A centuries-old Ming Dynasty temple shares the stage with an inflatable puppet, debaucherous monks, sumo wrestlers, and one aroused donkey in the Canadian Opera Company’s East-meets-West presentation of Semele, George Frideric Handel’s sublime operatic adaptation of the titular Greek myth. Chinese visual artist Zhang Huan—renowned for his provocative interrogations of eastern culture—makes his directorial debut, transforming the restored 17-ton temple into an altar, palace, crematory, and heaven to tell of the karmic fate of Semele (performed by Jane Archibald), whose attempt to trade sexual favors for divinity goes up in flames.
Set design by Zhang Huan
Costume design by Han Feng
Original lighting design by Wolfgang Göbbel
Lighting recreation by Willem Laarman
Co-production of Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Brussels and KT Wong Foundation