Finishing a work of art is a dangerous profession. It requires ingenuity, intelligence and good taste if it is to work. And sometimes even then, it doesn’t.
But in the 21st century, a story about a love affair between a god and a human with a happy and unhappy ending is quite difficult to swallow. On the other hand, when a Handel opera begins its life as an oratorio and doesn’t work that way, you have to at least give it a chance.
Thus, a director who puts his tongue firmly to his cheek but never lets go of his sense of humor and his utterly mundane empathy for tragedy can last all day.
Join Patrick Mason and Opera Collective with new Handel’s . work Semele.
‘Watch me turn into Marilyn Monroe,’ she said
The story goes that the beautiful mortal girl Semele was seduced by the fire god Jupiter. So she rejected her mortal intention, Athamas, to the anger of her father Cadmus, King of Thebes.
To protect her (and keep the love going), Jupiter brings her to Arcadia, along with her sister Ino, where the girls may feel a bit underpowered. Semele stamped her beautiful foot, and asked to become immortal, and saw Jupiter in her immortal form: fire. Big mistake!
The need was triggered at the suggestion of Juno, the wife of Jupiter, who did not like Semele – in mortal or immortal form – in the marriage bed. Juno asked for help from Somnus, the god of sleep – and Semele was turned to ash when she wanted to see her lover’s flame burn to its fullest. granted. Dirty!
In the end, Ino returned to earth carrying his sister’s ashes, where Semele’s death was mourned by everyone. But the future is safe – there is a child of love, Bacchus, the god of wine and joy, so there can be some great fun in the end. And it all ended with all the worries about baby Bacchus.
Mason chose to shift the work to the glamorous setting of 1960s Hollywood, which is simply and perfectly suggested in the context of Paul Keogan.
The lighting on the scale cleverly matches the limitations of the small stage in the Watergate Theater – as the stage must also accommodate the orchestra and choir (Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, and the early Sestina band of the Belfast).
It’s achieved by revealing Art Deco, and Catherine Fay’s outfits: a choir in chic 1960s suits and fun hats straight from Sunset Boulevard. Semele is known as the immortal Marilyn.
Video of the day
Arthur Miller, Monroe’s one-time husband, wrote in his autobiography about them during a walk down Madison Avenue in New York – she was anonymous, had no makeup on, and had her hair curled. “Watch me turn into Marilyn Monroe,” she told him, before her head slowly began to spin again.
In the opera, Kelli-Ann Masterson wears high heels and a vampire robe to replace the white bathrobe she first appears, when she asks her lover to be immortal. She became an incarnation of Monroe, and that was an accomplishment.
She also doesn’t fail musically: her mastery of the piece is superb, although the overall approach throughout tends to overlook the intricacies of the Baroque. But at least it’s consistent from all.
Tenor Andrew Gavin adds to his growing fame as Jupiter, and he plays Apollo in the final scene, showcasing tenderness combined with strength throughout.
Counter tenor Gerben van der Werf is Athamas, the despised suitor, in a perfectly judged performance, and Menor Dominica Williams doubles with musical prowess and performance prowess as both the exclusive Ino and Juno. . Soprano Jade Phoenix is a vibrant Iris, her backing, and bassist Fionn Ó hAlmhain steps out of the choir as the High Priest.
But the comic twist of the evening (which involves a truly epic musical presence) comes from the lowly Edward Hawkins as the drowsy Somnus. I just wish he had a teddy bear to complete the picture.
Andrew Griffiths took over with very short notice from conductor Christian Curnyn (do you need to ask why?) and he and Akademie both responded bravely.
Without subtitles, it’s a pity for a passage where the intricacies of the story need a little bit of explanation to help suspend skepticism. That is not intended to oppose the original libretto by the great William Congreve.
‘Semele’ ended in Kilkenny but will premiere at Pavilion Theater in Dún Laoghaire on September 2-3
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/theatre-arts/jupiter-prefers-blondes-in-opera-collectives-bombshell-take-on-handels-semele-41925320.html Jupiter prefers Opera Collective’s bombshell blondes to Handel’s Semele