An 18th Century Season
New College Chapel, New College
7 March 2020, 8.30pm
The mythological narrative of Acis and Galatea was a subject of continual fascination for Handel. Extant sources attest to at least three distinct renditions, including the contemporary favourite, Acis and Galatea, which had its London premiere in 1718. A consequence of the lasting popularity of the London version is that Handel’s other settings have been consigned to obscurity. New Chamber Opera attempts to correct this imbalance. For one night only, we will give a concert performance of his 1708 setting, Aci, Galatea, e Polifemo, in the tranquil environs of the chapel of New College. Aci brims with the confidence of a composer cognisant of his capabilities and displays a range of operatic devices that became central to the Handel’s mature operatic style: bravura arias are interspersed with cantabile reflections; doleful continuo-accompanied numbers are contrasted with full-textured, magisterial entries and exits; and textural choice becomes as much a signifier of affect as musical content. Handel evidently realised his precocity, choosing to use it for concert performance in 1732.
Aci, Galatea, e Polifemo offers a unique setting of the familiar Acis narrative – one that certainly deserves both performative and critical attention.