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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WELL STAGED AND AMUSING
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...
Published on 6 Aug 2011 by I. Zaneres

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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a good production let down by the casting
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...
Published on 26 Jan 2010 by B.D.A


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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WELL STAGED AND AMUSING, 6 Aug 2011
By 
I. Zaneres (west midlands) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Semele: Zurich Opera House [DVD] [2009] [NTSC] (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
3.0 out of 5 stars a good production let down by the casting, 26 Jan 2010
By 
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
2.0 out of 5 stars Very VERY disappointing - not a patch on ENO's original, 21 May 2009
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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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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining production of this great "opera", 7 May 2009
By 
Steven Guy (Croydon, South Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Semele: Zurich Opera House [DVD] [2009] [NTSC] (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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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great singer blatantly miscast., 6 Dec 2009
This review is from: Semele: Zurich Opera House [DVD] [2009] [NTSC] (DVD)
While sympathising with another reviewer's preference for the Joshua version, the main issue I have this production is the (mis)casting of Cecilia Bartoli in the title role. Let there be no misunderstanding - I am not questioning Bartoli's ability - she is a truly great singer, comfortably claiming a place in the all-time top ten (exactly which position on that list is more open to debate), and in this production she sings to her usual exemplary standard. The problem is that Semele is an ambiguous character - at best simply foolish and vain, at worst an openly power-hungry despot-in-the-making. Bartoli cannot play this kind of role - she is so sweet and warm a personality that no matter how well she acts this humanity radiates through and renders her performance unbelievable. The other problem is her age - she is no longer young - and Semele is generally understood to be a young woman. Admittedly, this militates against Rosemary Joshua as well. Which brings us back to the question: Why this production, and not the ENO? A little of politics and a lot of money. Bartoli is the `heavyweight' (without wishing to be cruel, in a more literal sense this is another reason why Joshua is better in the part) and Joshua is not. `Bartoli' sets the cash tills ringing, `Joshua' not so much. That is the harsh reality of it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 11 Dec 2014
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This review is from: Semele: Zurich Opera House [DVD] [2009] [NTSC] (DVD)
saw this production at eno yonks ago but bartoli sings the notes amazingly
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An oratorio presented in operatic form, 12 July 2009
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There is conjecture about this being an oratorio rather than an opera as it is based on an English opera libretto by Congreve. One train of thought suggests that, with opera waning in popularity, the oratorio form was needed for success to regain prosperity for the composer.
That said the Zurich performance is most definitely in operatic form but the result is strange at times with the chorus dressed up in dinner suits and evening gowns.
The plot uses mythology to illustrate that greed ultimately destroys the individual, in this case Semele sung by Cecilia Bartoli, who demanded immortality from Jupiter who had whisked her off to a specially built palace.
Bartoli is in fine singing voice and often outshines others in the cast. The oratorio style is often evident in the singing but this is not a somber work as there is comedy mixed with some bawdiness with Bartoli spending a lot of the time romping around in a nightdress.. So overall it is quite a different work which receives a unique presentation.
First class audio & video.
Regarded as one of Handel's masterpieces this production deserves a place in your collection.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars great music... but opera?, 1 Sep 2009
By 
R. Hakemulder (Senegal) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Semele: Zurich Opera House [DVD] [2009] [NTSC] (DVD)
Semele has a lot of wonderful music, and this performance has some great singing. Of course from the star of the show, Cecilia Bartoli, but Charles Workman as Jupiter and Liliana Nikiteanu as Ino, are excellent as well, with Ino's aria "Turn, hopeless lover", for me the most affecting performance in this recording. William Christie gets crisp and transparent playing out of La Scintilla, but I found the choir rather large and heavy, with an opaque and sluggish sound, a definite minus for an opera with lots of choruses. More importantly, however, at least in this recording Semele does not convince as an opera in spite of the great music. The staging is unimaginative if not boring, the mix of tragedy and comedy results in no tears and few laughs, and none of the characters really engage. Bartoli does not manage to make one really care about Semele's fate, and her attempt to frolic about in a large bed may be amusing, but I am not sure it was intended as such. Although her last aria is beautifully sung, the staging, or should I say, the absence of it, leaves the effect only half-realised. One wonders how the director's pretension to "find theatrically viable parallels for the situation that binds the gods, demigods and human beings to one another" could result in something this bland. In sum, on the strength of this recording Semele seems a great oratorio but hardly a great opera, and watching it adds little to the pleasure of listening. So it would seem we have to wait for the "genuine" "English interpretation" referred to by an earlier reviewer to enjoy Semele as opera (to be followed no doubt by a genuine German interpretation of the Ring - too bad for John Tomlinson's Wotan, a truly Russian one of Boris Godunov - there you go, Robert Lloyd, and what was John Vickers thinking of when he did Otello??). And as for Handel and opera on DVD, by far the best is still Rodelinda with Anna Antoniacci and Andreas Scholl, from Glyndebourne (genuinely.... great) Rodelinda - Glyndebourne Festival Opera [DVD] [1998].
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars glorious sound and image, both at least..., 3 April 2009
By 
PRF VICTOR GONCALVES "VSG, LISBON" (LISBON, PORTUGAL) - See all my reviews
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The music of Handel, the voice of Bartoli, the direction of William Christie, the glorious sound and picture of the blu-ray. Go for it, now!!
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Semele: Zurich Opera House [DVD] [2009] [NTSC]
Semele: Zurich Opera House [DVD] [2009] [NTSC] by Felix Breisach (DVD - 2009)
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