Opera Santa Barbara presents Handel’s comedy Semele

Opera Santa Barbara kicks off the new year with its third company premiere of the season: a 90-minute adaptation of Handel’s comedy Semele, set in Hollywood’s silent movie era. Performances take place Friday, January 14, at 7:30pm and Sunday, January 16, at 2:30pm at the Lobero Theater. Tickets are now on sale at the Lobero Theatre.

George Frederick Handel, known to everyone as the composer of “The Messiah”, was one of the most successful opera composers of all time. Semele, with an English libretto based on Greek mythology, premiered in London in 1744, and caused an uproar with its baudy subject matter: Jupiter, king of the gods, pursues a romantic relationship with the mortal princess Semele.  When his wife Juno finds out, she promptly plots Semele’s demise.  In Opera Santa Barbara’s production Jupiter becomes a movie mogul with a roving eye, and Semele an ambitious ingenue who encourages his advances at her peril.  The score is filled with vocal pyrotechnics and comic shenanigans.

“Handel is one of the greatest opera composers of all time. No other composer exults the human voice like him.  Yet opera lovers often stay away from his operas because of their length”, said Opera SB’s Artistic and General Director Kostis Protopapas. “This version of Semele is only 90 minutes long and contains some of Handel’s greatest tunes. Now more than ever we need to start the new year on a lighthearted note.  Semele is our New Year’s toast to Santa Barbara for a happier 2022.”

Santa Barbara-born and Metropolitan Opera National Council Award winner soprano Jana McIntyre sings the title role;  the cast includes Sarah Coit as Juno; Robert Stahley of the Los Angeles Opera Young Artists Program as Jupiter; Music Academy of the West alumn Logan Tanner as Athamas; Colin Ramsay in the dual role of Kadmus and Somnus; Christina Pezzarossi as Ino; and Chrisman Studio Artist Sunwoo Park as Iris.

The production will be directed by Los Angeles-based Sara Widzer, who made her company debut with “Carmen in your Car” in December 2020.  Rising star conductor Emily Senturia, with recent appearances at Washington National Opera, Houston Grand, Boston Lyric, and Wolf Trap Operas, makes her Opera Santa Barbara debut conducting members of the Opera Santa Barbara Orchestra.  Projection Designer Yuki Izumihara, choreographer Nicola Bowie, Lighting Designer Helena Kuukka, wig and makeup designer Heather Sterling, and Costume Designer Stacie Logue complete the all-female creative team.

“The great thing about Baroque opera is that there is so much freedom of interpretation,” said conductor Emily Senturia. “Working on music from this era is such terrific fun because even though it’s centuries old, reinventing it through new ornaments, new tempos, and new choices is part of the process.”

All patrons must provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or negative test within the last 72 hours accompanied by picture ID.  Patrons are required to wear a face covering while indoors. Detailed health protocols can be found on the Lobero Lobero website

Reserved tickets can be purchased online at lobero.org, and are currently priced at $149 and $99.  A limited number of You Decide! Tickets (pay-what-you-can) are also available by phone through the Lobero Box Office, at (805) 963.0761, thanks to a generous grant from the Holly and Walter Thompson Foundation, Bank of America, N.A. Co-trustee.

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