Forty-nine years ago this month, Beverly Sills sang Cleopatra at New York City Opera and became an overnight sensation at age 37. Surprisingly she sang only two other Handel roles, one—Semele—is featured in this scintillating souvenir from the 1969 Caramoor Festival.  

Sills at the peak of her powers and Handel’s 1743 secular oratorio (set to William Congreve’s delicious text) make a perfect match. Aside from some cuts, Julius Rudel mostly keeps his mitts off the score (unlike the Giulio Cesare and Ariodante Sills did with him) and presides over an appealing cast that features an aging Léopold Simoneau who remains an elegant stylist. Other stand-outs include Elaine Bonazzi as a fire-breathing Juno and John Ferrante–taking a well-deserved break from being PDQ Bach’s “bargain-counter-tenor”– as Athamas.

Acknowledging that it may prove challenging to listen to these full-length  works on the Parterre site, La Cieca has performed some technical wizardry and henceforth all “Trove Thursday” podcasts will be available for download via iTunes or any RSS reader. The two parts of last week’s Les Troyens  are available as well.

Handel: Semele
Caramoor Festival
June 21, 1969
Conductor – Julius Rudel
In-house recording

Semele – Beverly Sills
Juno – Elaine Bonazzi
Ino – Carolyn Stanford
Iris – Sandra Fox
Jupiter & Apollo – Leopold Simoneau
Athamas – John Ferrante
Cadmus & Priest – Michael Devlin
Somnus – Ara Berberian