23 July – 26 August 2023


‘All our boasted fire is lost in smoke’

Due to audience demand we’ve added an extra performance of Semele on Monday 21 August – on sale now.

Under 30s tickets (£30 and £45) are on sale now. Already and Under 30s member? Check your emails for the booking code.  New to Under 30s? Sign up for free to get your booking code.

About the opera

‘All our boasted fire is lost in smoke’

Semele is engaged, but secretly in love with someone else. Her lover is none other than Jove, King of the Gods. When he carries her off his wife Juno devises a scheme that will ensure a swift and brutal end – both to her husband’s infidelity and to Semele herself.

With a plot full of lusty Gods and beautiful mortals, where intrigue and desire take centre-stage, Handel’s Semele combines the drama of Italian opera with the choral splendour and richness of English oratorio. Ovid’s colourful Metamorphoses provides the starting point for a work that scandalised 18th-century audiences, a story of transformations, seductions and illusions that drew new sensuality and ecstasy from the composer.

Award-winning director Adele Thomas makes her Glyndebourne debut with the festival’s first-ever staging of Semele. Period specialist Václav Luks conducts an exciting young cast.

A new production for Festival 2023. Sung in English with supertitles.

Creative team

Václav Luks

Adele Thomas

Set Designer
Annemarie Woods

Costume Designer
Hannah Clark

Emma Woods

Assistant to the Choreographer
Robin Gladwin

Lighting Design
Peter Mumford with Rick Fisher

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Kati Debretzeni

Harpsichord continuo & organ
Jack Redman

Harp continuo
Joy Smith

Cello continuo
Jonathan Manson

Bass continuo
Cecelia Bruggemeyer 

Theorbo continuo
William Carter

The Glyndebourne Chorus
Chorus Director
Aidan Oliver

Assistant Conductor
Jakub Kydlíček

Music Preparation
Toby Hession

Assistant Director
Rachael Hewer
Oliver Platt

Cast includes

Clive Bayley

Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen

Joélle Harvey 

Stephanie Wake-Edwards

Samuel Mariño

Jennifer Johnston

Stuart Jackson
Hugo Hymas (1, 6, 9, 11 & 16 August)

Robin Gladwin
Harriet Waghorn
Jonathan Mewett
Jack Richardson

Ailsa Bond Vannuffel
Jacob James

Samuel Mariño appears in the filmed version of Semele courtesy of Decca Classics


Photos: Richard Hubert Smith – see more

Part I


Cadmus, Semele’s father, asks for the goddess Juno’s blessing on a marriage between his daughter Semele and Athamas. Semele, distressed, begs her father to delay the wedding. Privately she implores her lover Jove, king of the gods (and Juno’s husband) to intervene.

Thunder is heard, and suddenly the sacred fire on Juno’s altar is extinguished. The people flee, leaving Semele’s sister Ino alone with Athamas. But when Ino tries to comfort the grieving Athamas, confessing her own secret love for him, he is taken aback.

Breaking the tension, Cadmus returns with news: Jove, in the guise of a giant eagle, has carried Semele off. Her voice is heard distantly celebrating her sudden change of fortunes, and all join in the chorus of bliss.

In a remote landscape Juno greets the messenger god Iris, impatient for news of a potential new rival. Her suspicions are realised when Iris tells her that Jove has installed his new lover Semele in a mountaintop palace. Revenge will be difficult, she warns, as it is guarded by dragons that never sleep. But Juno’s rage is unrelenting and she begins to scheme. Who better to help than Somnus, god of sleep himself? They set off to demand his help.

Part II


Semele awakes from a passionate dream to find herself alone in her new palace. Jove enters, in the form of a man, and attempts to reassure her insecurity (he assures her that he is faithful) and distract her from her growing discontent that he has not yet made her immortal. He summons Ino, and transforms the surroundings into a paradise for them to enjoy.

Part III


Juno bursts into Somnus’ cave, interrupting the god’s deep sleep to demand his help. Finally he agrees, promising to charm the dragons to sleep and transform Juno herself – giving her the appearance of Semele’s sister Ino.

Quick to put her magical disguise to work, Juno joins Semele in her palace. Flattering her and praising her beauty, she persuades Semele to ask Jove to show himself to her in all his divine glory, promising the trusting girl that this will make her a goddess.

Inflamed with desire, Jove returns to Semele. But when she (primed by Juno) rejects him, he immediately swears a vow, promising to give her whatever she wants. When she names her wish it is too late to take back his promise. He approaches her in all his thunderbolts and fire, and Semele is instantly consumed by flames.

Ino returns to Thebes with the news of Semele’s death. Athamas comforts her; her kindness has unexpectedly transformed his feelings to love. Jove appears, announcing that Semele’s unborn child has been saved and will become a god – Bacchus – born to bring pleasure to the earth. Semele is quickly forgotten, and all sing a chorus of rejoicing.

Supported by
The Holley Family Trust and a Syndicate and Circle of individuals
Bring world-class opera to the stage

To find out more about production support for Festival 2023 click here
or contact our Director of Development, Helen McCarthy for an informal chat:
call 01273 815 032 or email helen.mccarthy@glyndebourne.com

Illustration © Katie Ponder

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