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Acis and Galatea

Acis and Galatea

Acis and Galatea  Royal Opera House  01-04-2009
Georg Friedrich Händel
Royal Opera House
Georg Friedrich Händel initially wanted to give Acis and Galatea the characteristics of a masque, then of a pastoral opera. The text by John Gay, with additions by John Dryden, Alexander Pope and John Hughues, comes from Ovidio's Metamorphosis and it was inspired by the myth of Acis, the Sicilian pastor, son of Fauno, who was crushed by the Giant Polyphemus, jealous of his love with the beautiful nymph Galatea.

Synopsis of Acis and Galatea

The opera opens to a pastoral scene, with a chorus of nymphs and shepherds praising 'the pleasure of the plains.' Galatea, a semi-divine nymph, is in love with the shepherd Acis, from whom she is separated. Galatea asks the birds to stop singing because their music stirs her desires too much, while Acis is looking for her everywhere. Damon, a shepherdess friend of Acis, tries to distract him from his amorous wanderings reminding him of his duty as a shepherd. When the two lovers finally meet, Acis sings a siciliana-style serenade to his love. The act ends with them affirming their love for each other.

In contrast with the end of the first act, the second act opens with dark tones. The chorus warns the two lovers of the arriving of Polypheme, a giant who has fallen in love with Galatea and is jealous of their love. The giant starts wooing Galatea, who is scared by his aggressive manners and doesn't show any interests in the giant. His unsuccessful attempts to woo Galatea are followed by advice from an impartial shepherd, Coridon, who encourages Polyphemus to be more gentle in his wooing. Seeing this, Acis is enraged at his rude behaviour towards his love and threatens action. Damon, concerned at this turn of events, tries to show Acis that love's delights are fleeting and perhaps not deserving of battling a giant. Galatea calms Acis down by assuring him of her love. This leads into a promise of eternal love in a duet. Polyphemus' jealousy spills over into violence and he brutally kills Acis. Galatea, desperate, remembers she can use her semi-divine powers to turn him into a fountain. Galatea has so immortalised the spirit of Acis by giving him a new shape and life.

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