A quarter of a century ago, Mark Morris made a dance out of Handel’s oratorio “L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato.” Now he’s taken on the Handel opera “Acis and Galatea,” the composer’s most popular work during his lifetime. This new piece, which the Celebrity Series co-commissioned and is presenting at the Shubert Theatre, offers few fresh ideas from Morris. But it’s light and pleasing, and his hop-skip-and-jump choreography is as well suited to Ovid’s pastoral tale as it was to Milton’s.
The Sicilian-set story is a simple one. In the first act, the chorus sings of how “Happy nymphs and happy swains! / Harmless, merry, free and gay, / dance and sport the hours away” before shepherd Acis and sea nymph Galatea pledge their love. In the second, an unwanted suitor for Galatea arrives, the monstrous Cyclops Polyphemus, personifying the volcanic Mount Etna, nature’s darker side. When Acis tries to defend Galatea, Polyphemus buries him under a rock. Galatea, mourning, turns her beloved into a “gentle murm’ring stream, / shepherds’ pleasure, muses’ theme.”