Opera Aci, Galatea e Polifemo

Baroque opera
“Aci, Galatea & Polifemo”, Handel, 1708
Haymarket Opera Company, Chicago, IL, USA – August 2011

Stage director : Ellen Hargis
Musical director : Craig  Trompeter
Costume designer : Meriem Bahri
Set designer : John Wilson
Light designer : Nick Belley
Photographers : Benjamin Brachi – Karim Bahri

Historical authenticity was the first criterion in developing a look for the costumes of Haymarket Opera Company’s first opera. I consulted 17th century patterns and images, with an eye for color and design. Each costume was then adapted to dramatic role and ancestry of the individual characters.

For the lover Aci, a green velvet costume, simply decorated, was designed to emphasize his Arcadian parentage. The darkness of his waistcoat and breeches, contrasting with the whiteness of his shirt and stockings, parallels the contrast of his brief moments of happiness with Galatea and his fatal destiny.

Galatea is dressed almost entirely in blue, representing fantasy as well as water. Her lineage as a sea nymph may be observed in the details of scales, a fishtail, and mother-of-pearl beads on her short brocade corset. Her straight neckline is bordered by ruffles like sea foam. The iridescent silk of her skirt suggests reflections in water.

The Cyclops Polifemo, ravaged by his jealousy and obedient to his primary feelings, will finally kill Aci. His vulgar nature is evident in the coarse, unbleached and Hessian-like cotton fabrics of his costume. The frayed edges and dirtiness of his garments are in opposition to Aci’s natural elegance. Polifemo does not belong to polite society. His panpipes and walking staff are obligatory accoutrements consistent with his description by Ovid in Metamorphoses.

The performers wear stylistic makeup based on 17th century practices. A light foundation with minimal lip and eye makeup worked well with the dim candle light used in most theaters.