Acis and Galatea by Handel

Summer Oratorio 2011
8 June 2011, New College Chapel, 8.00pm
Tickets £10/£5 on sale on the door


Acis: Guy Cutting
Galatea: Julia Sitkovetsky
Polyphemus: George Coltart
Damon: Paola Cuffolo

Conductor: Benjamin Holder

Variously described as a masque, serenata, pastoral opera, or a “little opera” (as Handel wrote in a letter while it was being composed), Acis and Galatea was first performed during the summer of 1718 at Cannons, the seat of James Brydges, Earl of Carnarvon (later Duke of Chandos), at Edgware, a short distance north-west of London. As resident composer, Handel supplied his patron with church music, as well as two dramatic works, Esther (the first English oratorio – and recently performed by the NCO Studio) and Acis and Galatea. The oratorio illustrates the story of the love between Acis, a shepherd, and Galatea, a semi-divine sea-nymph. The two lovers seek each other, enlisting the counsel of another shepherd, Damon. However, the amorous, pastoral mood of the oratorio darkens with the approach of the jealous “monster” Polyphemus, a hideous giant. He threatens force, but another shepherd, Coridon, advises him to woo Galatea more gently. Acis militantly decides to resist Polyphemus, and the lovers swear their eternal devotion to one another, until they are interrupted by the enraged Polyphemus, who intrudes and crushes Acis with a rock. Galatea laments the loss of her lover, but the chorus reminds her of her deity – she exerts her powers and transforms him into a fountain, and they all celebrate Acis’s watery immortality.