Il fallut exactement un mois à Haendel pour composer et achever la partition complète de Sémélé. Commencée le « 3 juin 1743 », l’auteur inscrivit son achèvement le « 4 juillet 1743 » sur la page 117 du manuscrit qui, d’après sa version concert en février de l’année suivante, fut décrite par Haendel « after the manner of oratorio » [à la manière d’un oratorio]… / Handel began work on Semele on 3 June 1743. The following month, he wrote the date of completion on page 117 of his manuscript: 4 July 1743. The composition had taken him less then five weeks – but hadn’t he composed Messiah in less than three?
The story of Semele has come down to us largely through Book III of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a fine collection of classical legends, which also provided the source for Handel’s final oratorio, Hercules, performed in January 1745.

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Le texte de William Congreve, mis en musique par John Eccles en 1707, mais jamais représenté et retravaillé à cette occasion à la demande de Haendel, s’inspire largement des Métamorphoses d’Ovide, merveilleux ensemble de mythes duquel est également tiré le thème d’Hercules, dernier oratorio du maître, composé juste après Sémélé…

The dramatist William Congreve (author of The Way of the World, his masterpiece) put the story into libretto form in 1706 for a composer named John Eccles. The opera was never performed but the text was included in the printed edition of Congreve’s works in 1710, which is probably how it came to the notice of Handel and was thus taken up by an unknown librettist (possibly Hamilton), who made a few cuts and minor changes, and also added verses by other writers, including Alexander Pope: ‘Where’er you walk’ (Act II, Scene III) is taken from ‘Summer, or Alexis’, written at the age of sixteen in 1704.

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