John Eccles: Semele (c.1707)
Releasing in early 2021 and available now for pre-order, AAM Records’ upcoming release features the Academy of Ancient Music joining forces with Cambridge Handel Opera Company, Cambridge Early Music, conductor Julian Perkins and a glittering cast of soloists for John Eccles’ Semele, a jewel of the English baroque opera tradition that preceded the era of Handelian opera seria. Set 30 years before Handel’s well-known setting, Eccles’ work sadly faded into obscurity and went unperformed for nearly 250 years. Far more than just a brilliant, inventive setting of William Congreve’s libretto, this pivotal work demonstrates this development of English opera after Purcell, and provides a tantalising glimpse of what the genre might have become.
The Academy of Ancient Music is committed to the exploration of “new” works from the 17th and 18th centuries; AAM’s founder, Christopher Hogwood, was himself a keen musical detective, and this spirit of discovery runs throughout AAM’s activity. Semele is another chapter in this journey, striving as we are to conduct the first-ever professional recording of this neglected work on period instruments. Containing scholarly essays, leading baroque artists’ depictions of the story of Jupiter and Semele, Stephen Fry’s modern re-telling of the story, autograph manuscript images of Eccles’ score, full libretto texts and much more, this 2-CD, deluxe hardback presentation with 180+ page full-colour book is a perfect addition to the baroque music lover’s library.
Jupiter, King of the Gods – Richard Burkhard, baritone
Juno, Queen of the Gods – Helen Charlston, mezzo soprano
Iris, handmaid to Juno – Héloïse Bernard, soprano
Cupid, God of Love – Bethany Horak-Hallett, mezzo soprano
Somnus, God of Sleep – Christopher Foster, bass
Apollo, Sun God and God of Prophecy – Jolyon Loy, baritone
Cadmus, King of Thebes – Jonathan Brown, baritone
Semele, daughter of Cadmus – Anna Dennis, soprano
Ino, sister of Semele – Aoife Miskelly, soprano
Athamas, a prince of Bœotia – William Wallace, tenor
Chief Priest – Graeme Broadbent,bass
Second Priest / First Augur – Rory Carver, tenor
Third Priest / Second Augur – James Rhoads, tenor
Julian Perkins, Director
Academy of Ancient Music
Release date: January 2021.