Notes and Editorial Reviews
George Frideric Handel
ACIS AND GALATEA
Christopher Hogwood conducts the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and a distinguished cast including Danielle de Niese and Charles Workman in Wayne McGregor's new production of Handel's opera in which The Royal Opera and The Royal Ballet appear in a rare and beautifully crafted collaboration. Filmed with High Definition cameras and recorded in true surround sound.
"Charles Workman and Danielle de Niese had bags of vocal and personal charm in the title roles, with strong contributions from Matthew Rose as Polyphemus and Paul Agnew and Ji-Min Park as attendant shepherds; among the dancers, special praise to Lauren Cuthbertson as Galatea's frolicking nymph.
…An evening of exquisite sensual pleasure." -- The Telegraph
Galatea – Danielle de Niese (soprano) / Lauren Cuthbertson (dancer)
Acis – Charles Workman (tenor) / Edward Watson (dancer)
Damon – Paul Agnew (tenor) / Steven McRae (dancer)
Polyphemus – Matthew Rose (bass) / Eric Underwood (dancer)
Coridon – Ji-Min Park (soprano) / Paul Kay (dancer)
Royal Opera House Chorus
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Christopher Hogwood, conductor
Wayne McGregor, stage director
Recorded live at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, on 8 April, 2009.
- Illustrated synopsis
- Cast gallery
- Documentary – Staging Acis and Galatea
Picture format: NTSC 16:9 anamorphic
Sound format: PCM 2.0 / DTS 5.0
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu language: English
Subtitles: English (bonus features only) / French, German, Spanish
Running time: 110 mins
No. of DVDs: 1
Acis and Galatea is an absolutely delightful work, one of Handel’s great masterpieces, but what on earth is it? Is it an oratorio, a masque, an opera or something else altogether? For its Handel anniversary production in 2009 Covent Garden decided that it was a mix of all these and its triumphant staging gives us a rare opportunity to see the combined talents of both the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet on the same stage. By the way, if you’re more interested in the debate over
Acis’ form then this is dealt with in a most informative way by Andrew V Jones’ scholarly booklet note for this release.
Wayne McGregor’s main idea for this production is to have each singer shadowed by a dancer – as listed above – and for the dancer to mirror, shadow or suggest the emotions they are expressing. It works remarkably well. While there are no official dances
per se in Handel’s score the lithe, flexible rhythms that abound in the music seem to cry out for a physical interpretation. It’s a neat idea that, crucially, informs our understanding of the music and the characters rather than getting in the way. The most effective moments are towards the end of Act 1 when we see the dancers approach one another and then gradually intertwine as Acis and Galatea give in to their mutual love. Polyphemus’ dancer is particularly interesting: when the singer is at his most active the dancer is almost entirely still and the situation is reversed for when the singer is at peace, an interesting comment on the psychology of the “monster”.
Dancers aside, the star of the show is undoubtedly the delectable, delightful de Niese by whom, I admit, I was entirely smitten. She is strikingly beautiful to look at on stage but this would count for little were it not for her remarkably lovely voice. Her light soprano is bright and blithe throughout Act 1 and full of pathos for Act 2 –
Heart, the seat of soft delight is meltingly lovely, perhaps the highlight of the set. Added to this is her visible sense of wide-eyed wonder at the events unfolding around her, the very type of pastoral innocence. The climax of the evening comes at the end when, having transformed Acis into the fountain, she dances with his spirit/dancer showing physical awareness and adaptability quite remarkable for a singer. Next to her Charles Workman, dressed in a shepherd’s tatty jumper and trousers, is disappointingly workaday. His voice, while not unpleasant, sounds hollow and pale and he cannot do justice to Handel’s lovely melodies.
Love in her eyes lacks the beguiling wonder it should carry and
Love sounds th’alarm is weak rather than heroic. Paul Agnew is an effective Damon and Ji-Min Park’s Coridon has accented English but a fine tenor voice. Matthew Rose is a very fine Polyphemus, threatening yet humorous at the same time, singing with a rich, full bass that is exciting and vibrant without being over-dominant. The trio,
The flocks shall leave the mountains, is very effective, bringing out the best in all three protagonists.
McGregor creates an idyllic pastoral setting which slowly decays. The opening scene is straight out of Cranach but as the opera progresses it is stained and tainted by what he calls, in a short extra film, “the bodily fluids of the opera” so that by the time of Acis’ murder the action plays out in an almost apocalyptic staging. A few subtle ruins and stuffed animals suggest ancient Greek pastoral without ramming it down our throats. There is plenty of room for the dancers to move without distracting from or being distracted by the setting.
Orchestral duties are done by the OAE in the pit, an ensemble who know this music inside out and it shows with delectable string sound and some beautiful wind solos. Hogwood loves the bouncy rhythms of Handel’s textures. Don’t be put off by an excessively slow opening chorus: it soon gives way to much more energetic pacing. The reduced chorus sing most effectively, Handel’s counterpoint shining through in their transparent textures, particularly towards the end.
All told, then, this production looks great and, Workman aside, sounds fantastic too. I found it very convincing and if you’re going to stage
Acis then this is as effective a way of doing it as any I can think of.
-- Simon Thompson, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Acis and Galatea, HWV 49 by George Frideric Handel
Paul Agnew (Tenor),
Danielle De Niese (Soprano),
Matthew Rose (Bass),
Charles Workman (Tenor),
Ji-Min Park (Soprano)
Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus,
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
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