Acis and Galatea

Monday, 24.04.2017 19:30, Duke’s Hall


Michael Chance director
Handel Acis and Galatea

The Historical Performance Department collaborates with Academy singers throughout the year in Early Song Class and this performance is a culmination of their work. Handel’s first dramatic composition in English was written for the Duke of Chandos’s court musicians at his enormous north London palace, Channons, in 1718. The text was mostly written by John Gay after an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Adapted many times by the composer, and arranged by Mozart and Mendelssohn, Acis and Galatea remains Handel’s most enduring and enchanting stage work, his ‘little opera’. This performance returns to the original Cannons version, using the unusual voice distribution of soprano, three tenors and bass.

Michael Chance writes of the piece: ‘Acis and Galatea stands midpoint between the Purcellian masque and the great Handelian oratorio. From the masque come the elements of solo and choral singing, dancing and spectacle, while the coherence of the story prefigures later oratorios. Handel wrote it for Cannons, the great Chandos mansion in north London, probably in the summer of 1718, and it was performed there “theatrically”. The first public performance was in 1731 at Lincoln’s Inn. It remained immensely popular throughout the eighteenth century, and was the most frequently revived of all his works. Both Mozart and Mendelssohn adapted it, marking the esteem in which it has been held by subsequent generations.

‘The music matches the touching simplicity of the story, culled from Book 13 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a musical favourite already set by Lully in 1686 and Eccles in 1701. Handel’s writing for the solo voices is dramatic and lyrical. For Polyphemus, it is also subtly comic and beautifully characterised, projecting real menace — Handel’s first immortal stage character. Real depth comes with the choruses and in the opening of Act 2, “Wretched lovers”, a powerful exposition of the tension between man’s happiness and fate’s harshness, an oft-visited Handelian trope.’


Tickets £7.50 (concessions £5.50) online now, telephone 020 7873 7300 and in person. Please note that the box office will be closed from Friday 31st March and will reopen on Monday 24th April at 10.00am.

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