New York State Theater at
Conductor – Ransom Wilson ; Galatea – Sarah Jane McMahon, Acis – Philippe Castagner, Damon – Nicholas Phan, Polyphemus – Jason Hardy
Story: Galatea and Acis are blissfully in love, but Galatea is killed by the jealous Polythemus. Galatea transforms Acis into a stream that flows for eternity.
Anne couldn’t make the concert, but Ellie was in town, so Ellie and I went to see this rather short opera (at about 2 hours with intermission.)
The opera was disappointing on many levels. First, there was not much of a plot (the two line description above did the story justice), so the entire first act was spent describing the bliss experienced by the two young lovers. Second, the music reflected the lack of drama in the story, even though the program notes gallantly described it as “remarkably theatrical, given the essential simplicity of the dramatic parameters.” (Speaking of big words for little thoughts.) Third, NYC Opera in its wisdom decided to dress the singers up in “contemporary” clothes (although the women’s clothes can be passed off as togas), which seemed extraordinarily incongruent with the music and the story. I kept thinking of “The Pirates of Penzance.” The miner’s outfit of Polyphemus was funny, though. Fourth, English probably isn’t a good language for the opera; my ability to understand the language made the plot seem even more pointless, the repetitions more superfluous, and the pace more glacial. Fifth, the set was way too simple. I thought they could at least put out a real stream. Sixth, this was the first opera Ellie got to see in a theater (she had seen Turandot at the New Haven Green), and I am not sure this was a good introduction to the rich world of the genre.
If one digs deep, one can find some good things to say about the opera. The singing actually was quite good, although there were not too many stand-alone hummable melodies. The music was pleasant enough, the recorders were delightful. One other highlight was Polyphemus whose attire and acting added a degree of comedy to the show. Indeed Ellie remarked to me there was more action during the first couple of minutes of his appearance compared to the entire first act. The miniature, identical scene within a scene was quite clever, also.
New York City Opera is trying to revive the Handel Operas (there are over 50 of them) and now has about 10 in the repertoire. I would suggest there is no need to break their back to try to get to all of them. They may be interesting research projects, but I suspect there is not a lot of clamoring from the audience for them. We saw
We had bought an extra ticket for $120, not knowing Anne would have a business meeting on that day. So I sold the ticket on the plaza. This was the first time I ever did something like this, so when the lady said she couldn’t afford $40, I quickly offered it to her for $20, first tier center. She got a fair deal; that’s how much the concert was worth.
See the New York Times review here.