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Acis and Galatea
Title page
Acis and Galatea
  • George Frideric Handel. Masque or Serenata in one act (later two). 1718.
  • Libretto by John Gay and others (perhaps Alexander Pope and John Hughes) after Ovid's Metamorphoses.
  • First performance at Cannons, Edgware, 1718.
Acis, a shepherd tenor
Galatea, a nymph soprano
Damon, a shepherd tenor
Polyphemus, a one-eyed giant bass
Coridon, a shepherd tenor

The nymph Galatea loves the shepherd Acis, who returns her affection. Both are counselled in their love by the shepherd Damon. The monster Polyphemus is jealous and threatens Acis, while Coridon, another shepherd, advises him against violence. Polyphemus, however, crushes Acis with a massive stone, whereupon Galatea, half- divine, uses her powers to turn him into a fountain.

Acis and Galatea was written in its first English form for performance at Cannons, the house of James Brydges, later Duke of Chandos. It follows the English pastoral genre and was described by Handel as a little opera, although it was not always fully staged, even in Handel's life-time. The work was variously revised for later performances, very fully staged, or barely staged at all, and Handel added music from his early Italian cantata on the same subject, as well as material from other cantatas. It was arranged by Mozart in 1788. Familiar songs from Acis and Galatea include music for Polyphemus, I rage, I melt, I burn! and Ruddier than the cherry.


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