Blancheblanche marvin's london theatreviews

recommended by Peter Brook
**** = stand if necessary
*** = sit in front stalls
** = sit in back stalls
* = have a drink!
librettist WILLIAM CONGREVE music GEORGE FREDERIC HANDEL director ANNILESE MISKIMMON conductor JONATHAN COHEN set NICKY SHAW lights MARK JONATHAN movement SARAH FAHIE producer: GARSINGTON OPERA with HEIDI STOBER semele, CHRISTINE RICE juno, ROBERT MURRAY jupiter, JURGITA ADAMONYTE ino semele’s sister loves athamas, DAVID SOAR cadimus semele’s father/ somnus god of sleep, CHRISTOPHER AINSLIE athamas loves semele, CHRISTIAN VALLE priest, LLIO EVANS iris messenger, MICHAEL ONELIUS apollo with GARSINGTON OPERA ORCHESTRA and CHORUS
Garsington Opera opens its doors, its lawns, lake, and exquisite countryside where being surrounded by nature’s beauty and the Garsington Opera Company, its fabulous orchestra and chorus plus the most imaginative production of utter delight and a few tears make a summer occasion not to be forgotten. I have never seen Handel’s Semele updated before…one usually saw the Greek Gods as illustrated in picture books but here they are in business suits or the young ones as airline stewards with wings. But the delight and range of beauty within the music most of all is performed to perfection. The young singers blend with the experienced ones with the same accomplished quality in their singing and acting. The chorus and Garsington Opera Orchestra are as much of the pleasure as the whole staging of the production. Simply designed with dominate royal blue, a backdrop of the heavens or the huge heart that opens its door to lovers and the simple beauty of the music just pours forth. It is a production to tour if it is possible to fully finance but certainly to revive next year. One treasures such occasions when man and nature reach such heights. The libretto of Semele was originally written in 1706 by William Congreve for a once recognised composer called John Eccles, but it was never staged. Nearly forty years later, when after the death of Eccles and Congreve, Handel re-adaptation the text and music presenting it as an oratorio — though it was then considered a secular and overtly sexual story. It gradually came into its acceptance as an opera and one of Handel’s most appealing works. Director Annilese Miskimmon and set designer Nicky Shaw have produced one of Garsington’s most delectably modern-dressed and spouffingly delicious operas. Semele contains in its own right charmingly comic episodes in its storytelling of the old tale of Be Careful What You Wish For. The opera opens with Semele’s unhappy wedding to Athamas (Christopher Ainslie) whom her sister Ino (Jurgita Adamonytė) loves. But in the end Semele runs from the church after all the attempts of her father(David Soar) to sustain a proper ceremony. Naïve but ambitious Semele (Heidi Stober) is entranced in her affair with the God Jupiter (Robert Murray). His connivingly jealous wife Goddess Juno (Christine Rice) tricks Semele into redressing the disguised mortal Jupiter into his godly being when caressing her. As a result, she is burnt to a crisp. In between are those wonderful scenes such as those of the goddess of marriage and childbirth with her endless collection of children and even the birthing of one. The comedy made over her labour pains with David Soar as a sleep-walking Somnus, god of sleep, depicted as a defunct anaesthetist dropping off to sleep on his bed; or that ebullient morphing of the chorus into the crew of Pan Am air stewards and stewardesses with angelic wings. The ending of reversed mirror projections of Semele’s cancelled wedding to the reticent Athamas and her own funeral is a truly dramatic closure of a festive production. The amazing input is the marvelous quality of all the singers musically and acting-wise. Not only are Heidi Stober’s Semele, Christine Rice’s Juno, Robert Murray’s Jupiter superb but, all the supporting cast of Jurgita Adamonyte’s Ino, David Soar’s Cadimus and Somnus God of Sleep, Christopher Ainslie’s Athamas, Christian Valle’s priest, Llio Evans’s Iris messenger of the Gods, Michael Onelius’s Apollo plus the Garsington Opera Orchestra and Chorus conducted by a less than spectacular Jonathan Cohen… all add to making this as sparkling as champagne with just as much to celebrate. IMPORT and EXPORT!!!! 4hrs 10mins
June 1 - July 4, 2017