Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Monday, February 23, 2015

Costume Review: Seattle Opera's Semele

On Saturday I went to opening night of Seattle Opera's new production of Handel's Semele. I had some thoughts about the costumes.

Just to set the stage, this is a new production so it is all modern and edgy and has cool projections.

(all photos from or

Everyone in Act I (the humans) looked like they were maybe in some sort of space movie. Here are some members of the chorus:

[trailer voiceover] IN A WORLD...

Everything was all pointy and angular and hard edges. Semele's sister Ino was pointiest of all:

The whole gang was on a galaxy quest except hapless Althamas who looked like an adorable hipster who got lost on his way to the artisanal whiskey tasting. 

Things picked up in Act II when the curtain went up and the audience burst into applause at the sight of Stephanie Blythe seated on her throne as Juno, Queen of the Gods. 


Points also for Iris who looked fantastic in her leather running suit.

From there we moved to Semele's heavenly "pleasure palace" (I kid you not, that is what it is called) which was all drapey and soft and sensual. So I guess that is why earth was so pointy? To make a contrast? I still wasn't totally on board.

In Act III we met Pasithea. I recognized her costume from promotional materials I received for the opera. Here is how it looked on paper:

And here is how it turned out:

Generally, the dancers in blue body suits and blue face paint made it hard not to think about...

The opera concluded with more of the pointy space chorus and not, as the program promised, the uniting of Ino and hot hipster Althamas. But obviously that part was cut because Stephanie Blythe (who played dual roles) wanted to take her curtain call as Juno rather than as Ino and WHO CAN BLAME HER.

As soon as she saw those costumes she made the plan

So overall, it was a bit bizarre.  But the fact is that strange and interesting is always preferable to expected and boring. Because we just had the Oscars, I will use this red carpet analogy: Semele was sort of like the fashion choices of Tlilda Swinton. Sometimes weird, often awesome, but never bland. And that kind of risk-taking is always worthy of applause.

As for me, I wore a new dress that that made me feel like a powerful warrior goddess.

I can't show you an actual picture, because much like Semele seeing Jupiter's true form, the fabulousness would probably make you burst into flames. 

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