Acis and Galatea

Acis and Galatea 600I have always loved Händel operas and one of my favorite is Acis and Galatea. I did this drawing as a traditional classical composition, but used the gigantic character of Polyphemus to stretch the perspective. It is one of my most complicated traditional compositions. The character of Polyphemus sings in Georg Friedrich Händel’s popular 1718 setting of Acis and Galatea, an English language pastoral opera or masque with the libretto set by John Gay to Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Here, the jealous monster scares the lovers in the aria “I rage, I melt, I burn” and then monstrously courts Galatea with his “O ruddier than the cherry”. Polyphemus is a gigantic cyclops that personifies the Sicilian volcano Mount Etna, and “stabbing to the heart” refers to the mythical battle of the gods and giants. Both the single eye and the stabbing wound refer to the gaping caldara of the volcano.

Below is the amusing libretto for the two songs:


I rage, I rage, I melt, I burn! The feeble god has stabbed me to the heart. Thou trusty pine, prop of my god-like steps, I lay thee by! Bring me a hundred reeds of decent growth, to make a pipe for my capacious mouth; in soft enchanting accents let me breathe sweet Galatea’s beauty, and my love.

I Rage, I Melt, I Burn

O ruddier than the cherry,
O sweeter than the berry,
O nymph more bright than moonshine night,
Like kidlings blithe and merry!

Ripe as the melting cluster,
No lily has such lustre;
Yet hard to tame as raging flame,
And fierce as storms that bluster!

Polyphemus realizes how he frightens the lady he would love, and when Acis sings “Love sounds the alarm” he furiously interrupts their sweet duet, now a trio, and murders his opponent in a rage.

The segment is from a recording on the Archive label by John Elliot Gardiner.

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