In spring each year, the Badische Staatsteater Karlsruhe celebrates Handel in a festival. For the first time since 1982, this important German festival offers a new production of SEMELE directed by Floris Visse, starring Jennifer France in the title role.
Handel fuses elements of opera, oratorio and classical drama. The composer turned to Greek Mythology, after having become known in London for his works in the Italian style and his Biblical oratorios.
The story comes from Ovid's METAMORPHOSES and concerns the destiny of the mortal princess Semele, who falls in love with the immortal Jupiter, father of all gods. When Jupiter's wife, Juno, hears of her husband's adultery, she is enraged and plots to ensure Semele's downfall. In disguise, Juno appeals to the girl's vanity and persuades her to insist on seeing her lover in his divine form. Jupiter reluctantly agrees but his thunderbolts burn and consume Semele. From her ashes, though, arises her unborn child by Jupiter - Bacchus, god of wine and ecstasy. Rise and fall, love and jealousy are staged masterfully by Handel, who here writes some of his best choral music.
And there are plenty of most famous arias too such as the lyrical ‘Where'er you walk’ for the tenor set to words by Alexander Pope. Comedy is interwoven into the drama, notably in the scene in the cave of the god of sleep. The monumental chorus ‘O terror! and astonishment’ after Semele's death shows the influence of the earlier English composer Henry Purcell.