BWW Review: Costanzo Itchy to Bring Obscure Handel ACI to National Sawdust Audiences

BWW Review: Costanzo Itchy to Bring Obscure Handel ACI to National Sawdust Audiences

BWW Review: Costanzo Itchy to Bring Obscure Handel ACI to National Sawdust Audiences
Ambur Braid and Anthony Roth
Costanzo. Photo: Jill Steinberg

ACI, GALATEA E POLIFEMO (ACIS, GALATEA AND POLYPHEMUS)--which just opened a short run at Brooklyn's National Sawdust venue, ending on July 20, with star countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo--may be the most obscure Handel opera that you think you know but don't. (And it's not an opera, either, for that matter.)

The more famous Handel ACIS AND GALATEA--usually called a serenata or cantata and written as a divertissement for a wedding--was written in 1718, which post-dates this one by about a decade. The later version was an English language pastorale, lighter in tone, while this Italian one (written when he was just 23) was pretty gruesome, at least in Christopher Alden's unappealing staging. (Was it really written for a wedding?)

There are numerous arias that will sound familiar in this one--but only because the composer recycled them for more famous works, e.g., AGRIPPINA and RINALDO, to name two. And, this time around, there's gender-bending that may remind you of Jean Genet's THE MAIDS and product placement that might bring to mind late-night TV infomercials for Swiffer© Sweepers.

BWW Review: Costanzo Itchy to Bring Obscure Handel ACI to National Sawdust Audiences
Anthony Roth Costanzo, Ambur Braid
and Davone Tines. Photo: Jill Steinberg

The whole thing takes place in a large bathroom, with images of the sea projected as part of the production design by Mark Grey (sound and video), JAX Messenger (lighting) and Paul Tate dePoo III (set design). Aci (the supple soprano Ambur Braid) and Galatea (Costanzo) are put-upon maids in green scrubs, showercaps and yellow rubber gloves, pushing their Swiffers, as they wait the entrance of the dreaded, abusive Polifemo (the exciting bass-baritone Davone Tines as the cyclops). He raises droit de seigneur to new heights.

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Richard Sasanow Richard Sasanow is a long-time writer on art, music, food, travel and international business for publications including The New York Times, The Guardian (UK), Town & Country and Travel & Leisure, among many others. He also interviewed some of the great singers of the 20th century for the programs at the San Francisco Opera and San Diego Opera and worked on US tours of the Orchestre National de France and Vienna State Opera, conducted by Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta and Leonard Bernstein.