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Seattle Opera.

Semele

Feb. 21 - Mar. 7, 2015

Overview

By George Frederic Handel

ENDLESS PLEASURE. ENDLESS LOVE. In Handel’s sensuous and sparkling charmer, an unsophisticated but ambitious maiden journeys outside her comfort zone to the rarefied realm of the “beautiful people.” Elegant and expressive, this all-new production stars the incomparable Stephanie Blythe as Juno, the goddess queen bent on teaching the interloper a lesson. Highlighting the opera’s universal themes and sense of play, our debut presentation of this early work explores what it means to live life to the fullest.

In English with English subtitles | at McCaw Hall
Approximate Running Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes with 2 intermissions

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Synopsis

ACT I
The Temple of Juno, Queen of the Gods, wife of Jupiter.
 Semele, daughter of Cadmus, is engaged to marry Athamas, and the family gathers to celebrate the nuptials. Not everyone is happy, however; Semele's sister, Ino, secretly loves Athamas. And Semele herself is really in love with the god Jupiter, also known as Jove. She prays to him to intervene, whereupon the Mighty Thunderer breaks up the wedding with dreadful omens.

Privately, Ino admits that she loves Athamas. Cadmus interrupts them to say that Semele was abducted and whisked away to the realm of the gods. There Semele discovers a world of "Endless pleasure, endless love."


ACT II
Juno's Dwelling.
 The goddess Iris tells Juno (who is also known as "Saturnia") about the gorgeous pleasure-palace Jupiter has created for Semele. Juno vows to destroy her new rival. In the aria "Hence, Iris, away," she and Iris set out on their quest: Juno plans to enlist the help of Somnus, god of sleep.

Semele's pleasure-palace. Meanwhile, Semele is troubled (Aria: "O sleep, why dost thou leave me?"). Jupiter has taken human form to be with her, but she is aware that she is a lesser order of being than her divine lover. Jupiter reassures her that he will protect her and always surround her with beauty (Aria: "Where'er you walk"). To distract her, he takes her to a beautiful garden and has her sister Ino brought up from earth to keep her company. Together the two sisters experience heavenly bliss.


ACT III
The cave of Somnus.
 Iris and Juno try to rouse the sleepy Somnus, who responds with the aria "Leave me, loathsome light." But when Juno promises him the nymph of his dreams, Pasithea, Somnus agrees to help Juno. Somnus will weaken Jupiter with uncontrollable lust and lock in sleep both Ino and the dragons that guard Semele's palace.

Semele's palace. Disguised as Ino, Juno gives Semele a magic mirror, which makes her fall in love with herself (Aria: "Myself I shall adore"). Juno-as-Ino tells Semele that if Jupiter makes love to her in his divine form, instead of his mortal disguise, Semele herself will become a goddess. She urges her "sister" not to waste this opportunity, and Semele takes the bait.

When Jupiter returns, Semele makes him swear he'll give her anything she desires. Then she demands that he appear to her in his divine form. Jupiter is horrified by the request: "Should I grant your request, I shall harm you." But there is no dissuading her (Aria: "No, no, I’ll take no less / Than all in full excess!"). Reluctantly, Jupiter appears in his true form, and Semele is consumed by flames.

Back on earth, everyone is terrified by Semele's fate. Ino unites with Athamas, and Apollo announces that from Semele's ashes, Bacchus, the god of wine, will be born.

 

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Ways to Save

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Cast

Brenda Raee

Semele

At Seattle Opera in 2014/15: Semele, Semele

Hometown: Appleton, WI
Seattle Opera Debut
Recently: Norina, Don Pasquale (Santa Fe Opera); Aminta, Die schweigsame Frau (Bayerische Staatsoper); Amina, La sonnambula (Oper Frankfurt)
Upcoming: Konstanze, Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Hamburgische Staatsoper); Zerbinetta, Ariadne auf Naxos (Staatsoper Berlin); Donna Anna, Don Giovanni (Oper Frankfurt)


Click here to read an interview with BRENDA RAE on our blog

Last updated: February 2015

Brenda Raee

Semele

Seattle Opera Debut
Feb. 21, 25, 28, Mar. 4 & 7

Mary Feminear

Semele

At Seattle Opera in 2014/15: Semele, Semele

Hometown: Auburn, AL
Seattle Opera Debut
Recent: Maria Maddalena, La Resurrezione (Juilliard 415), Aréthuze and Proserpine, La Descente d’Orphée aux Enfers (Gotham Chamber Opera), Polissena, Radamisto (Juilliard Opera)
Upcoming: Pamina, Die Zauberflöte (Pacific Music Works), Helena, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Le Grand Théâtre de Genève)

Last updated: December 2014

Mary Feminear

Semele

Seattle Opera Debut
Feb. 22 & Mar. 6

Alek Shrader

Jupiter/Apollo

At Seattle Opera in 2017/18: Benedict, Beatrice and Benedict

Hometown: Alva, OK
Seattle Opera Debut: Jupiter/Apollo, Semele (’15)
Recently: Oronte, Alcina (Santa Fe Opera); Endimione, Diana’s Garden (Minnesota Opera); Don Ramiro, La Cenerentola (Arizona Opera)
Upcoming: Candide, Candide (Washington National Opera and Santa Fe Opera); Stage director, Dido and Aeneas (University of Notre Dame)

Last updated: February 2018

Alek Shrader

Jupiter/Apollo

Seattle Opera Debut
Feb. 21, 25, 28, Mar. 4 & 7

Theo Lebow

Jupiter/Apollo

At Seattle Opera in 2014/15: Jupiter/Apollo, Semele

Hometown: Sierra Madre, CA
Seattle Opera Young Artist: 2012/13
Seattle Opera Debut: First Prisoner, Fidelio (’12)
Recently: Ruiz, Il trovatore (Opera Sacramento); Picasso/F. Scott Fitzgerald, Twenty-Seven (Opera Theatre of Saint Louis); Mr. Porcupine, Fantastic Mr. Fox (Opera San Antonio and Boston Modern Opera Project/Odyssey Opera)  
Upcoming: Soloist; German Forum (Saint Peter’s Church, NY); Soloist, New York Festival of Song Gala (Weill Hall, NY); Soloist; Letters from Spain, New York Festival of Song (Merkin Concert Hall, New York City  & Kennedy Center, Washington D.C.)

Last updated: February 2015

Theo Lebow

Jupiter/Apollo

Feb. 22 & Mar. 6

Stephanie Blythe

Ino/Juno

At Seattle Opera in 2014/15: Ino/Juno, Semele

Hometown: Mongaup Valley, NY
Seattle Opera Debut: Fricka, Das Rheingold (’00)
Previously at Seattle Opera: Fricka and Waltrautre (Götterdämmerung), Der Ring des Nibelungen ('13);  Mistress Quickly, Falstaff (’10); Isabella, L’italiana in Algeri (’08) 
Seattle Opera Artist of the Year: Amneris, Aida (’08)
Recently: Azucena, Il trovatore (Lyric Opera of Chicago); Gertrude Stein, Twenty-Seven (Opera Theatre of Saint Louis); Ulrica, Un ballo in maschera (San Diego Opera)
Upcoming: Baba the Turk, The Rake’s Progress (Metropolitan Opera); Ms. Lovett, Sweeney Todd (San Francisco Opera)

Last Updated: February 2015

Stephanie Blythe

Ino/Juno

Feb. 21, 25, 28, Mar. 4 & 7

Deborah Nansteel

Ino/Juno

Hometown:Silver Spring, MD
Seattle Opera Young Artist 2012/13
Seattle Opera Debut: The Nursing Woman, Suor Angelica ('13)
Previously at Seattle Opera: Foreign Woman, The Consul (’14)
Seattle Opera Young Artist: 2012/13
Recently: Nettie Fowler, Carousel and Elvira Griffiths, An American Tragedy (Glimmerglass Opera); Soloist, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (Seattle Symphony)
Upcoming: Tisbe, La Cenerentola (Washington National Opera)


Last updated: February 2015

Deborah Nansteel

Ino/Juno

Feb. 22 & Mar. 6

Randall Scotting

Athamas

At Seattle Opera in 2020/21: Refugee, Flight

Hometown: Grand Junction, CO
Seattle Opera Debut: Athamas, Semele ('15)
Recent: Apollo, Death in Venice (Royal Opera House); Hamor, Jephtha (Boston Baroque); Kassandra/Athena, The Oresteia (Christchurch Arts Festival)
Upcoming: San Giovanni, San Giovanni Battista (Opera Omaha); Soloist, Carmina Burana (Springfield Symphony); Eliogabalo, Eliogabalo (West Edge Opera)

Last updated: January 2020

Randall Scotting

Athamas

Seattle Opera Debut
Feb. 21, 22, 25, 28, Mar. 4, 6 & 7

John Del Carlo

Cadmus/Somnus

At Seattle Opera in 2014/15: Cadmus/Somnus, Semele

Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Seattle Opera Debut: Donner/Gunther, Der Ring des Nibelungen ('84)
Previously at Seattle Opera: Bartolo, Il barbiere di Siviglia ('00 and '92); Kothner, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg ('89); Frank, Die Fledermaus, ('88)
Recently: Don Pasquale, Don Pasquale; Bartolo, Il barbiere di Siviglia; Bartolo, Le nozze di Figaro (Metropolitan Opera)
Upcoming: Bartolo, Le nozze di Figaro (San Francisco Opera); Sacristan, Tosca, and Alcindoro, La bohème (Metropolitan Opera)


Last Updated: February 2015

John Del Carlo

Cadmus/Somnus

Feb. 21, 22, 25, 28, Mar. 4, 6 & 7

Amanda Forsythe

Iris