Released in January 2021, the Academy of Ancient Music, Cambridge Handel Opera Company, Cambridge Early Music and Julian Perkins have released the first professional recording of John Eccles’s Semele (c.1707), a notable early setting of the great English libretto by William Congreve better known in a version by GF Handel from 1744.
The Academy of Ancient Music’s mission is to explore, reveal and preserve the great treasure house of baroque and classical music. Eccles’s Semele is released on 2 CDs in deluxe hardback presentation with an extensive accompanying full-colour booklet containing scholarly essays, Stephen Fry’s modern re-telling of the story, autograph manuscript images of Eccles’ score, the full libretto text and much more. Purchase here. A fascinating insight into how opera in England might have developed after Henry Purcell’s death had not Handel moved to London in 1712, Eccles’s Semele is the perfect addition to any baroque-music lover’s library.
The recording is on Spotify here.
“John Eccles’ Semele is nothing short of a revelation.” Rhinegold
“Anna Dennis is delightful as the ambitious mortal Semele … Richard Burkhard and Helen Charlston mine some divine comic scenes… The rest of the large cast is excellent and Julian Perkins gets a fizzing performance out of the Academy of Ancient Music, enough to make Eccles seem a rival to Handel” Financial Times ****
“Reviving one of the forgotten gems of English opera, this first professional recording of Eccles and Congreve’s drama is revelatory, bringing out the work’s wit, charm and drama” Planet Hugill
“Julian Perkins leads a dozen excellent soloists and the joint forces of the Cambridge Handel Opera Company, Cambridge Early Music and the Academy of Ancient Music … This new version is a real revelation” Les amis d’Ovide