In a rather immaculate performance from a splendid set of singers and musicians, IOpera’s Acis and Galatea bathes the discerning audience in luscious waves of musical splendour.
With the added distinction of being the first opera performance in Melbourne since the rolling midyear lockdowns, Acis and Galatea is a very welcome experience indeed. If the logistics of producing independent productions are not already challenging enough, IOpera deserve extra credit for persisting in the face of health restrictions and potential lockdowns.
It is difficult to imagine a better venue for Händel’s elegant chamber opera, with the vocal and instrumental music balanced to perfection in the intimate yet lofty space of the Lithuanian Club Theatre. Nine musicians and conductor are positioned at floor level in front of the stage and yet the sight lines and sound equilibria are perfectly fine.
The exacting standards and intricate musical knowledge of maestro Peter Tregear are abundantly evident in the very high standard of performance. Although the work is rarely heard in Melbourne, the synergy of musicians and singers has the easy precision of a long running season. Alex Byrne’s neatly judged work on continuo adds significantly to the historical flavour of the performance.
The pastoral setting of the opera is simply yet effectively created on stage, allowing the main focus to rest upon the wonderful singers. John Gay’s libretto provides contrast in the two acts, with revelry in the loveliness of nature in act one giving way to the pain of wanton destruction in act two.
In what is presumably an unintentional nod to the costume design of Hamilton, each of the five singers wear neutral matching costumes when working as an ensemble and are then adorned with colour when playing their featured roles.
As strong as each singer is individually, the ensemble choral sequences are where the vocal pleasure is at its zenith. It agains bears mentioning that the meticulous standard of musical preparation has resulted in a beautifully blended sound.
Successfully wearing multiple hats as director, co-producer and even costume constructer, soprano Jane Magão colours her pristine vocals with affecting expression. Framed prettily by ever supportive Nymphs, played by Amanda Hargreaves and Daisy Valerio, Magão transcends the relative simplicity of the piece to take Galatea on a journey from effervescent love to courageous sorrow.
In a role originally written to be sung a by a castrato, Alastair Cooper-Golec displays a smooth vocal line and gentle presence as the ill-fated Acis.
Accomplished tenor Douglas Kelly captures the noble qualities of Damon, trusted friend to Acis. Fellow tenor Joshua Erdelyi-Götz provides charming support as winsome youth Coridon. Kelly and Erdelyi-Götz are delightfully amusing when Acis sings of the prize of beauty and their characters support him assorted weights and exercises.
A consistently impressive emerging baritone, Darcy Carroll gives another compelling acting and vocal performance, here sporting curled goat horns as the callous giant Polyphemus.
Opera lovers of Melbourne should be lining up around the block to get into the second (and final) performance of Acis and Galatea on Sunday.
Acis and Galatea plays a second performance at Lithuanian Club Theatre, North Melbourne at 2.30pm on Sunday 19 December 2021.
For tickets, click here.