In Greek mythology, nymphs have an unfortunate tendency to fall in love with heroes who, as brave and glorious as they may be, are nonetheless mortal. Nascent romance is but a wellspring of tears more stinging than the Mediterranean Sea. It is no exception for Galatea, in love with the shepherd Acis, or for Calypso, in love with Odysseus, the brilliant victor of the Trojan War. But love, especially when it is divine, is never easy. The cyclops Polyphemus, the monstrous son of Poseidon, is consumed with desire for Galatea and holds Odysseus’ sailors captive on his island. Only cunning will prevail over this one-eyed giant.
Nicola Porpora (1686-1768) was one of the great vocal composers of the 18th century. An outstanding singing teacher, he trained the best castrati for the fiery roles of the opera seria that he composed and popularised throughout Europe. Invited to London in the early 1730s, Porpora competed with Handel on his own turf with Polifemo, which brought together the two leading castrati of the day: Senesino and Farinelli, to whom he gave the moving aria Alto Giove. Three centuries later, Emmanuelle Haïm, Le Concert d’Astrée ensemble and a virtuoso cast bring this rare treasure back to life, performing it for the first time in France in a cinematographic-inspired production by Bruno Ravella.