Die Schöne Galathée
a comic mythological opera in one act by 'Poly Henrion' (L Kohl von Kohlenegg). Music by Franz von Suppé.
9 September 1865
Opera Comique, London, 6 November 1871
Gaiety Theatre in an English version as Ganymede and Galatea 20 January 1872
Stadt Theater, New York, 6 September 1867
The scene is the studio of the sculptor Pygmalion on the isle of Cyprus in ancient times. Dawn is breaking, and worshippers can be heard outside making offerings at the temple of Venus . Pygmalion is amongst them, but his servant Ganymede prefers to take advantage of his master's absence by catching up with some rest on a couch in the studio. However, Ganymede's slumbers are disturbed by the arrival of the art collector Midas, who explains that he has come in search of Pygmalion, having heard of his latest creation—the statue of a beautiful woman, Galatea.
Ganymede is adamant that he is not permitted to show the creation to anyone, even in the face of Midas's insistence that he is a man of substance, who has inherited the finest of virtues from his father and mother. Midas persists in his requests to see the statue and eventually, in Pygmalion's continuing absence, Ganymede finds Midas's offers of backhanders irresistible. Midas looks at the statue and is enchanted. Just then Pygmalion returns and, in an angry exchange, he orders Midas out. Midas protests in vain at a man of his standing being treated in this way, while Ganymede cowers in the background.
When Midas has gone, Pygmalion looks admiringly at the statue of Galatea and laments that such a beautiful creature is not alive. Ganymede points out that only the gods can bring her to life, at which Pygmalion begins to offer up prayers to Venus. Gradually, as Pygmalion looks on entranced, Galatea starts to move, finally stepping off her pedestal into the room. Far from reciprocating Pygmalion's affection for her, she merely says how hungry she is. Pygmalion obligingly departs in search of an ancient Greek schnitzel with pickles, leaving Galatea singing a tender romance to a lyre she has found lying around.
Ganymede muses that there are none as dissolute as the Greeks where women are concerned, and yet at the same time none as classical. His musings attract Galatea's interest, and she finds the young man altogether quite to her liking. She begins to flirt with him, only for them to be interrupted by the reappearance of Midas. He stands astonished at seeing Galatea alive. Ever resourceful, however, he produces from his purse an enormous jewel with which he starts to tempt Galatea. She takes it and craftily extracts from Midas ever more pieces of jewellery, but remains cold towards him, still preferring the youth of Ganymede.
When Pygmalion returns, Midas hides while Pygmalion, Galatea and Ganymede sit down to eat. Galatea now discovers a distinct liking for the wine. She becomes increasingly out of control and, in the ensuing commotion, Midas is revealed in his hiding-place. Pygmalion throws him into the street and races after him. Left alone again with Ganymede, Galatea is able to continue her flirtation, and together they explore the art of kissing.
Pygmalion returns, followed soon afterwards by Midas who has come back in pursuit of his jewels. Pygmalion's patience is near exhaustion. He begs Venus to turn Galatea back to stone and, after a crash of thunder, they find her duly back on her plinth. Pygmalion has it in mind to smash the statue to pieces, but Midas is dismayed that his jewellery has also been turned into stone. He manages to rescue something from the whole incident by buying the sculpture from Pygmalion, who for his part is cured for ever of the desire to see his works of art come to life.
The above synopsis follows the original version of the operetta. There have been many twentieth-century adaptations, some in three acts, from one of which derives the song 'Einmal möcht' ich', set to the big waltz melody of the overture.
Taken from Ganzl's Book of the Musical Theatre
Pygmalion, a young sculptor
Ganymede, his servant
Midas, an art collector
Galatea, a statue
Worshippers at the temple of Venus
- Aurora ist erwacht - Worshippers
- Zieht in Frieden - Ganymede
- Meinem Vater Gordios - Ganymede
- Hinaus!"Auweh! - Pygmalion
- Zum Altar zieht die Schaar - Pygmalion
- Sie regt sich, sie erwacht - Galatea
- Was sagst du? Ich lausche - Galatea
- Wir Griechen sind sicherlich - Ganymede
- Seht den Schmuck den ich für Euch gebracht - Midas
- Hell im Glas da schäumt das duft'ge Nass - Galatea
- Ach, mich zieht's zu dir - Galatea & Ganymede
- Finale: 'Meinem Vater Gordios