JUPITER AND SEMELE
– Symphonic Poem PROGRAM NOTES
2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, 1 tuba, 4 timpani, a snare drum, a triangle, cymbals, strings.
Jupiter and Semele
On Olympus, Jupiter feels that for him was made a sacrifice of a great bull.
Flying in the guise of an eagle over a temple dedicated to him, he observes Semele, a priestess, who swims naked in the rives Asopus to cleanse herself of the blood after she slaughtered a bull at Jupiter’s altar.
The god appears in human form and declares his love. She, frightened, repels him because she is a priestess of Jupiter. He then reveals that he is Jupiter himself. Simple love evolves into passion. She, after a night of love, becomes pregnant.
Juno, jealous wife of Jupiter, feels, from Olympus, that a demigod was generated. She descends to Earth. Disguised as an old crone, she befriends Semele. She confides in her that her love is Jupiter. Juno says that it’s probably a lie. Semele, in conflict, fears to have given herself to a mere man, she who is a priestess of Jupiter. Juno suggests that she demand proof of her lover’s divinity – that he appear to her as god (Juno knows no mortal would support such a vision). Semele cries for being deceived. Juno leaves.
Enter Jupiter, in love. Semele, cold, asks him to grant her a boon. He promises on the River Styx to grant her anything she wants. She then demands that Jupiter reveal himself in all his glory as proof of his divinity. Though Jupiter begs her not to ask this, she persists and he is forced by his oath to comply. Jupiter shows her the smallest of his bolts and the sparsest thunderstorm clouds. She perishes consumed in lightning-ignited flame.
Jupiter rushes to her, rescues the fetal Bacchus by sewing him into his thigh.
Time goes by. Semele is rescued from the Kingdom of Pluto by Bacchus and is taken to Olympus, where she becomes the goddess Thyone. She is received by all the gods.