‘Semele’ Gives Baroque a New Look
April 8th, 2016
Omaha, NE — Daring designs and stirring performances highlight the latest effort from Opera Omaha.
George Frideric Handelâ€™s Semele opens Friday night at 7:30 p.m. inside the Orpheum Theater. The musical drama, directed by James Darrah and Conducted by Stephen Stubbs, features the striking visual style one would expect from Darrahâ€™s creative team, the same team responsible for 2014â€™s production of Agrippina and 2015â€™s A Flowering Tree. The show comes from Ovidâ€™s Metamorphoses, revolving around Semele, the mother of Bacchus. Opera Omaha describes the show as an opera of unbridled lust, jealousy, and revenge. Itâ€™s also features some of Handelâ€™s best orchestral and vocal writing, highlighting the best of the Baroque era. Countertenor Ray Chanez, who plays Athamas in the production spoke about the productionâ€™s unique musical style.
â€œThe interesting thing about comparing Baroque opera in terms of stylistic differences with later operas is that Baroque has very divided…systems of recitativo and aria,â€ Chanez said. â€œThis particular piece is interesting in that it was also written in the oratorio style. Itâ€™s a very dramatic piece and makes its way to opera very well, but itâ€™s very much written in a declamatory sense with the recitativ. Then, the arias unfold from there. Of course, thereâ€™s also a number of choruses, which is quite common in the oratorio form.â€
Chanez said the production was a wonderful challenge for a vocalist like himself.
â€œFor me, I often sing roles that much higher,â€ he said. â€œWhen I looked at this role, initially, I said â€˜Oh my goodness, itâ€™s so low.â€™ That was really a challenge for me, to get this lower role into my body. A wonderful thing that also happened, I sand the role through for our conductor, Stephen Stubbs, and I sang all of my ornaments for the first aria, which I made much higher for my voice. I came in the next day and Stephen said, â€˜You know, I think weâ€™ll rewrite some of these other things.â€™ He had rewritten a number of the pieces for me to be in a higher place which will be much more exciting for this particular role.â€
For Chanez, the showâ€™s unique style and voice are a credit to the production team, whose captures the spirit of Handelâ€™s work while inspiring new ways to look at the production.
â€œWhen I first came in and we sang â€˜Your Tuneful Voiceâ€™, the rendition that the maestro came up with, the way he played the music was the most exciting way I had ever heard that aria. I told him â€˜We have to do it exactly like that. Forget anything that Iâ€™m doing, I want to do it exactly like this.â€™ James Darrah also bring a very interesting directorial style to the production. He really brings a lot of specificity to each character and the motivations between them. Also, I find that his style is very visual in nature. We have a lot of very specific elegance in movement on stage.â€
Chanez said that audiences members of all persuasions will find something to love about the show.
â€œI think if youâ€™re a person who loves imaginative concepts and ideas and stories, itâ€™s a wonderful story. The music of Semele is incredibly beautiful. Handel has this incredible way of creating theatrical drama in his music.â€
Opera Omahaâ€™s production of George Frideric Handelâ€™s Semele performs Friday, April 8th at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 10th at 2 p.m. inside the Orpheum Theater in downtown Omaha. For more information on the show, visit www.OperaOmaha.org.
Comments are closed.