The Sixteen: Acis and Galatea

Handel: Acis and Galatea
The Sixteen, Harry Christophers
Coro COR16169. 2 CDs, 89’03

This is an attractive reappraisal of Handel’s Acis and Galatea, the one-Act “Little Opera” (as described by Handel) that he composed in 1718 for performance at Cannons, the grandiose (and no longer existing) seat of the 1st Duke of Chandos, James Brydges in what is now a North London suburb. It seems likely that it was performed outdoors to a selective audience of house guests on a terrace of the county house, although it is not clear to what extent it was staged. It subsequently went through several incarnations and revisions during Handel’s lifetime. On this recording, Harry Christophers returns to what might have been the original Cannons version with just five singers and small-scale instrumental forces of just nine players, with pairs of violins, cellos, oboes/recorders with a three-strong continuo section of theorbo, harp, and organ/harpsichord. Continue reading

Iford Arts: Agrippina

Although perhaps not quite reaching the social cachet of Glyndebourne or Garsington, the opera season at Iford Manor is always a delight, both for the setting and the standard of the music. A few miles south-east of Bath, the manor house is surrounded by the famous Peto garden, with an Italian cloister that is turned into a delightfully intimate opera house for the season. Unlike their companion’s ‘posh frocks and picnic’ focussed events, the dress code is ‘smart casual’ and picnicking opportunities come before, rather than during the opera, with a welcome coffee and biscuits filling the 20 minute interval. All this encourages a welcome focus on the music, rather than the surrounding social razzmatazz.

WP_20150801_18_17_59_ProThis year’s early music opera was Handel’s wonderful Agrippina, one of his most approachable operas despite, or perhaps because of, having been written when Handel was around 24, at the end of his enormously productive three years in Italy. This period produced some of his finest music, as reflected in the fact that Agrippina borrows extensively from Handel’s previous works – and, in turn, many extracts were later borrowed for later works. Continue reading