Sparks fly in Handel’s opera ‘Semele’

When mortal maiden Semele and the god Jupiter fall in love, it brings down the jealous wrath of Juno, queen of the gods, and the result is epic. Composer George Frideric Handel captured the drama in his English-language opera “Semele,” the spring production of Bowling Green State University Opera Theater and Department of Theatre and Film. Conductor Dr. Emily Freeman Brown will be joined by guest director Danielle Wright from Detroit’s Opera MODO.

Performances are at 8 p.m. April 5 and at 3 p.m. April 7 in the Thomas B. and Kathleen M. Donnell Theatre of The Wolfe Center for the Arts. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for non-BGSU students/children in advance. All tickets are $20 the day of the performance. BGSU students are free with ID. Tickets are available online at or by calling 419-372-8171.

A masterpiece of Handel’s mature period, “Semele” is considered something of an anomaly in his career: It is an English-language work with a secular text, written at a time when Handel was concentrating on the composition of sacred oratorios. Though never staged in Handel's lifetime, the stirring and sensuous story, based on Ovid's “Metamorphoses,” lends itself to some of opera’s most tempestuous arias of lust and rage. The choral movements are also considered some of Handel’s most beautiful and exciting, as priests, soothsayers and nymphs comment on the action.

The infrequently performed work will be accompanied by the Camerata di Campo di Bocce, the elite chamber group of the BG Philharmonia, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

“It’s a challenging piece and the music is so fantastic and so exciting,” Brown said in announcing the schedule. “It’s just out of this world.”

In her director’s program notes, Wright wrote, “There are so many assumptions when one goes to see an opera: there's a damsel in distress, there's a hero, shouldn't there be someone in horns? With our lead character, Semele, we are able to negate this damsel in distress mentality by showcasing a woman who knows what she wants, knows how to get it, and is her own hero! While getting to know this cast, we began with a sing-through of the show, and then a very intentional discussion about how this production of ‘Semele’ would be the perfect vehicle to address the societal stigmas around sex, and also touch on some of the issues surrounding sex that we all still face today.”

The production includes sexual content that may not be suitable for all ages. Audiences are advised to use discretion.

“Semele” is one of the spring premier arts events sponsored by PNC Bank.

Guests with disabilities are requested to indicate if they need special services, assistance or appropriate modifications to fully participate in this event by contacting Accessibility Services at or the Department of Theatre and Film at 419-372-8495 in advance.

Updated: 03/29/2019 03:20PM