Review of Acis and Galatea from the Dorset Opera Festival in 2021: Beautifully poignant.
Händel’s Acis and Galatea in Mozart’s adaptation was the third opera of this year’s Dorset Opera Festival’s MozartFest.
There has long been debate over whether this work should be classified as a pastoral, a serenata, or a “small opera,” as the composer referred to it. It’s a smart blend of all three in Dorset’s semi-staged version – and how well it lends itself. The festival’s Don Giovanni set remained in the background, but Marc Rosette’s ingenious lighting and the entrance on stage of a grove of oak trees transformed the whole into a magnificent woodland glade.
The story is based on Ovid’s work, with some additions and rewriting by John Gay (of the Beggar’s Opera fame).
It relates the story of Galatea (deliciously performed by Elizabeth Cragg), a sea nymph who falls in love with Acis, a shepherd (Peter Gijsbertsen, in his second major role for the festival).
Polyphemus (bass, Lukas Jakobski, also in his second festival performance, who liked getting his tongue around O Ruddier than the Cherry…), who is also in love with Galatea and crushes Acis with a boulder, interrupts their lovemaking after an initial ecstasy…
Bence Kal, a Hungarian director working in the United Kingdom, made the most of this opportunity to show off his skills.
With fourteen choristers clad fully in black, he instructed them to transform into anything he desired, even the birds Galatea sings about in Act I. They fluttered these ‘wings’ among the trees with pieces of neatly folded white paper and headed off in quest of her lover: exquisitely poignant at a moment that could have been risible.
Jeremy Carnall, the orchestra’s music director, was at the helm once more, and his orchestra sounded even better than it did the night I saw Don Giovanni.
They had certainly adopted the period’s crisp Baroque style, but the tone was warmer and more appealing because they weren’t utilizing period instruments.
Kieran White, a Baroque tenor, deserves a special mention. Late in the day, he took over the role of Damon, Acis’ companion, from an indisposed singer, and his actual ‘haute-contre’ was arguably the clearest and most focused voice of all the soloists.
He readily accepts that his operatic career began in the Dorset Opera chorus, where he is now well-established. “Brinkwire News in Condensed Form.”