This video was recorded live at performances of the original version of 'Dardanus' (1739) given at the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux in April 2015, in a production by Michel Fau and choreography by Christopher Williams. Raphaël Pichon, the Ensemble Pygmalion and a peerless line-up of soloists received unanimous acclaim from public and press alike. “van Mechelen rises splendidly to his major dramatic interventions and Florian Sempey as his rival Antenor is commanding and resonant. Michael Fau’s production with effective use of gesture and dance, and Emanuel Charles’s highly coloured, stately sets make for a very handsome visual presentation … Pygmalion provides vigorous and expert orchestral accompaniment, and Raphael Pichon’s assured direction secures superb coordination with the soloists and the firmly focused chorus.” (BBC Music Magazine)
The Baroque music ensemble Les Talens Lyriques, under Christophe Rousset's baton, performs Rameau's Les Indes galantes at the Opéra National de Bordeaux in a sensual and politically engaged production directed by Laura Scozzi, on the occasion of the festivities organized to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Jean-Philippe Rameau's death.
Platée was one of the most highly regarded of Rameau's operas during his lifetime. It even pleased critics who had expressed hostility to his musical style during the Querelle des Bouffons (an argument over the relative merits of French and Italian opera). Melchior Grimm called it a "sublime work" and even Rameau's bitter enemy Jean-Jacques Rousseau referred to it as "divine". The reason for this praise may be because these critics saw Platée, a comic opera, paving the way for the lighter form of opera buffa they favoured.
In Glyndebourne’s first-ever staging of a opera by Rameau, director Jonathan Kent presents a production which, in his own words, ‘strives to appeal to every sense and show audiences how engrossing and musically ravishing French Baroque opera can be’. Rameau’s inventive take on Racine’s great tragedy Phèdre is brought to life by Paul Brown’s colourful and elegant designs and Ashley Page’s playful choreography. Ed Lyon and Christiane Karg give captivating performances as the titular young lovers, while Sarah Connolly, making a welcome return to Glyndebourne, ‘invests Phaedra with both grandeur and a desperately human vulnerability’ (The Independent). Leading exponent of early music William Christie ‘sets an exhilarating pace, galvanising the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment to playing of tremendous panache’ (The DailyTelegraph).
Christophe Rousset's collection of overtures to 17 of Rameau's operas and opéra-ballets, played by his original instrument ensemble Les Talens Lyriques, won a 1998 Gramophone award for best Baroque non-vocal CD, and it's easy to hear why this outstanding performance was recognized. The ensemble plays with unflagging liveliness and brilliant, clean tone. The rhythmic vitality Rousset coaxes from his players is toe-tappingly engaging; at the same time, he maintains a fluidity that avoids metronomic rigidity. The tempos he takes sometimes have a breathtaking fleetness that leaves the listener marveling at the players' virtuosity. The overtures are mostly brief, usually four or five minutes long, but they each contain a world of volatility and drama. Many of them are wonderfully eccentric, with startling juxtapositions and exotic orchestral combinations that keep them from ever settling into any kind of easy predictability.
My first encounter with Rameau came when I was seven years old. The piano was predominant in musical life in the Soviet Union at the time but Johann Sebastian Bach was the only composer to represent the baroque era. Ever-present in concert halls, his compositions were also the daily bread of young pianists in music school. My first teacher had been born in Paris and had a deep knowledge and strong sense of French culture, especially French literature. Thanks to him, I in turn fell in love with France in general and Rameau in particular, and Rameau has stayed with me ever since. I have always kept him in a corner of my mind without ever being able to play his music in public, because unfortunately concert organisers, including in France, then as now prefer composers better known to the general public.
As Rameau wrote in his treatise on harmony, “A good musician should surrender himself to all the characters he wishes to portray, and like a skillful actor, put himself in the speaker’s shoes.” Regardless of the means used to achieve this, the composer uses music and the interplay of harmony to convey feeling. This album on the Analekta label features bass-baritone Philippe Sly and soprano Hélène Guimette accompanied by musicians from Clavecin en concert under the direction of Luc Beauséjour.