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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.”