John Eccles: Semele

Academy of Ancient Music, dir. Julian Perkins
Cambridge Handel Opera Company
Anna Dennis, soprano
Richard Burkhard, baritone
Helen Charlston, mezzo-soprano
William Wallace, tenor
Aoife Miskelly, soprano
Heloise Bernard, soprano
Graeme Broadbent, bass
Jonathan Brown, baritone
Rory Carver, tenor
Christopher Foster, bass
Bethany Horak-Hallett, mezzo-soprano
Jolyon Loy, baritone
James Rhoads, tenor

Executive Producer: Alexander Van Ingen
Producer: Alexander Van Ingen
Engineer: Dave Rowell
Editing, mixing & mastering: Dave Rowell

“The Academy of Ancient Music’s new recording of John Eccles’ Semele is nothing short of a revelation…. The sheer virtuosity of the Symphony that opens act III is breathtaking, especially when captured in Alexander Van Ingen and Dave Rowell’s superbly present recording. Performed to the very highest vocal, instrumental and scholarly standards, this is simply unmissable.” [Opera Now]

“John Eccles sexy, sparkling opera bursts to life, finally!… Cast, band, director and sound are all top-notch, restoring Eccles’ score to its full glory… a superb reconstruction of a lost Eccles masterpiece.” Recording of the Month, 5*, 5* [BBC Music Magazine]

“It’s a fine cast of Gods and mortals… A real discovery… the documentation is outstanding; so much context to pore over in the 200-page book… But it’s the music that’s the winner; the more I listen the more I love this. What a resurrection it is.”
Record of the Week [Record Review, BBC Radio 3]

“I enjoyed this disc immensely… what Perkins and his performers bring out is that this Semele is as vivid as a drama as its successor… 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…”
5* [Planet Hugill]

“Colourful musical gem… impeccably produced… The role of Semele herself is beautifully sung by Anna Dennis, and the rest of the large cast is excellent, too. Julian Perkins conducts them and the AAM players in a performance that’s gratifyingly light on its feet… puts this Semele, and its composer, firmly on the map
5*, Album of the Week [The Guardian]

It is difficult to imagine greater justice currently being done to this opera than it receives here. Testament to the depth of thought and preparation that has gone into the performance is fully laid out in the superbly produced accompanying 200-page booklet … The hero of the performance is undoubtably Julian Perkins, who conducts as if every bar means the world to him, pacing the work with assurance and drawing splendid playing from the strings of the AAM … All the major roles are outstandingly taken … as this outstanding recording proves, it’s a damn good opera. As such it fully deserves to take a place in the repertoire of British companies.” Recording of the Month [Opera Magazine]

“Long deprived of a modern edition, Eccles’ music is beginning to resurface as evidenced by this recording of his Semele … 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 [Oviidi Amici]

“Among the universally strong cast, Anna Dennis makes the most of every word as the confused heroine who bites off rather more than she can chew. Richard Burkhard is properly muscular as Jupiter; William Wallace quivers nicely as the agitated Athamas, Semele’s intended; while Bethany Horak-Hallett makes such an eloquent Cupid that I only wish this god of love had flown into view more often. Handsomely packaged with copious documentation, this is a recording that by rights should put Eccles on the map.” 4* [The Times]

“With the Academy of Ancient Music, the director Julian Perkins reveals a work that exceeds the superficially attractive, his charged reading embracing high drama and deep emotion. Excellent performances from Richard Burkhard (Jupiter), Anna Dennis (Semele) and the remarkable Helen Charlston (Juno).” [Sunday Times]

lavishly packaged, presented and researched new account… gives this work the passionate advocacy it has long been waiting for… a crisp, energised account from the orchestra, with plenty of character in the continuo playing.” Editor’s Choice, 4* [Limelight Magazine]

“…the pace whips along, as jewel-like solos flash past, interspersed with vividly descriptive instrumental numbers… Julian Perkins gets a fizzing performance out of the Academy of Ancient Music, enough to make Eccles seem a rival to Handel…” 4* [Financial Times]

“Eccles’s work, and this first professional realisation of it on disc, make a significant contribution to our knowledge of music drama in Restoration-era England… well-packed, 200-page booklet in hard covers, comprising essays about various aspects of the story and the music alongside many illustrations, accompanies the CDs to constitute a sumptuous package that has become a hallmark of AAM’s releases of little-known and undiscovered compositions.” 5* [ClassicalSource]