Magazine article Gramophone

'Semele'

Magazine article Gramophone

'Semele'

Article excerpt

'Semele'

Destouches Semele--exes Handel L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV55--Sweet bird (exc). Semele--Endless pleasure; Hence, Iris; Oh sleep. Theodora--Overture; To thee, thou glorious son of worth. Tra le fiamme, HWV170. Concerto grosso, Op 3 No 4, HWV315 Marais Semele--exes

Chantal Santon Jeffery sop Melodie Ruvio contr Les Ombres / Margaux Blanchard, Sylvain Sartre Mirare [F] MIR260 (78' * DDD)

It seems an excellent idea to take extracts from different settings of the story of Semele. Marais's tragedie lyrique Semele (1709) yields a picturesque march played by two stratospheric piccolos, a warmly lyrical ouverture and a charming chaconne (propelled by colourful interludes for oboes, bassoon and flutes); a lovely brief arietta 'Quel bruit nouveau' has emotively dissonant suspensions for flutes and violins, and is sung poignantly by Chantal Santon Jeffery. The libretto by Antonie Houdar de La Motte also provided inspiration a decade later for a cantata by his cousin and former musketeer Andre Cardinal Destouches; it's never been recorded before, so the lack of an English translation of the text is short-sighted, but Melodie Ruvio narrates Semele's death with dignity and finesse.

I'm baffled by the ensuing Handelian hotchpotch. There are only three cliched choices from Semele. To flesh things out, Les Ombres chuck in the concerto Op 3 No 4, a short instrumental extract from Penseroso's long aria 'Sweet bird' and, most puzzlingly, the sublime religiosity of Didymus and Theodora's profound duet 'To thee, thou glorious son of worth'. …

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