa at all. The performances are consistently good, with Rosemary Joshua giving one of the best performances of hers I've seen her give. She looks beautiful, her singing is pure, warm and simply put radiant with no signs of shrillness and she's an affecting actress. John Mark Ainsley's tenderness during Where'er You Walk is heart-melting(the slow tempo here for the aria works), his silvery tone showing no signs of being strained or pushed even in colouratura and he is no slouch as an actor either, only his not-quite-so-crystalline diction is not quite so good.
Sarah Connolly is a rich-voiced and sincere Ino, faring far better than Liliana Nikiteanu, who was quite good but not up to her usual standard when she did the role opposite Bartoli. Susan Bickley is authority personified as Juno both in voice and acting(she has great comic timing too, her acting in the cadenza Iris Hence Away was a real crack-up). Janis Kelly is hilarious as Iris while also giving the role a lot of charm and a definite scene stealer, some very imaginative stage acting and directing here especially at the start of Act 2. Stephen Wallace, Graeme Danby and Clive Bayley acquit themselves just fine as well, Danby as Somnus has a particularly striking voice.
All in all, a real pleasure. 9/10 Bethany Cox
0 of 0 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?