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Waterperry Opera Festival

Acis and Galataea
4.0Reviewer's rating

This opera, along with the second half of a double bill, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, turned into an evening of unmitigated triumph for the Waterperry Opera Festival. Acis and Galatea was updated in terms of both setting and background to the story and  worked charmingly on every level. The double bill was presented in the amphitheatre of the Waterperry grounds, a place I had never visited before. It seemed to me to be a perfect setting for this kind of small-forces Baroque evening in every way both musically and dramatically.

The acoustic of this amphitheatre worked well. The 10-strong band, placed at the highest level of the space, and led sensitively by Michael Papadopoulos, was exemplary in its intonation, tempi and feeling throughout both works. The action was played out at the bottom of the amphitheatre on a smallish, flat stage area. The audience was therefore in ranks of semicircles around the action and there was clearly not a dud seat in the house for sight lines or acoustics, for visibility or sound.

The sensual elegance of the first part as well as the humour were fully on display and the second act, which becomes more plaintive and melancholy as the tragedy approaches, was captivating. Updated to what appeared to me to be something like the 1920s and set in a kind of artists’ community, the words as well as the music were projected clearly with no need for amplification, and the cast was consistently both musically and dramatically working as a strong ensemble throughout. Ellie Neate’s Galatea was an artist in this community and Thando Mjandana was her sweet-toned Acis. The roles of Polyphemus, played with both pathos and menace by Jerome Knox, and Damon, portrayed by Michael Bell, stood out as well; but everyone on that stage deserved complete praise. I liked the visual aspects of the story a lot, and the climax of the murder and its aftermath were staged with real flair. Using different levels available to them, the direction of Rebecca Melzer was strong.

  • Opera
  • Composer George Frideric Handel
  • Libretto Jon Gay
  • Conductor Michael Papadopoulos
  • Double Bill of Acis and Galatea with Dido and Aeneas
  • Cast includes Ellie Neate, Michael Bell, Thando Mjandana Jerome Know
  • Waterperry Opera Festival
  • Until 20 August 2023
  • 6.30 PM start until 10.10PM including 90 minute picnic interval

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Canadian-born Mel Cooper first came to the UK to study English Literature at Oxford University and stayed. He was captivated by the culture and history of Britain, which he found to be a welcoming and tolerant country. After working in highly illustrated, non-fiction publishing for over a decade, he founded and edited the magazine Opera Now. Since then he has worked as a consultant to the Japanese broadcaster NHK, a broadcaster on British Satellite Broadcasting, a maker of audio shows and arts critic for several airlines, and as one of the team that started Britain’s first commercial classical music radio station, Classic FM, on which he was both a classical music DJ and creator and presenter of shows like Classic America and Authentic Performance. Throughout this period, he also lectured in music and literature in London and Oxford and published short stories in Canada. After working with the Genesis Foundation on helping to fund arts projects, he continues to write, review and lecture on music and literature. His first novel has just been published as an e-book. The title is City of Dreams. It is the first volume of a projected saga called The Dream Bearers. You can find the Kindle version of the book on Amazon.

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