Rameau's Les Indes Galantes
The central work of this course, on which all the singers, instrumentalists and dancers cooperate, is this year's opera-ballet Les Indes galantes ("The urbane Indians"), the first of a series of ballet operas in 1735 by French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau to a libretto by Louis Fuzelier. By 1730 there was a fad for operas in the form of ballet operas based on mythological themes. In Rameau's Les Indes galantes he returns to that form, but he gives the roles more contemporary, modern characters, just as Campra did in L'Europe galante (1697). In the prologue to Rameau's opera-ballet, the allegorical characters and the classic theme of the opera is presented: aspects of love in exotic places. The word "Indes" in the title of the work refers to "Indians", which at that time was synonymous with people of every conceivable non-European, exotic country. The whole work consists of a prologue and four "entrées" (acts), which were changed, added and replaced in various productions.
Rameau's treatment of the libretto raised Fuzelier lighter ballet-opera genre to new heights. In the act "Les Incas' one hears an intensity that rivals that of the great classical tragedy-operas: from the beginning to the end of the entrance 350 bars of music sound in a nearly continuous stream, in which the voices and orchestra interact in an extremely forceful setting. The second act is dominated by Huascar, whose fanatical but totally believable character is represented in Rameau's music with a sharpness and certainty that is rarely found in similar ballet operas. Elsewhere it is the grace and variety of dances that stand out. "Les Sauvages" which became very popular, contains an arrangement of Rameau's harpsichord same work "Les Sauvages" and is inspired by the dancing of two American Indians in Paris in 1725.
From the multitude of airs, ensembles, choirs and dances is a choice made for the final presentation. That choice is based on a version shortened by Rameau himself, published as Les Indes Galantes, Balet réduit à quatre grands concerts. This opera program is performed ‘semi-staged’ in a public concert in the Vokův Sal, the historic hall of Bechyně castle.
For the dances in the summer school a selection will be made from the abundance of dances in the ‘Indes Galantes’. Because the whole opera is set in faraway regions, there is space for exotically flavoured character dances as well as elegant Baroque dance. The last will especially be appropriate for the third Entrée (Les Fleurs, Fête Persane), the major part of which consists of dances and which as such can be seen as an intermezzo in the opera.
For dances to music by Rameau no notated choreographies are extant. On the one hand this is a pity – however, on the other hand it leaves us freedom to, within the movement style of French baroque dance, give vent to our fantasy.
Week programme and daily schedule
■Sunday 15 July at 18.00 h course opening in Bechyně
■First rehearsal on Sunday evening
■Thursday evening: tutors' concert in the refectory
■Friday afternoon: 'free day'
■Monday evening: participants' chamber music concert
■Tuesday evening 24 July: final opera concert at the castle
■Wednesday morning: departure after breakfast