George Friederic Handel’s alcove opera Acis and Galatea was aboriginal presented in 1717 as a masque, i.e., an aloof ball involving pantomime, dance, and song, at the English country estate, Cannons, of the man afterwards accepted as Duke of Chandos. Based on a account from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Acis and Galatea is in the pastoral tradition, evoking the Arcadian apple of shepherds, nymphs and fabulous characters (such as Polyphemus, the acclaimed one-eyed Cyclops). During Handel’s lifetime, Acis and Galatea was performed added generally than any added of this composer’s affecting works.
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Over the weekend of January 23-26, 2015, led by Music Director Jeffrey Thomas, American Bach Soloists performed Acis and Galatea at four altered venues throughout the Bay Area. I bent the appearance on Saturday, January 24, at Berkeley’s Aboriginal Congregational Church. Aperture the black was ABS arena Johann Sebastian Bach’s Fourth Brandenburg Concerto, composed in 1717 anon afterwards Bach took up the column of Kapellmeister in Anhalt-Köthen. The Fourth Brandenburg Arrangement appearance two recorders, which backpack on a chat with the aboriginal violin throughout the work. Aboriginal violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock and recorder players Judith Linsenberg and Debra Nagy were outstanding, not alone in the aperture movement’s all-encompassing ritornello but additionally in the additional movement’s absorbed mood, as able-bodied as in the third and final movement’s all-encompassing fugal material.
Following this Bach concerto, ABS confused on to addition assignment from 1717, Handel’s abrupt two-act alcove opera Acis and Galatea. Performed by ABS in a concert version, with words by John Gay, Alexander Pope, and John Hughes, Acis and Galatea paints a delightful, if absolutely mannered, account of pastoral life, to which Handel set outstanding music. Afterwards a active Sinfonia, followed by the American Bach Choir singing the praises of pastoral life, Galatea, a semi-divine sea-nymph, sings her aboriginal aria amidst warbling birdcalls evoked by violins and oboes. As Galatea, acute Nola Richardson sang with attractive accent and accomplished accuracy of diction, as she sighs over her adulation for the absent attend Acis. Meanwhile, Acis, articulate by tenor Kyle Stegall, ponders area he ability attending for his admired Galatea. Stegall, beginning from a accomplished achievement with ABS in Handel’s Messiah at Grace Cathedral, has a bright aerial tenor articulation with affluence of power.
Damon, addition shepherd, afresh cautions Acis not to become too alert with Galatea. Passion, he sings, may advance to ruin. Articulate actuality by tenor Zachary Wilder, Damon establishes himself both as a articulation of acumen and additionally a bit of a killjoy. Needless to say, Acis ignores Damon’s advice. When Acis anon encounters his beloved, he sings a admiring aria, “Love in her eyes sits playing.”
Galatea afresh sings an aria already afresh evoking birdcalls as she likens herself, reunited with Acis, to a changeable affable reunited with her mate, announcement and cooing the live-long day. Together, Acis and Galatea afresh activate the acclaimed duet, “Happy we,” which is bound taken up by the chorus, as Act I of Handel’s Acis and Galatea comes to a close.
After intermission, the pastoral beatitude of Act I is anon larboard behind, as the choir warns that “no joy shall last.” Enter Polyphemus, the aberrant giant, who, as it happens, longs in arrogant for fair Galatea. Articulate actuality by baritone Mischa Bouvier, Polyphemus bursts onstage with the words, “I acerbity –I cook – I burn!” Bouvier describes this accompanied recitative as “a bit of that admirable Handelian coloratura on the chat ‘ rage’. It starts absolutely low, but bound rises to the top of the singer’s range.” Bouvier brought off this difficult access in ablaze form. However, the efforts of Polyphemus to woo Galatea are hardly reciprocated; and the fair maid dismisses the behemothic in no ambiguous terms. In response, Polyphemus blusters. But Damon, already afresh the articulation of reason, cautions Polyphemus that in allure one charge advance softly, acclaim and kindly.
Observing Polyphemus, Acis becomes affronted at the giant’s efforts to woo Galatea, and he readies himself to fight. However, Damon intervenes afresh with words of caution. Damon’s aria, “Consider, addicted Shepherd,” is a asset of abstract advice. Tenor Zachary Wilder sang this aria beautifully, with attenuate activating contrasts and casual falsetto. Musically, this aria, like his antecedent aria counseling Polyphemus to woo softly, acclaim and kindly, is in a “call and response” arrangement with the active lines. Actuality the oboe echoes Damon’s agreeable lines.
Now it is Galatea who rejects Damon’s advice. Adulation will win out, she proclaims. Galatea and Acis afresh barrage a duet. “The flocks shall leave the mountain… ere I abdicate my love,” which bound becomes a leash as Polyphemus enters on a antagonistic agenda of anger. Mischa Bouvier describes this amazing leash as “almost Mozartian.” Indeed, in its adverse emotions, this leash does arm-twist Mozart. Here, however, it leads to tragedy, as Polyphemus hurls a bedrock and crushes Acis to death. Dying, Acis evokes Hades in a soft, bottomward passage. Now the choir sings a atrocious complaining for affable Acis. Galatea joins the choir in mourning; but the choir urges her not to grieve. Exercising her semi-divine powers, Galatea transforms the bitter Acis into an abiding spring, as violins and oboes answer the bubbling, aside stream. The choir afresh brings the assignment to a abutting with a active song in acclaim of the advance of Acis brought about by the affable adulation of Galatea.
When the acclaim for ABS was at its accomplished peak, aqueduct Jeffrey Thomas rallied his troops for an acclamation consisting of the “Happy we” choir from Act I. It was a applicable acclamation to a “happy, happy” black of accomplished music.
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