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Walter Braunfels: Galathea

  • A Greek fairy tale in 1 act (1924-1929)
  • 2 2 3 2 - 4 2 2 0 - timp, perc(3), hp, cel, str - stage: fl, ob (2), c.a, hr (4)
  • Duration: 50’
  • Instrumentation details:
    1st flute
    2nd flute (+picc)
    cor anglais
    1st clarinet in A, B
    2nd clarinet in A, B
    bass clarinet in A, B
    1st bassoon
    2nd bassoon (+cbsn)
    1st horn in F, E, Eflat
    2nd horn in F, E, Eflat
    3rd horn in F, E, Eflat
    4th horn in F, E, Eflat
    1st trumpet in C
    2nd trumpet in C
    1st trombone
    2nd trombone
    violin I
    violin II
    double bass
    stage music: flute
    1st oboe
    2nd oboe
    cor anglais
    1st horn in E, F
    2nd horn in E, F
    3rd horn in E, F
    4th horn in E, F
  • Choir: SATB
  • Roles: Galathea, coloratura soprano 3 Nymphen: high soprano, soprano, mezzo-soprano Der Cyklop, bass Acis, tenor 2 Waldfaune: baritone, bass 3 Fäunchen: tenor buffo, baritone buffo, bass buffo
  • Composer: Walter Braunfels
  • Writer of pre-existing text: Sylvia Baltus
  • Text adapter: Walter Braunfels

Work introduction

Inspired by the fresco of the same name by Raphael at Villa Farnesina in Rome, Braunfels’ single-act Galathea of 75 minutes’ duration was composed at the end of the 1920s using a marionette play by Silvia Baltus.

Based entirely on a combination of dance and song, the opera has its foundations in the free adaptation of Ovid’s saga of the tellurian Cyclops Polyphemus, who is passionately in love with the divine nymph Galatea. However, she loves the handsome shepherd Acis and in Braunfels’ version she is able to escape with him – unlike in Ovid’s story.

On the occasion of its highly successful premiere in Cologne on 26 January 1930, Martin Friedmann wrote: “This partly idyllic and pastoral, partly bucolic backdrop is portrayed with unerring mastery and emotionally captured with wondrous subtlety.” And Alfred Einstein remarked in the Berliner Tageblatt, commenting on the Berlin performance: “The fable is only the reason for the music: a midsummer night’s dream in the ancient style, rapture, impulse, love in all shapes and sizes.”

World première

Opernhaus, Köln (DE)
Eugen Szenkar

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