Acis and Galatea
Acis and Galatea
A masque in two acts
Music by G.F. Handel
Arranged by W.A. Mozart (K 566)
Libretto by John Gay
|Galatea , a sea-nymph||Rebecca Bottone|
|Acis, a shepherd||John McMunn|
|Damon, a shepherd||Robert Murray|
|Polyphemus, a giant||Vojtech Safarik|
|With Cantandum and the London Mozart Players|
The scene is ‘a Rural Prospect, diversified with Rocks, Groves, Fountains, and Grotto’s’. Act I celebrates Arcadian life: a chorus of nymphs and shepherds sets the atmosphere with a picture of rural bliss (O, the pleasures of the plains). However the sea-nymph Galatea is in love. She rebukes the birds (Hush, ye pretty warbling quire) and goes in search of her Acis, who soon appears looking for her (Where shall I seek the charming fair), impervious to the protestation of his friend Damon that he is neglecting his flock (Shepherd, what art thou pursuing?). Acis persists with his wooing (Love in her eyes sits playing) and presently Galatea returns (As when the dove laments her love). The lovers proclaim their perfect happiness (Happy we!), which is taken up by the closing chorus.
The dramatically changed mood of Act II is set immediately in the opening chorus (Wretched lovers). The giant Polyphemus, more used to wreaking terror and devastation than feelings of love, attempts to woo Galatea (O ruddier than the cherry) but Galatea flees in terror (Cease to beauty to be suing). Damon attempts to conciliate (Would you gain the tender creature) and Acis prepares to do battle, trusting in the power of love. (Love sounds the alarm); Damon warns of the transitory nature of love (Consider, fond shepherd). Polyphemus is enraged by the sight of Galatea with her lover: their chromatic and flowing duet (The flocks shall leave the mountains) is violently interrupted by the giant who hurls a rock at his rival. The chorus mourns his death but attempts to divert Galatea from her sorrow (Must I my Acis still bemoan); she effects the Ovidean metamorphosis by transforming Acis into a stream (Heart, the seat of soft delight) and the chorus reassures her of her power (Galatea, dry thy tears).
Murm’ring still his gentle love