Acis and Galatea

The bulk of this program is a performance of Handel's Acis and Galatea. I had too much traveling the previous week to put together a more imaginative program. And so it goes.

Maurice Ravel: Sonata for violin and piano		(CD: Un Coeur en Hiver)
		(Jean-Jacques Kantorow, violin;
		 Jacques Rouvier, piano)

Maurice Duruflé: Requiem				    (CD: Requiem de
		(Choeur des Solistes; Orchestre 	    Maurice DURUFLÉ)
		 Philharmonique Albert Roussel)

William Walton (arr. M. Sargent): Fanfare		 (CD: Fanfare: British
		(Locke Brass Consort)			   Music for Symphonic
							     Brass Ensemble)

George Frideric Handel: Acis and Galatea		   (CD: Handel: Acis
		(Julianne Baird, soprano (Galatea);	      and Galatea)
		 Grayson Hirst, tenor (Acis); Stephen
		 Oosting, tenor (Damon); John
		 Ostendorf, bass (Polyphemus); Jeffrey
		 Dooley, countertenor; Amor Artis
		 Orchestra; Johannes Somary)

Jean Philippe Rameau: Suite from Les Indes Galantes	     (CD: Les Indes
		(Orchestre de la Chapelle Royale)		Galantes)

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty			      (CD: Amazing
		(Mormon Tabernacle Choir; Clay		    Grace: The Mormon
		 Christensen, organ; Craig Jessop)	    Tabernacle Choir)

Wait 'til the sun shines				     (CD: Teasin':
		(Julianne Baird; Magic Circle		      Parlor Songs)
		 Ensemble; Rudolph Palmer, piano)

Notes on Acis and Galatea

Handel originally wrote Acis and Galatea as one act "masque", a light musical entertainment, but later expanded it to two acts. The musical forces are small in scale, almost as a musical salon production. The story originally by the classic Roman writer Ovid and adapted faithfully by John Gay.

The namesakes of this masque are Acis, an Arcadian shepherd, and his love, the nymph Galatea. Other characters are Damon, a older shepherd who serves as foil to Acis's impetuousness, and Polyphemus, a monster who is crazed with Galatea's charms and cannot understand why his love is not reciprocated. (The astute will recall that Polyphemus is also the name of the Cyclops in Homer's Odyssey).

Act I amounts to a prolonged swoon where Galatea and Acis attempt to find each other, protracted in typically Baroque fashion. Most of the numbers follow the form of recitative plus da capo aria. In the da capo form, the first part of the aria (the head, capo in Italian) is repeated. To maintain listener interest through the repeats, Baroque practice was for the soloist to change his or her part in some catchy manner. Typical fashion was to add ornamentation, which is heard in this rendition. Other possibilities that were documented over the years were to exaggerate the declamation of the text, or for the soloist to compete with the orchestra either in speed, loudness, or other musical dimensions. The first act concludes with the lovers happily joined.

Act II brings the monster Polyphemus into the action. Handel indulges in particulary Baroque word painting here; listen for the passage beginning, "See. What. Am. Ple. Strides. He. Makes." In an attempt to woo Galatea, Polyphemus sings "O ruddier than the cherry", where his monsterly misappraisals are clear: He compares Galatea to young goats, "kidlings blithe and merry." Naturally, she is thoroughly repulsed. Our hero Acis is ready to defend Galatea in spite of being overmatched by Polyphemus, but the shepherd Damon again is on hand to put a damper on the drama, and Galatea also stays his hand. Instead, the two lovers sing each others' praises, and in jealousy, Polyphemus lobs a convenient boulder on top of Acis. This would be the end, but Galatea pulls some connections among the immortals and Acis becomes an undying fountain.

Notes © 1996 by Romain Kang. Permission to copy is granted as long as fair and reasonable attribution is included.

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