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Handel: Semele / Christie, Bartoli, Remmert, Rey


Release Date: 05/12/2009 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 0743323  
Composer:  George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Thomas Michael AllenCharles WorkmanAnton ScharingerLiliana Nikiteanu,   ... 
Conductor:  William Christie
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zurich La Scintilla Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Special Order: If we cannot ship this title in 45 days, your order will be cancelled and you will be notified via email.  


Notes and Editorial Reviews

• Opera superstar Cecilia Bartoli stars as Semele (a role usually taken by a soprano) in Handel’s late opera, which features such well-known arias as “Endless pleasure, endless love,” “Myself I shall adore,” and “Oh sleep, why dost though leave me?”
• Robert Carsen’s stylish modern dress production hints at parallels with the problematic relationship between the late Princess Diana and the British Royal Family.
• Recorded live at the Zurich Opera House in January, 2007.
“Sung dazzlingly, ‘Myself I shall adore’ was one of many high points in Bartoli's stunning performance, her first operatic role in a language other than Italian…The wonderfully intimate Zurich Opera House allows every detail of her performance to be
Read more savoured.”
--International Herald Tribune

CAST LIST:
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
Subtitled: English (sung language), French, German, Spanish, Chinese
Picture format: 16:9 (anamorphic widescreen), Colour
Sound format: LPCM Stereo & DTS 5.1 Surround

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HANDEL Semele William Christie, cond; Cecilia Bartoli ( Semele ); Isabel Rey ( Iris ); Liliana Nikiteanu ( Ino ); Birgit Remmert ( Juno ); Thomas Michael Allen ( Athamas ); Charles Workman ( Jupiter, Apollo ); Anton Scharinger ( Cadmus, High Priest, Somnus ); Zurich Op Cho, O La Scintilla (period instruments) DECCA 074 3323 (2 DVDs: 154:00) Live: Zürich 1/2007


Given that the Zurich Opera House is ground zero for Eurotrash stagings (as numerous previous releases on DVD attest), it is a great relief to be able to report that, while hardly enticing visually, this production of Semele is inoffensive and not unreasonable. Done in modern dress and with minimalist sets, it is generally nondescript; the opening scene of the aborted royal wedding has nothing more than some very ordinary chairs, and the scenes with Semele in acts II and III feature only an enormous super-king-size bed. Occasionally there are some rather silly and lame attempts at humor, such as tabloid-style headlines on major British newspapers announcing Semele’s abduction by Jupiter, or Juno packing suitcases to pursue Semele on British Airways.


As a sung performance, however, this is quite good. Cecilia Bartoli is everything one might desire in the title role, vocally and visually; she sings with her customary tonal luster, technical agility and security, and total interpretive commitment and involvement. Charles Workman as Jupiter is every bit her equal with his firm, pliant baritone, and indeed threatens to steal the show from her with his show-stopping arias “I Must with Speed Amuse Her” and “Where’er You Walk.” Liliana Nikiteanu is an excellent Ino, capturing all the flightiness and envy of her character. Thomas Michael Allen is a first-rate Athamus, sweet of voice and dignified in presence; it’s a pity that he has so little to do other than his one aria, “Your Tuneful Voice.” In smaller supporting roles Isabel Rey is effective as Iris, Juno’s handmaid, while Anton Scharinger is a bit wooly voiced as Cadmus, but more warmed up for his reappearance later as Somnus. My one reservation is with the Juno of Birgit Remmert; she tends to be a bit hooty, her vibrato is not always well centered, and her coloratura needs some polishing. She isn’t bad, just a bit disappointing compared to the other principals.


As one would expect, William Christie’s conducting of the score is absolutely authoritative. The Orchestra La Scintilla is a subsection of the regular Zurich Opera Orchestra that performs 17th- and 18th-century works using period instruments. Both it and the chorus perform ably here. The sound quality and visual resolution are both top-notch. There are a few minor theater cuts; the performance is about 20 minutes shorter than the note-complete recordings on Erato under John Eliot Gardiner and on DGG under John Nelson, the latter being the critical consensus choice for this work. However, it is so far as I can tell the only version on DVD, so if that is your preferred medium for opera, then you will want to acquire this. Despite a few caveats on secondary matters, recommended.


FANFARE: James A. Altena
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Works on This Recording

1.
Semele, HWV 58 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Thomas Michael Allen (Tenor), Charles Workman (Baritone), Anton Scharinger (Bass),
Liliana Nikiteanu (Soprano), Isabel Rey (Soprano), Birgit Remmert (Alto),
Cecilia Bartoli (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  William Christie
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zurich La Scintilla Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1744; London, England 

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