As ever, the Dunelm Consort and Players have produced an excellent authentic performance with Handel’s ‘Acis and Galatea’. One of the composer’s greatest works, it tells the story of a love triangle between the mortal shepherd Acis, the sea-nymph Galatea and the Cyclops Polyphemus. Although Acis is tragically killed by Polyphemus, Galatea, who showed no affection for the cyclops, transforms him into a water feature, enabling everlasting love.
From the onset, the quality and coordination of the ensemble is very apparent, with credit due to the clarity and expertise of Matthew McCullough as director. Intonation is very accurate and phrasing thoughtful, with a strong sense of pulse. From the chorus, although musical, I would have liked more clear enunciation of the text and more energy on each semiquaver in the melismas (particularly in the sopranos), echoing the orchestra. Although the endings of movements were in sync, I often yearned for a little more patience and ritenuto.
Alex Akhurst as Damon, an advising shepherd, portrayed assured control on the incessant melismas and I could understand each word spoken; occasionally though I wasn’t convinced of the meaning of the text being sung, perhaps clouded by the focus on producing the melismas. I was particularly impressed with the legato on phrases such as ‘How feeling’s the pleasure’. James Draper as Acis I found was somewhat the opposite: very expressive with the text, but I couldn’t always catch the text itself. Care should be taken with intonation on the high fifth. Rosanna Wicks as Galatea has a warm tone, although I felt more vibrato was needed in places. I also wasn’t always convinced by her words; I would have liked ‘happy we’ to be especially genuine! Otherwise wonderful to listen to. The climax of Act II at the death of Acis was very passionately conveyed, effective in both a heated and tender manner by all.
Recitatives were generally very good, though at times it felt like it was hanging on a tad too long prior to the next chord, requiring more speech-like flexibility.
The phrasing of the orchestra was very sensitive from each musician. I particularly enjoyed the combination of Rob King on the cello and David Hedley on the oboe; highly expressive playing. Very often in the score a particular phrase would immediately repeat itself, although a contrast was not always made (either in dynamic or in articulation). The chorus is very expressive with the libretto throughout the work, but in ‘Wretched lovers’ in Act II I felt I needed more meaning, with more emphasis on the dissonances.
From the onset, the quality and coordination of the ensemble is very apparent, with credit due to the clarity and expertise of Matthew McCullough as director.
Patrick Owston as Polyphemus displayed remarkable tone and power as the mighty Cyclops. The energy throughout the rising sequences were great. The lowest notes could be more pronounced to match the richness of the rest of his range, and the ‘g’ of ‘grape’ and ‘glossy’ could also be brought out more, but certainly a very solid performance.
Michaelmas Term has set DCP off to a fantastic start and I very much look forward to their future performances!