Outstanding production of one of Handel's most delightful operas
I love Acis and Galatea, the story doesn't involve quite as much in a way as Rodelinda and Guilio Cesare do but the music is really beautiful. I found this production to be outstanding, like Glyndebourne's Guilio Cesare and Glyndebourne's Rodelinda and unlike ENO's Ariodante it is how Handel opera should be staged. The production values do look striking, the pastoral setting is very idyllic as it should be like especially. The costumes are generally fine, Acis' is far too workday but Galatea's especially are radiant. There are also some ruins and stuffed animals, but it is done in such a subtle way that you never once feel that it is rammed down your throat.
What really stood out was the dancing. Some may argue it wasn't needed, but within Wayne McGregor' concept, to have the singers shadowed by dancers, they worked remarkably well. The choreography is flexible and not bizarre like I have found before(sometimes) with a production of L'Orfeo and one of Les Boreades. Lauren Cuthbertson for Acis was the most communicative in her facial expressions and fluid in her movements. But for me the most interesting was Eric Underwood for Polythemus, I found the idea to have the dancer completely still with the singer at his most active to be psychologically interesting, both on stage and in terms of character.
Musically, there is nothing really to fault. The orchestral playing boasts string playing of utmost delicacy and some of the most beautiful wind solos for any baroque opera production I've heard or seen. The chorus are reduced here but sing beautifully, I actually found that with fewer singers that the many textures came through making some moments very exciting. The very end is especially good. Christopher Hogwood conducts with a real understanding and sympathy of Handel's style, when the rhythms for example are bouncy these rhythms really do bounce. The only questionable moment in regard to Hogwood's tempos was the opening chorus which I found too slow, other than that it was very energetic while also showing a great deal of beauty.
Of the principals, the only one that didn't grab me was Charles Workman as Acis. Having being taken by his brilliant Jupiter in Semele, I was expecting much of the same, but while not helped by his workday attire, I found him rather stolid and his voice here rather hollow. While Love In Her Eyes could have been more wondrous I found Workman to be at his weakest in a surprisingly unheroic rendition of Love sounds th'alarm. Thankfully the rest of the principals fared far better. Jin-Min Park's tenor is very fine in sound and while his diction is at times too accented he is a nonetheless excellent Coridon. In the role of Damon, Paul Agnew sings throughout with a strong tone that didn't sound too strained to me.
Matthew Rose's Polythemus I had no complaints about, I loved his sonorous basso voice and also his well-characterised balance of threatening and humorous. The trio The flocks shall leave the mountains he sings very well in, making his mark in an exciting way without dominating too much. Best of all is the Galatea of Danielle DeNiese. She stole the show in Glyndebourne's Guilio Cesare and does the same again. Looking radiant, she sounds just as much with her bright beautiful soprano(Heart, the seat of soft delight is gorgeous here) and a real sense of innocence in her interpretation.
All in all, a really outstanding production with an interesting concept that worked remarkably here. Worth it for DeNiese alone, I'd say. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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