University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

University of Hartford

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Handel: Acis and Galatea

07/22/2018 1:00 pm
07/22/2018 4:30 pm

 

Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Every summer I try to include in the programming mix something pastoral in nature. Over the decades several recordings have been made of George Frideric Handel's delightful masque in two acts, Acis and Galatea (1718), which like Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (1689) vies for consideration as the first true opera in the English language. The libretto was written by John Gay, who a few years later would write The Beggar's Opera, the enormously popular lyric comedy.

Handel's original Cannons scoring for this pastoral entertainment called for pairs of violins, cellos, and oboes or recorders, with harpsichord. The five singers Handel required sing in solo capacity as characters in the mythic drama. They join voices to form a mini- chorus. Such were the musical resources available to the composer on the country estate of his patron, the Duke of Chandos.

This intimate, small-scale version of the work was the one released in 1988 by Newport Classics on two compact discs. Johannes Somary conducts the tiny period instrument, Amor Artis Orchestra. I last broadcast this recording on Sunday, July 20, 2008 and before that on Sunday, June 4, 1995. The English masque was rendered into a German language secular oratorio, Handel's music adapted for a larger orchestra and rescored in high classical style by none other than Mozart in 1788. The 1991 DGG Archiv recording of the Handel/Mozart Acis und Galatea, with Trevor Pinnock conducting the English Concert, I broadcast first on Sunday, May 21, 2006 and again on Sunday, July 14, 2013.