Sunday, July 24, 2016

Les Indes Galantes


Conductor Ivor Bolton
Director and Choreography Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui

Lisette Oropesa:  Hébé and Zima (soprano)
Ana Quintans:  L'Amour (soprano en travesti) and Zaire (soprano)
Tareq Nazmi:  Osman and Ali (baritone)
Anna Prohaska:  Phani and Fatime (soprano)
Mathias Vidal:  Don Carlos and Damon (haute-contre, a French high tenor?)
Goran Juric:  Bellone (baritone en travesti)
François Lis:  Huascar and Don Alvaro (bass)
Cyril Auvity:  Valère and Tacmas (haute-contre)
Elsa Benoit:  Emilie (soprano)
John Moore:  Adario (tenor)
Many dancers, supernumeraries and an invisible chorus.

Les Indes galante, an opéra-ballet by Jean-Philippe Rameau, came to me by way of the Bayerische Staatsoper.  From an historical perspective this is Rameau's most significant theatrical work, though I think it's only rarely produced.  In music history he is most famous for his invention of the idea of the fundamental bass.  [I'm not going to try to explain this.  Complain in a comment.]  Harmonically he is quite complex.

Opera production in the twenty-first century consists of two contrasting parts:  historically meticulous musical production accompanied by clumsy, often unsuccessful, attempts to transfer the staging of the story into modern times.

The musicology was impressive.  The parts that show up most distinctly are the period sound of the orchestra and the beauty of the sung ornaments.  The conductor describes this as a big Baroque orchestra:  strings, bassoons, brass, theorbo, very busy harpsichord, etc. The singing is remarkable in how it does not sound like Handel.  If I were to compare it to something, it would be bel canto.  Light and beautiful.  Lisette was especially lovely.

We are in a timeless twentieth century, I believe, for our three love stories.  It is all about tangled love affairs among the native populations.  It's all very chaotic, as can be seen in the photo above.  There is much modern dancing and what looked to me like break dancing.  Don't trust me on this.  The break dancer was the janitor.  Cross dressing, both female to male and male to female, was a frequent feature here, and was from the original.  This opera is from the French Baroque, so there were no castrati.

We begin in a school with students.  There are many small flags but only one large flag, the stars and stripes.  So an American school?  For our love stories we go to Turkey, Peru and North America.  The Peru section includes a religious ceremony which has been translated into a catholic mass.  The priest goes around on a Segue and gives people wafers that are drugged.  They fall down.  This is designed to scare the girl he wants.

It's one of those operas that you just have to go along with.  It was fun, but a little long.  If I require the production to explain the opera, that has not happened here.  The chaos seems to have been enhanced.  It's still entertaining.

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