by Vittoria Zerbini
This year, the Cardiff University Operatic Society (CUOS) has decided to stage Acis and Galatea by Händel as their yearly production. Acis and Galatea is an opera that, since 1718, has encountered much success and many adaptations, even from big names of the music scene such as Mozart, who staged his vision of the pastoral opera in 1788. Acis and Galatea is a story of a short-lived love between Acis (James Aitken), a pastor, and Galatea (Lily Taylor). Theirs is an infatuation so strong that goes against Acis’s death thanks to the nymph Galatea’s semi-divine roots.
The opera begins with a sensual and joyful first act in which Damon (Heather Fuller), Acis’s friend, tries to help the two lovers in pursuing each other during the arias Stay, shepherd, stay! and Shepherd, what art thou pursuing?. From the opening to the closing of the first act, in CUOS’s Acis and Galatea, the choir plays a very important part to maintain the happiness of the act while the principal characters are singing. To complement this light mood, the colorful costumes of the nymphs, their makeup and the fluttering ribbons used both by the nymphs and pastors created a suggestive atmosphere.
However, the second act, the dramatic one, is more engaging particularly because of two moments: Polyphemus (Conall Keaveney) appearance on stage and the slow, melancholic and delicate death of Acis. I rage, I melt, I burn! performed by Polyphemus as soon as he arrived on the stage was very powerful and truly suited the singer’s voice. Furthermore, Keaveney looked in harmony with the passion and the struggles of his character. In the same way, the choir created a pleasant sensation hovering over the whole theater while Mourn, all ye muses! and Galatea, dry thy tears were being sung. I believe that their voices truly implemented and created the right mood for Acis death.
Overall, this adaptation of Acis and Galatea left a good memory in the minds of the audience, who cheered the cast as hard as they could when they were all on the stage bowing. The enthusiasm of the students and the whole crew really is what made CUOS’s Acis and Galatea successful.