A beautiful homestead in the rolling North Canterbury countryside is slowly but surely transforming itself into the setting for our production of Acis & Galatea this weekend, the week of 24 & 25 February. The mythological figures of the water-nymph Galatea, the love-sick shepherd Acis and the Cyclops Polyphemus are being re-imagined into the world of Downtown Abbey, where the pleasures of an idyllic summer are rudely interrupted when jealousy rears its ugly head.
Rehearsals with soloists started in Auckland, before the company moved down to Christchurch for New Zealand Opera’s historic first encounter with its new chorus members. They all quickly and skillfully got into their different characters – house guests of the wealthy landowner in Act 1 and somewhat downtrodden wool-workers in Act 2. It may have been their first work with us, but it felt as if they had always been part of the company.
Then it was off to Tipapa to begin to set up. The great advantage to mounting a site-specific production like Acis & Galatea is that all the props are readily to hand. If you need wool-bales and fleeces, there are the woolsheds. But one thing we did need to bring with us is stage blood – and lots of it. In Ovid’s myth, on which the opera is based, Acis is crushed beneath a stone from which his blood is seen to trickle out, later to be transformed into a stream. To enact this, we need the blood to be thin enough to flow, and yet sticky enough to not run into Galatea’s beautiful white costume. Practice makes perfect, as you can see in the photo!