Die Schone Galathee is a two part german operetta premiered in 1865 and written by Franz von Suppé and based on the greek tragedy of Pygmalion and Galetea. It follows a more farce like format than previous adaptations of the myth but remains very close in narrative to the original version.
Pygmalion is a sculptor who becomes infatuated with his statue of Galathée and decides he does not want to sell it to Mydas, an art collector. He then prays to Venus, the goddess of the love, in the hope that she would bring the statue to life. The wish is granted but Galathée turns out to be free willed. She has an affair with Pygmalion’s servant Ganymed and accepts Mydas’s gifts of jewellery. Unhappy with Galathee’s independence and promiscuity he begs venus to turn her back into stone which she agrees to. The jewelry offered by Mydas is also turned into stone and the whole statue is then sold to him.
I want to set in the late 1980s and instead of Pygmalion being a sculptor he is a computer program who has designed an artificial intelligence vocal interface called GALATHEE on commission from Mydas. Venus is not a god rather an elusive and mysterious pioneering roboticist who has the ability to take Pygmalion’s AI into a robotic form. The operetta is very light in tone with a tongue in cheek look at the nature of male perception, control and hyper sexualisation on women. I wanted to draw inspiration from the illustration of Patrick Nagel and Ichiro Tsuruta
“I intend to speak of forms changed
into new entities” | OVID’S METAMORPHOSES
Instead of a sculptor’s studio on a Greek Island, the story is set in a technology development company called Cyprus Technologies, where Pygmalion is an employee of the mysterious CEO of the firm, Venus. Pygmalion is a program developer specialising in artificial inteligence and working on a voice interface called ‘GALATHEA’. with his young assistant Ganymede who adores and admires him but who he thinks little of. In the process of this long and laborious project, Pygmalion becomes infactuated with his own design and approaches his superior, Venus in the hopes that she would be able to develop his program into a fully functioning robot.
What does it do? was the question many a lay
person asked upon seeing the first serious computers aimed at the
home market. The answer was rather chilling!
Anything it wants?
The thrusting young executive needed pads! Big ones! As well as somewhere to keep their Filofax and giant comedy-sized mobile phone!
Or, for the little woman, there was always the Sloaney look... Twee, demure, holding the fort, collecting buttercups and doing a spot of brass rubbing at the weekend.
It was an age of big bland beige boxes,and much ado about not a lot! Despite the rise of women in the workplace, many of the buying decisions were still made by men - rather immature ones it seems!
Venus accepts and brings what was once a monitor and computer with a voice sitting on a desk into a humaniod ‘asimo’ style being. At first she is perfect to Pygmalion. Although visually horrifying, her monitor for a head allows for any face to flash up and change on his demand making her a fully customisable partner. However, with full sentience, the robot Galathea begins to develop her own opinions and motivations, seperate from what pygmalion had hoped for. As is a known direction for AI, Galathea is a self-repairing and self, updating system , even to the extent of having the ability to create its own replacement hardware - evolution!
A talented natural AI developer, Pygmalion although his work is dedicated to emulating it, has shut himself off to the complexities of human relationships. His attitude and feelings towards women in particular is acutely unhealthy; facinated and attracted to them, he has rejected seeking out relationships due to his inability to fully understand and appreciate women as human beings. He blames women for this inability to make sense of them although practically worships his boss, Venus. He has an assistant called Ganymede who is a young and naive girl who looks up to him but he barely ackowledges her because she is a real woman with complexities and flaws. He is dismissive and condescending towards her, reguarding her more as a pest and lesser than him. His relationship with Venus is similar but in the other extreme, again failing to accept Venus as an individual and more of an object of intese infactuation. The robot Galathea is a manifestation of this unhealthy perception of women, she is an innaminate object when she is the object of his infactuation, but the more she becomes like a woman, the more he falls out of love with her and begins to resent her for being an individual.
Galathea, when she is first revealed by Venus is not quite as beautiful as she is made out to be. She begins life as a grotesque embodiement of Pygmalion’s feminine ideals. She has a woman’s body (nearly) but a objects face and is still somewhat programmable. She is in the early stages of developing artificial intelligence and does not have any opinions or ideas outside of what pygmalion wants.
As the play moves on Galathea seems to evolve. To the audience she moves from a horrifying computer robot creature into something much more human and feminine, but to Pygmalion she changes for the worst. V2 Is the point where Galathea becomes truely autonomous and less concerned with the wants and needs of Pygmalion and even decides she does not want to be with him romantically, instead preferring his female assistant Ganymede. Furthermore she allows herself to be bribed with gold by Midas and begins to make big descisions about herself for herself.¬
Venus is the secrative and mysterious CEO of Cyprus Industries. She is a strange and enigmatic figure who seems to be able to manipulate electronics beyond anyone’s wildest dreams and may well be the single driving force behind the rapidity of technological developments during the late 1980s. Galathea although originally developmed by Pygmalion, is ultimately her creation. She is adored by all her workers and admired most of all by Pygmalion, but she herself does not seem to have any strong opinions of others. She is the orchestrator of the events of the operetta, creating Galathea and making her too perfect and too close to a human being. She stands above the other characters, almost god-like.
Eventually Galathea evolves into something much more like a woman, loosing her monitor head and developing a settled appearance. She decides that she is not attracted to Pygmalion and much prefers his female assistant Ganymede .
Both Galethea costumes will feature artificial sinew and skin textures that provide a lithe, athletic, animalistic look while remaining unmistakably man-made. Techniques have been developed to create skin and surface layers with underpinning circuitry textures and embedded electronic components.
Samples have been created in flexible polyurethene using authentic circuit boards and studies of animal muscle to create a grotesquely fascinating effect.
Etiam felis tortor, facilisis fringilla dictum quis, egestas a est. Cras fermentum in justo vitae venenatis. Sed auctor metus id odio feugiat, vel molestie diam feugiat. Suspendisse scelerisque at sapien at sodales. Vivamus sed ante at ligula sollicitudin aliquet aliquam quis tellus. Nullam sed auctor velit. Vivamus faucibus nunc eros, id consequat magna tincidunt eu. Duis in vehicula sapien. Duis erat risus, feugiat nec nibh non, malesuada condimentum augue. Curabitur vehicula volutpat erat interdum pellentesque.
A high powered executive of a technology company. Midas is a true product of the 1980s, having grown incredibly wealthy throughout the deccade, trading in home computers, he is not satisfied and is constantly on the hunt for the newest technology. He comissions Pygmalion to develop Galathea in the first place, and instead of being annoyed that the project had taken on a mind of it’s own, he too falls in love with Galathea, and seeks to lure her to his company. He is a charasmatic and very greedy character who is very used to getting his own way .
Mydas, the retailer who originally comissioned the development of Galathea, visits the firm seeking to buy the rights to the system for his company. Orignially Pygmalion refused to sell, but with Galathea a sentient and intelligent being, she makes the decision herself to follow Mydas who bribes her with jewels.
Galathea is however a machine at the end of the day, and her technology is of commercial value to Cyprus Technologies. Pygmalion alerts Venus to the commercial danger, and persuades her to have Galethea decomissioned. Angry at the awkward situation she agrees, providing Pygmalion leaves the company and the firmware that makes Galethea 'tick' is hidden away forever. Seeing the inaminate, useless shell of Galathea, and realising he has lost everything, he feels the impulse to smash her to bits. But Mydas intervenes, deciding to buy her anyway and perhaps reverse-engineer the technology to rebuild her for himself.
What would you like to see next?