The tragedy surrounding the nymph Galatea and her love for the shepherd Acis originates in ancient Greek mythology and was revised and expanded by Ovid for the thirteenth book of his collection of poems, Metamorphoses.
The nymph Galatea laments her fate. She loves the shepherd Acis, who returns her feelings. But the Cyclops Polyphemus is also in love with Galatea. The sight of the two lovers in their happiness sends the giant into a fury. He tears off a piece of a mountain and kills the fleeing Acis with the rock. Thanks to the divine help of Galatea the dead Acis is transformed into a river that will flow through the valleys for all eternity to the delight of the shepherds and in its gentle babbling murmurs tender words of love. George Frideric Handel spent the years 1717 and 1718 in Middlesex as house composer to James Brydges who maintained a permanent musical
ensemble led by the “Master of the Musick” Johann Christoph Pepusch. Handel planned to rework the theme of his serenata Aci, Galatea e Polifemo. The poets John Gay, Alexander Pope and John Hughes wrote a libretto that remained faithful to Ovid’s original. In the masque Acis and Galatea Handel displays the full scope of his musical genius, and the work, which captivates from start to finish, became one of the composer’s most performed works.