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Acis and Galatea

Acis and Galatea is a tale concerning transient love, beauty and jealousy, and is told through music that encompasses the joyful and the melancholic.

Handel’s first dramatic work in the English language, the story follows the nymph Galatea and the shepherd Acis, their love and adoration for each other, and the envious giant Polyphemus who threatens their happiness.

ENO Performance History

2017/18

Read the introductory guide to Acis and Galatea

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Synopsis

A rural prospect, diversified with rocks, groves and a river

Act 1

A chorus of Arcadian nymphs and shepherds celebrate their blissful lives. Among them is Galatea, who is in love, and rebukes the birds for stimulating her desire for the shepherd Acis. She leaves in search of him.

Elsewhere, Acis is looking for Galatea, but instead he meets fellow shepherd, Damon. Damon wants Acis to stop searching for Galatea and tend to his flock instead. At that moment, the lovers find each other and proclaim their perfect happiness.

Act 2

The Monster Polyphemus enters and attempts to woo Galatea, who flees in terror. Damon advises the giant to woo Galatea more gently. But Acis leaps to Galatea’s defence and challenges Polyphemus to battle. After Galatea’s pleading, the lovers decide that pledging eternal faith to one another will suffice. The jealous Polyphemus sees this exchange and hurtles a rock at Acis, killing him instantly.

As Galatea mourns the loss of Acis, she decides to use her divine power to make him immortal. And so, she transforms him into a fountain.