Monday, October 17, 2011

REVIEW: Acis and Galatea (Macao)

Dom Pedro V Theatre (Macao), Saturday October 15

I have to admit that I do like my Handel in pocket size. There is something about the nagging repetitions of the style that requires the finest singing; because if not, the repetitions can be really tedious! For the 25th Macao International Music Festival, Handel’s Acis and Galatea was an exquisite choice for the first western-style theatre in China. Dom Pedro V Theatre was built in 1860 and has a capacity of only 300. Last year, the festival also had an excellent choice in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (click here to see my review). I do hope that the festival keeps up these wonderful choices in the future.

Acis and Galatea is one of the finest examples of pastoral opera. Typical of the genre, it was meant to be a courtly entertainment about the life in the country characterized with fun, wit and self-parody. The beauty of mounting this opera in Dom Pedro V Theatre is that it exudes that courtly atmosphere without a huge expectation that the production would be grand. It was the simple charm of this Festival’s production that was appealing. I am undecided though on whether I actually like all video projections or not. While they are visually entertaining, my mind kept trying to figure out their relevance and investigate any "deeper" meaning.

All four principal roles were beautifully performed. Yulia Van Doren as Galatea possessed a sweet tone, though I find her vibrato too pronounced for my taste as it interferes with the ornamentations. John McVeigh was one of the best Acis I have seen, not only for his bright lyrical tenor voice, but also for his HD-ready looks and acting. Andrew Bidlack’s Damon was a good complement to McVeigh. Bidlack’s honey-toned tenor equaled his charm on stage. Jacques-Greg Belobo’s Polyphemus was rightly menacing and amusing. The Shanghai Opera House Chorus provided a good support dramatically and vocally. Accompanying the principals was Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, led by Aaron Carpene. The orchestra was quite responsive to what was happening on stage, though from where I was seated (front row house right), I inevitably got a less than ideal balance from the orchestra.

Overall, it was a most pleasant and relax experience, a beautiful evening spent in Macao.

Acis and Galatea (HWV 49)
Baroque Opera in 2 Acts by Georg Friederich Händel
Music: Georg Friederich Händel (1685–1759)
Libretto: John Gay, Alexander Pope and John Hughes

Creative Team:
Conductor: Aaron Carpenè
Director: Stefano Vizioli
Choreographer and Assistant Director: Gloria Giordano
Set Designer and Video Artist: Lorenzo Cutuli
Assistant to Set Designer: Andrea de Micheli
Costume Designer: Annamaria Heinreich
Lighting Designer: Nevio Cavina
Video: Sergio Metalli
Costumes and Curtain Rental: Teatro di Pisa

Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
Shanghai Opera House Chorus

Characters and Cast:
Galatea: Yulia van Doren, soprano
Acis: John McVeigh, tenor
Damon: Andrew Bidlack, tenor
Polyphemus: Jacques-Greg Belobo, bass-baritone

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