The show, part of the Harriman-Jewell Series’ 50th anniversary celebration, was glorious stuff: a mix of movement and music that’s on par with any show anywhere in the world.
We got evocative choreography from Morris. We got gorgeous costumes by Isaac Mizrahi. We got lighting by Michael Chybowski that advanced the narrative without being intrusive. We got a soaring soprano, two supple tenors and a booming baritone. And we got a full choir in the pit, mostly made up of students from William Jewell College. We heard Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s arrangement brought to life by conductor Colin Fowler, a Kansas City, Kan., native and graduate of the Juilliard School.
The Independent: Come, Thou Fount - Choreographer and Star Team Create Dazzling New Vision of Handel
January 9, 2015
If you’re not sure whether Mark Morris’ Acis and Galatea is opera or dance or theater or what, then you’re probably on the right track. “That’s historically accurate,” said Mark recently on the phone, pointing out that in the Baroque “opera included all of those things: That’s the whole point.” The choreographer’s extravagant new production of Acis, Handel’s masterpiece drawn from Ovid’s Metamorphoses...constitutes one of the most auspicious assemblages of talent that Kansas City has ever seen on a stage.
The auditorium lights dim halfway. The band strikes up (the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale, under Nicholas McGegan). Handel's 'Acis and Galatea' zings into the house, filled with Mostly Mozart Festival and Mark Morris regular. The urge to boogie in your seat is fierce. Then, action! The stage fills with dancing.
The opera itself is exquisitely beautiful in its simplicity and sweetness. There's nothing you could call a plot, more like an incident. Acis loves Galatea, but the jealous monster Polyphemus loves her, too. When Galatea spurns him, Polyphemus hurls a boulder at Acis, killing him. Galatea then magically transforms her dead lover into an eternally flowing river.
I think that one thing Mark Morris’s fans especially like about him, although they might not put it in these terms, is his scholarship. Oh yes, they’ve all heard about his musical erudition and seen the photos of him studying the score as he choreographs. But a matter less often spoken of is that Morris understands, and pumps new life into, old and presumably outdated artistic conventions.
Morris’s operatic projects draw both ballet and opera fans. “When you mix the arts like this...you manage to get the opera nuts who worship at the temple of opera, sometimes with eyes closed, to watch, and balletomanes get to enjoy the music that we do and see how closely entwined they are. This only works because Mark is such a superb musician himself.”
The balance Morris achieves between music and dance is, of course, one of the hallmarks of his work. He is committed to performing with live musicians of the highest caliber...For Acis, Morris has engaged some of the finest interpreters of 18th century music in North America.
The Handel and Haydn Society will open its 199th season this fall with a performance of Bach's Mass in B Minor. Its new season will also feature Handel's oratorio "Samson" and a collaboration with Mark Morris Dance Group on a Celebrity Series presentation of Handel's "Acis and Galatea."