For this performance of Handel’s Semele, Opera Santa Barbara transformed the Lobero into the gardens and boudoirs of two great Los Angeles estates of the 1920s. Although the characters and storyline of Semele derive from ancient Greek mythology, the rivalries, jealousies, outsized egos, and lavish lifestyles of movie moguls and their molls made for a clever and resonant new context within which to experience these flamboyant personalities. As Semele, Jana McIntyre provided the wheel of musical fire around which the action spun. Her duets with her sister, Ino (Christina Pezzarossi); her lover, Jupiter (Robert Stahley); and her disguised rival, Juno (Sarah Coit), were consistently brilliant, and her several spectacular arias brought down the house.
One of the many dividends of seeing Semele in this outstanding production was the opportunity it gave the audience to laugh. When Juno and Iris (Sunwoo Park) came to awaken the reluctant Somnus (Colin Ramsey), his attitude resembled nothing so much as that of someone with a deadly hangover. In the celebratory finale, the entire cast broke into a lively Charleston, bringing the theme established by the setting to a humorous conclusion. The audience relished the magical combination of Handel’s music and OSB’s dynamic production.