Handel: Semele / Cecilia Bartoli, William Christie

Album cover art for upc 044007433232
Label: DECCA
Catalog: 0743323
Format: DVD

Cecilia Bartoli (Semele) Liliana Nikiteanu (Ino) Birgit Remmert (Juno) Isabel Rey (Iris) Charles Workman (Jupiter/Apollo) Anton Scharinger (Cadmus/Somnus) Thomas Michael Allen (Athamas)
Orchestra ‘La Scintilla’ / Conductor: William Christie

Handel: Semele

Cecilia Bartoli's collaboration with the Zurich Opera House continues with this DVD of Handel's Semele. Bartoli, in the title role, is joined by Zurich mainstays Liliana Nikiteanu as Ino, and Isabel Rey as Iris. Baritone Anton Scharinger, a consumate Mozartian, takes on the double role of Cadmus and Somnus and singsit to perfection. Cecilia is in her usual fine form, showing her ease with coloratura. This production is sung in English, and if one can get over the initial shock of hearing Bartoli in English, than one will certainly enjoy this DVD. Wholenote Discoveries - June 2009
Suspension of disbelief is one of the most important elements to possess when watching opera. You know what I mean - the middle-aged soprano singing of celebrating her 16th birthday (Madama Butterfly); the less-than youthful and not so slender Ophelia in Hamlet; the numerous “in trousers” roles…. That is the primary reason why for centuries now there is a tension between singers gifted with an incredible voice and not looking the part and those who only look, but don’t sound the part. Some of the greatest operatic careers were built mostly on the looks (Renée Fleming, take a bow!). Then there is Cecilia Bartoli. Years ago, her beautiful, but not very powerful voice was upstaged by her stunning looks. But as her voice has matured, no suspension of disbelief is necessary. Her performance as Semele is a case in point. The grasping, foolish Semele instead has a problem not of her own making - the minimalist production by Robert Carsen. The modern, Royal House of Belgium-like set and costumes do not convince as a dwelling of Jupiter and his favourite mortal. And yet, in the third act, both Bartoli and Charles Workman as Jupiter deliver a gripping, powerful interplay of love and misunderstanding. The human and divine emotions shine in their voices as they do in the voices of the other principals and the precise, if not very period-inspired playing of the familiar music of Handel. Although not a complete triumph, this is one DVD worth keeping – if you can suspend disbelief. Robert Tomas
Cecilia Bartoli’s first operatic Decca DVD release for over 10 years sees her triumphing in the title role of Handel’s late drama, ‘Semele’. This will undoubtedly be the most prestigious start possible to ‘Handel Year’ (marking the 250th anniversary of his death).
Not only is this Cecilia Bartoli’s first DVD opera for Decca in 12 years (since Rossini’s ‘La Cenerentola’), it is also her first opera singing in English.
‘Semele’ is presented in Robert Carsen’s stylish modern dress production, originally seen in London, and most recently staged at the Zurich Opera in 2007 (where it will be revived in January 2009).
The drama tells of the ambition of the beautiful mortal, Semele, who, not satisfied with being Jupiter’s mistress, strives with fatal results to supplant Jupiter’s wife, Juno. Conceived as an oratorio but nowadays presented as a stage drama, it is a superb vehicle for all the principals, not least the substantial title role, which includes such popular arias as ‘Endless pleasure’ and ‘Myself I shall adore’.

Price: $18.98