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Rameau : Opera-Ballet Les Indes Galantes

Danielle de Niese, Valérie Gabail, Nicolas Rivenq, Paul Agnew, Patricia Petibon Nicolas Cavallier Jaël Azzaretti, Anna Maria Panzarella
Les Arts Florissants/William Christie
Stage director: Andrei Serban
Marina Draghici: sets and costumes
Choreography: Blanca Li

Opus Arte OA 0923 D [2 DVDs, 244 mins; filmed Paris Opera, September 2003]

A gloriously exuberant and entertaining recreation of Jean-Philippe Rameau's most popular work, filmed live at the Paris Opera, where it was premiered and enjoyed over 300 performances in the 18C. It is a loveable farrago of rivalry for womens' love in four exotic locations, and these are suggested with a light touch in Marina Draghici's sets and extravagant costumes.

Splendid singing by a long cast, Danielle de Niese (Hebe in the prologue) - who has been attracting rave notices at Glyndebourne - was unsurpassed by the objects of attraction featured in imaginary Turkey, Peru and North America, peopled by Red Indians; Paul Agnew is probably the best of the men who have to rebuff the suitors, in his case a Turc généreux who brings to mind Mozart's Pasha. The extended ballet sequences of the genre are an especial joy in this modern recreation.

The only danger (a small one) is that the visual riches may deflect attention from the inventive music, much of it of a popular type, but with sophisticated orchestration, revelled in by William Christie, whose contribution to the "extras" interviews is the only one which has much to add by way of illumination; he stresses the primacy of ballet.

To keep your ears alert and receptive, best to watch the five Acts (Prologue and four Entrées) separately; I guess that in Rameau's time there would have been long intervals?

Do not look at Swinging Rameau first; the talk consists of short (too short) sound-bite clips, punctuated by unnecessarily lengthy extracts from each of the scenes, taken from the main recording. Don't spoil a first (or second!) viewing of the whole glorious entertainment with these bits and pieces.

Rameau has been done proud on DVD, and this is one of the best.

See also: Platée & Les Boréades


© Peter Grahame Woolf