Monday, 26 May 2008

103. Jean-Phillipe Rameau - Castor et Pollux (1737 rev. 1754)


Title: Castor & Pollux
Performer: Les Arts Florissants
Director: William Christie
Year: 1992
Length: 2 hours 48 minutes


Another opera by Rameau, and this one was one that I didn't get the chance to see, I did read the libretto while listening to it but it is not the same thing. William Christie as always does an excellent job in this opera taking advantage of the extreme drama of Rameau's choirs.

Still, it is not one of the most exciting operas to pass through here, some of the recitatives are very extensive, particularly in Act IV which might make for interesting watching but to listen to it is a bit dull.

There are some quite innovative choirs in this, like the very impressive funeral one at the start of Act II or the powerful Choir Of Demons in Act III or the amazing Choir of Planets at the end of Act V. But these work very much as highlights, Rameau's arias are never of the standard of Handel's, but Rameau compensates for it with the amazing Choirs which are absent from Handel.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

Castor et Pollux appeared in 1737 while the controversy ignited by Rameau's first opera Hippolyte et Aricie was still raging. Conservative critics held the works of the "father of French opera", Jean-Baptiste Lully, to be unsurpassable. They saw Rameau's radical musical innovations as an attack on all they held dear and a war of words broke out between these Lullistes and the supporters of the new composer, the so-called Rameauneurs. This controversy ensured that the premiere of Castor would be a noteworthy event. As it turned out, the opera was a success. It received twenty performances in late 1737 but did not reappear until the substantially revised version took to the stage in 1754. This time there were thirty performances and ten in 1755. Graham Sadler writes that "It was [...] Castor et Pollux that was regarded as Rameau's crowning achievement, at least from the time of its first revival (1754) onwards."

Revivals followed in 1764, 1765, 1772, 1773, 1778, 1779 and 1780. The taste for Rameau's operas did not long outlive the French Revolution but extracts from Castor et Pollux were still being performed in Paris as late as 1792. During the nineteenth century, the work did not appear on the French stage, though its fame survived the general obscurity into which Rameau's works had sunk; Hector Berlioz admiringly mentioned the aria Tristes apprĂȘts. The first modern revival took place at the Schola Cantorum in Paris in 1903. Among the audience was Claude Debussy.

Always trust geeks to give you something interesting, someone made a video of Final Fantasy X-2 mixed with Que Tout Gemisse, the funeral choir from the first act:

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