A Balm on the Ears
Handel's 'Semele' in Arizona,
reviewed by MARIA NOCKIN
On Thursday, 26 January 2006, Arizona Opera made its first foray into the works of George Frideric Handel, a composer who lived from 1685 to 1759. For the occasion, general manager Joel Revzen chose Semele because it contains several melodies that were likely to be familiar to the Phoenix and Tucson audiences. Although some other regional companies have had difficulty selling tickets for baroque opera, Semele sold well, and Phoenix Symphony Hall was almost filled to capacity on opening night.
Handel's 'Semele' at Arizona Opera. From left to right: David Walker as Athamas, Lisa Saffer as Semele, Stephanie Blythe as Ino and John Cheek as Cadmus. Photo © 2006 Tim Fuller
The libretto was written by William Congreve (1670-1729), an English playwright best known for his broad comedies, and the work is a literary triumph as well as a musical one. Described as a dramatic entertainment rather than an opera, it was first seen at Covent Garden on 10 February 1744, but it was not performed in the United States until 1959.
Stephanie Blythe as Juno (left) and Heather Buck as Iris. Photo © 2006 Tim Fuller
Copyright © 5 February 2006
Maria Nockin, Arizona USA