“If you asked, I could not say which was stronger in me, hatred of Cyclops, or love of Acis, both of them were equally strong.” So goes Ovid’s story of the sea-nymph Galatea and her mortal lover Acis, who is killed in a fit of rage by the jealous Cyclops, Polyphemus. It is first and foremost the story of Galatea, who has been described as the fairest of the sea nymphs, but also holding a certain wisdom, saving her lover by turning him into a river-god and surviving to tell the tale with the melancholic resignation of a matriarch wizened by experience.

Genesis Baroque

Promotional image for Acis & Galatea by Genesis Baroque

This story, which has spawned many interpretations – musical, artistic, sculptural, literary – is told with a certain textural lightness in George Frideric Handel’s opera, particularly its opening; an entire act occurs before Polyphemus appears and the action truly begins. It is pastoral in the truest sense – John Gay’s English libretto centres on the lovers and their development, which in theory translated easily into a coming-of-age love story in Robert Macfarlane’s direction of the work. Acis and...