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Opera in partnership with Greenstone TV presents a feature screen production of Handel’s baroque masterpiece, Semele.

Devised and staged as ‘The Wedding of the Year’, Semele was filmed as a live performance in front of an audience at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Auckland.  Drawn from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the sensual story explores a love triangle between Jupiter, King of the Gods, his wife the goddess Juno, and his lover, the mortal princess Semele.

The Opera production was conceived and directed by New Zealand Opera’s General Director Thomas de Mallet Burgess with Jacqueline Coats, alongside Tracy Grant Lord (Designer) and Jo Kilgour (Lighting designer).

At a time where the performing arts was silenced around the world due to the global pandemic, NZ Opera was fortunate to be able to stage this triumphant work and have it interpreted for the screen by Rebecca Tansley in partnership with Greenstone TV.

Semele is not a straight recording of the live performance; the treatment was carefully directed to capture multiple screen angles, character narratives, close-ups of performers expressions and the orchestra. Even the audience became an integral part of the staging and final film.

It is an exemplar in collaboration and brought a live event to a wider audience, who in the midst of the pandemic wouldn’t have been able to experience it (due to Covid and travel restrictions).

Semele on screen stands out as a dramatic and fully realised film. Thanks to Rebecca’s vision it has a magnetic intimacy which is quite different to the original operatic performance.

This production showcases Handel’s exquisitely lyrical music and presents a powerful story of ambition that is as relevant today, as it was when written nearly three centuries ago.

Handel was commissioned to write a sacred work for the church, but his instinct and the taste of the day, was for opera, so he wrote Semele.  Set in a church, it’s an opera of two weddings and a funeral.

Best Entertainment Programme

N.Z. Television Awards


Semele, the Opera

“The production team and directors, pulled off a triumph creating a stunning interpretation of one of the great Handel operas.”

New Zealand Arts Review John Daly-Peoples

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