Thank you to Anna Picard who gave our performance of Acis and Galatea a five star review in the Times on November 5, 2015!
“Pathos, bathos and balmy breezes ebb and flow in Handel’s “little opera” of 1718, Acis and Galatea. Composed for performance on a terrace at the Duke of Chandos’s estate, it mirrors the delicious artifice of the 18th-century garden. The duke had engaged a Huguenot hydraulic engineer to design his gardens. How perfect, then, to commission an entertainment in which a semi-divine nymph transforms her murdered lover into a fountain.
In keeping with the duke’s spendthrift aesthetics, David Bates and La Nuova Musica engaged the parfumier Sarah McCartney to decorate their performance with scents grassy, musky and, for the lustful giant Polyphemus, as acrid as the aftershave of a loan shark on the pull. The olfactory novelty wasn’t necessary in a reading that sparkled from the giddy overture to the consoling final chorus.
Directing from the harpsichord, Bates identified every detail that lovers of this work may have noticed on previous listening, bringing them to the fore, weaving them back into the texture, then pulling out another golden thread.
Led by Bojan Cicic, the orchestra produced a dizzying variety of dynamics and articulation: crisp, tender, witty, flirtatious and audacious. There were bold innovations (three cellos harmonising a recitative), honeyed obbligato solos from the oboist Leo Duarte and the recorder player Sarah Humphrys and tempos that skittered and swung seductively.
Most impressive was the pin-drop silence at the death of Ed Lyon’s virile, ardent, immaculately sung Acis. This was a beautifully cast consort performance, as elegantly shaped in the five-part chorus Wretched lovers as it was in the arias.
Stepping in for Katherine Manley, Augusta Hebbert sang Galatea’s arias with an unruffled, creamy tone and opulent decorations. The tenors Rupert Charlesworth and Nicholas Scott charmed as pragmatic Damon and foppish Coridon, while Christopher Purves was magnetic as the brutish, love-sick, furious Polyphemus.”
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