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Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment - Händel, Semele

  • London Royal Festival Hall (map)

Semele (HWV 58) is a 'musical drama', originally presented "after the manner of an oratorio", in three parts by Georg Friederich Handel. Based on a pre-existent opera libretto by William Congreve, the work is an opera in all but name but was first presented in concert form at Covent Garden theatre on 10 February 1744. The story comes from Ovid's Metamorphoses and concerns Semele, mother of Bacchus. Handel also referred to the work as 'The Story of Semele'.

The work fuses elements of opera, oratorio and classical drama. Semele was presented during Lent, one of Handel's regular oratorio seasons. However it was not what London audiences were expecting of an oratorio during the solemn season of Lent- Semele has a secular text with a story involving an adulterous sexual relationship. It is distinguished from Handel's operas by the large number of polyphonic choruses. Semele was performed four times during its original run, and twice again later the same year, but those were the only performances in Handel's lifetime. Today Semele is frequently fully staged and receives regular performances at many of the world's opera houses, as well as performances in concert form.

Earlier Event: October 7
Jagthuis Pianoforteweekend