But don’t worry, dear reader; despite the potential today’s date affords for a calamitous personal tale (Friday 13th), things are damn good in Karenland. Adelaide has turned on a series of truly superb early Autumn days, there’s a huge number of post-Easter discounts at Haighs Chocolates (I actually feel slightly sick at the moment from pushing through a bag of broken bilbies and dismembered chocolate chicks) and I am having a peaceful (if sugar-twitchy) moment before I head to the airport after the first two days of music calls.
Nor do I agree with Handel in the above sentiment today anyway. Last night I watched The Dark Crystal (Jim Henson’s 1982 film) and thought to myself, “Seriously, I have been watching this for nearly thirty years and I STILL think it’s awesome!” So smoke that, George… One could certainly question whether my viewing pleasure of The Dark Crystal wouldn’t be permanently tarnished, however, if there were a jealous one-eyed giant who came in in the middle of it, trashed my DVD player, ate my TV remote and pooped on my snuggie.
Such is the sad tale of Acis and Galatea, the masque (or short opera) written by G F Handel which Co-Opera is presenting in Adelaide, Singapore and Malaysia later this month and early in May. (OK I might have lied about the DVD player. And the snuggie. The pooping will probably depend on the director, who fortunately is not German – otherwise I’d hazard that the pooping would most certainly be included.)
It was first published in 1722, though it has apparently undergone so many changes, re-writes and revisions that it is difficult to deliver a consistent synopsis. Fittingly, it is written on a text based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
In a nutshell, as is the norm in such baroque idylls, all the ‘nymphs’ and ‘swains’ are pretty much having a non-stop party, cavorting and singing about how fabulous their meadows are and how much they like wine and stuff like that. (I have to assume the taking-care-of-the-sheep bit happens off-stage.) Galatea, a semi-divine nymph, has fallen in love with a sexy young shepherd named Acis. So far, so picnic.
Then poor old Polyphemus, who occurs to me rather like some kind of pastoral Kevin Rudd, storms in demanding he be loved instead and - having been rejected - quite literally ruins the party. Well, ruins it more. At this point, everything gets terribly awkward in that wonderful operatic way, which is to say that people die. Fortunately Handel and our librettist, John Gay, decline to comment on Polyphemus’ career on the backbenches after his brutal murder of Acis, choosing instead to focus on the far more uplifting plot point of Galatea, via her semi-divine powers, transforming her dead lover into a fountain.
Yes. What? Yes OK. Baroque opera can sometimes be a little challenged in terms of character development. And logic.
The music, however, is completely, rapturously gorgeous: complex and rich, and achingly beautiful, and I know it is going to be a joy to rehearse and perform this work over the ensuing weeks.
There are to be seven performances of Acis and Galatea: four in Adelaide, one in Singapore, one in Kuala Lumpur and one in Penang. For all but the Penang show, it will be teamed with a second run of Black Water, and I believe it will make my job even more challenging to jump from the tribulations of Black Water into my role as an advice-giving nymph (Coridon). I’ve always thought of nymphs in this context as the equivalent of those bikini-clad, glassy-eyed women gyrating in rap music videos. Baroque eye candy. Well, perhaps it will be soothing to be able to retreat each night from psychological realism to beautiful allegory. And not a bikini in sight, thank god.