High-Energy Handel, An Ancient Temple, and a Chat with Alexander Neef

9 May

Opening tonight at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts is the Canadian Opera Company‘s lavish production of Handel’s Semele. Now if it wasn’t enough that this production, directed by acclaimed Chinese-born artist Zhang Huan and staring Canadian opera darling Jane Archibald, is rife with with saucy theatrical surprises and unexpected touches like a authentic pair of scene-stealing Sumo wrestlers (and yes, they do go at it on stage), it can also claim to have the oldest set in the world of opera.

That set is a 450 year old Ming Dynasty temple purchased and salvaged by the director, and literally rebuilt on the stage of the Four Seasons Centre. This 17 ton camphor wood behemoth took four nights, a team of imported Chinese specialists, and one specially-built crane to assemble. Not only is it a beautiful structure, but one rife with history; the story of the family that lived in the oft-repurposed temple is appropriately marked by operatic themes of infidelity and revenge.

Have a listen below to our chat with COC General Director Alexander Neef (my apologies for mistakenly calling him ‘artistic director’ in the interview) about this unique production of Semele and the story behind the temple, and below that, check out the time lapse video of the temple being assembled and a couple of bonus production photos.

For tickets and more information about Semele, head over here.

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