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17 Feb 2005

Semele in Scotland — Another View

In Scottish Opera’s early days, Handel was not a high priority. Debussy, Verdi, Mozart and Mussorgsky were the composers with whom the company made its name. As a Handel conductor, Alexander Gibson – like Pierre Boulez – went no further than the Water Music. In his role as administrator, Peter Hemmings was forthright and forbidding. Handel’s operas, he declared, were the kiss of death.

Saved by the kiss of life

CONRAD WILSON [Herald & Times, 16 Feb 05]

In Scottish Opera's early days, Handel was not a high priority. Debussy, Verdi, Mozart and Mussorgsky were the composers with whom the company made its name. As a Handel conductor, Alexander Gibson - like Pierre Boulez - went no further than the Water Music. In his role as administrator, Peter Hemmings was forthright and forbidding. Handel's operas, he declared, were the kiss of death.

Well, they are not now. Since the days when Handel's operas were left to the Handel Opera Society to perform, these eighteenth-century fossils - Radamisto, Rodelinda, Ottone, Serse - have emerged full of life from their museum. No longer do they need specialist companies or country-house festivals to rescue them. Everybody is at it. Characteristically, Sir Charles Mackerras was the first in Britain to champion Semele by conducting it at Sadler's Wells in 1970 and later at Covent Garden.

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