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Handel: Semele [Blu-ray] [2009]


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Product details

  • Actors: Cecilia Bartoli, Charles Workman, Birgit Remmert, Thomas Michael Allen, William Christie
  • Directors: Robert Carsen, Felix Breisach
  • Writers: George Frideric Handel
  • Producers: Opernhaus Zürich
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Chinese, English, French, German, Spanish
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: All Regions (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Universal Classics & Jazz
  • DVD Release Date: 12 May 2009
  • Run Time: 154 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001M48XYS
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 87,186 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

Cecilia Bartoli stars in the title role of Robert Carsen's modern-dress staging of Handel's dramatic opera 'Semele' at Zurich Opera House. Not satisfied with being the mistress of Jupiter (Charles Workman), the beautiful and ambitious Semele strives with tragic results to supplant his wife, Juno (Birgit Remmert). The La Scintilla Orchestra is conducted by William Christie.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By I. Zaneres on 6 Aug. 2011
Format: DVD
This is the only staging of Semele that I have seen, I bought it as I am a Bartoli fan, and have other Handel operas which I like. This is a modern dress staging which works very well, it all looks just right. Bartoli is as good as I expect her to be. Workman is a soft voiced lyrical tenor. I have not heard Allen before but I am very impressed with him. Isabel Rey has a great sense of timing and provides some excellent amusement. The other lead singers are able supports, but Remmert does, in act 2, produce one very suspect low note. well nobody is perfect. Chorus and orchestra are very clean in sound. The accompanying booklet is useful with scene musical headings and timings. Scene synopses, and an article about the characters and production. Very pleased with the package, I recommend.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By B.D.A on 26 Jan. 2010
Format: Blu-ray
Having seen the production twice at the ENO in London (with Rosemary Joshua and Carolyn Sampson in the title role), I was looking forward to finally having it on DVD.

Frankly overall it was a bit of a let-down, as mentioned by other reviewers, the casting leaves one a bit underwhelmed. The singers' diction and pronounciation varies, which slightly imparts the fun on the production.

Cecilia Bartoli is, in my view, no natural handelian. She does a lot of huffing and puffing and even though the tone itself is attractive, the singing is too mannared and self-conscious to give real pleasure - she strikes a sympathetic figure on stage but her character comes off as too matronly. I wonder if she would not have been more suited to sing Juno, had she stayed in the mezzo repertoire rather than rebranding herself as a 'soprano'...

Likewise Birgit Remmert (towering over Bartoli in height) looks good on stage but her singing is missing a bit in style, leaving her character sounding anonymous. And as the staging gives her many hilarious moments, she is better seen than heard.

The secondary roles are mostly competently sung but there is noone to write home about.

That leaves Charles Workman, who stands out in the cast, being the only one sounding in style and presenting a credible Jupiter.

William Christie's conducting is very pointed and gives lots of pleasure, but this being an opera and not an instrumental work, he cannot disguise the shortcomings of some of the singers.

I fully agree that this would have been an outright winner if they had released the 'original' version with Rosemary Joshua - but then from the marketing and even the cover this is branded as a Bartoli project and as that not entirely successful. To be enjoyed to see a partly hilarious production, but if you want it well sung, one has to look elsewhere for most of the part!
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Geoffers on 21 May 2009
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Handel's Semele has some of the composer's most appealing music. And being set in English is totally accessible.

This imaginative, witty (and often laugh-out-loud funny) as well as dramatic telling of the story as performed originally by English National Opera with the wonderful Rosemary Josshua, John Mark Ainsley and sublime Susan Bickley was a total joy. The version nods a gentle wink at the Windsors and the tabloids which was totally captured by the English cast.

Sadly this DVD's ZURICH production with an international cast, dubious and irritating diction, and hopelessly inadequate old-fashioned 'operatic' (mugging and melodrama) acting simply doesn't understand or convey the wit and humour of the original. A complete let-down.

Why no original ENO DVD and Blu-ray? Why was the BBC televised version from ENO never transferred to this media? Come on BBC, release it (on Blu-ray please) so that we can all see and hear the stunning authentic Handel singing, and fine acting of Rosemary Josshua (as Semele), and the fantastic characterisation and singing of Susan Bickley (as Juno) to mention just two of the excellent cast. I'd buy it, and so, I'm sure, would anyone else who saw it. It's an English opera which genuinely benefits from an English interpretation.

In the meantime I'll ignore this Blu-ray purchase and go back to the next best thing - the glorious, spot on dazzling vocal performance from Kathleen Battle on CD.
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By emirooemi on 22 Mar. 2015
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This DVD is amazing. Bartoli at her best - check out her sass! All roles are performed effortlessly and with so much gusto! The staging of the opera is perfect and really beautiful. I was entranced from the start.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Steven Guy on 7 May 2009
Format: DVD
I just got this DVD yesterday, it was released in Australia on the 5th of March.
I was a little sceptical about Cecilia Bartoli in the soprano role of Semele, but I have been pleasantly surprised and she does an excellent job in the role. Fans of Bartoli needn't hesitate for a moment. Charles Workman as Jupiter is very good and he makes for a very "hunky" Jupiter. I previously admired Workman in Minkowski's recording of Gluck's "Armide", Charles Workman sang the role of Renaud (Rinaldo).
Juno is sung by Birgit Remmert and Iris, by Isabel Rey, both provide great comic interaction. Thomas Michael Allen, singing the countertenor role of Athamas, seemed to be suitably gormless in the openning scenes.

William Christie does a fine job of directing the rather large period orchestra, the Orchestra La Scintilla, and his choice of tempi are natural and the work is well paced. I would have thought that a slightly smaller string section would have been better in some ways, but Orchestra La Scintilla does provide the cast and audience with a magnificent sound. It should be noted that Corelli, one of Handel's teachers, used much larger orchestras in his concerti grossi performances in Rome in the late 17th century. I think that Handel, if he was alive today, would be impressed with this orchestra.

The staging and sets look vaguely early to mid Twenthieth Century and wouldn't have been out of place in a production of The Merry Widow or La Belle Hélène, but that doesn't bother me at all in this production. The work was probably never intended for the stage and any stage production will be novel.

I have the John Eliot Gardiner recording on CD, which although is not entirely ideal, has entertained me for many years. However, I have no hesitation in recommending this new DVD recording to all lovers of opera and the art of Handel.
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