Wednesday, 21 May 2008

101. Jean-Philippe Rameau - Les Indes Galantes (1735)


Title: Les Indes Galantes
Performers: Les Arts Florissants
Director: William Christie
Year: 1990
Length: 3 hours 20 minutes


I am still debating with myself how much I like this opera, after having heard it three times and seen it on DVD I am still uncertain. There certainly are problems with it, but then the good bits are so good that it is impossible to dislike it.

Rameau is a radically different Opera composer to Handel for example, the arias never take as long, he makes great use of choirs and he inserts dances and ballets into the opera. The problem is that the opera is divided into 5 parts, a prologue and 4 entrées, which are like acts with independent stories. The fact that each act has a story makes them all pretty crap plot-wise, with very fast exposition of the problem followed by even faster resolution to leave some time for the amazing choirs and dance pieces. This is definitely a move from Opera as theatre to opera as visual and auditory spectacle.

Then even the way the plot is exposed (mostly in long recitatives at the beginning of each act) is not the most attractive one, but when the music kicks into gear, and Rameau explores the amazing set-pieces for each act it is so joyous and accomplished that you forgive the sins of the opera. Still, it is an immensely enjoyable but very far from perfect piece of music, you feel that Rameau is not that comfortable with having to put dialogue across, and feels much better when he is given some musical freedom, so he gets done with the recitatives and does his thing brilliantly.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

At the revival of Les Indes galantes on 10 March 1736, the 30th performance of the work, a Fourth entrée was added, with Mme Pélissier as Zima, Jelyotte as Damon and Dun as don Alvar. The complete work was played for the 185th and last time in 1761.

Nevertheless, parts of it were revived from time to time: the Prologue in 1762 (20 performances) and 1771 (26 performances); the Entrée des Incas in 1771 (11 performances) and the Entrée des Sauvages in 1773 (22 performances). Thereafter, the Académie Royale (Paris Opéra) abandoned this work for 179 years. Nevertheless, the Opéra-Comique did present the Third entrée, the Entrée des Fleurs, with a new orchestration by Paul Dukas, on 30 May 1925, with Yvonne Brothier as Zaïre, Antoinette Reville as Fatima, Miguel Villabella as Tacmas and Emile Rousseau as Ali, and Maurice Frigara conducting.

Finally, there was a reprise at the Opéra itself, the Salle Garnier of the Académie Nationale de Musique et Danse, with the Dukas orchestration supplemented for the other entrées with music by Henri Busser, the 186th performance, on 18 June 1952, with sets by Arbus, Jacques Dupont, Wakhévitch, Carzou, Fost, Moulène and Chapelain-Midy for a production by the Académie's own director, Maurice Lehmann.

The very danceable Danse du Grand Calumet de la Paix followed by Forets Plaisibles:

No comments: