Rameau: Les Indes Galantes

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Rameau
LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Les Indes Galantes
WORKS: Les Indes Galantes
PERFORMER: Danielle de Niese, João Fernandes, Valérie Gabail, Nicolas Cavallier, Anna Maria Panzarella, Paul Agnew, Nathan Berg, Patricia Petibon; Les Arts Florissants/William Christie; dir. Andrei Serban (Opéra National de Paris, 2003)
CATALOGUE NO: OA 0923 D
As I watched this DVD, I found myself morphing first into Mrs Thatcher and then, almost, into Hermann Goering – only I don’t have a gun. The 1980s were

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horrible but at least they wiped

out this kind of complacent culture, cosseted by cash from competition and contention.

Vast expense has been lavished

on this – quite rightly: opéra-ballet was meant to be expensive and lavish. But sophomoric and borderline racist? Unusually for this bran-tub genre – several different stories danced and sung over one evening, vaguely linked by a common theme, courtly or classical – Les Indes galantes is genuinely provocative, pointedly pitting European ethics against those of the Turks, Incas, Persians and native North Americans. So Enlightenment audiences would hardly have expected the grand finale of ‘Les Sauvages’, in which ‘natural’ love triumphs, to be set to…a chicken dance!?

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That’s a low point and, like several other outrages against taste, suggests a shallow response from choreographer Blanca Li. That’s sadly confirmed in the equally superficial accompanying documentary, damningly titled ‘Swinging Rameau’, and stage director Andrei Serban seems similarly unwilling or unable to engage with the librettist’s challenge to our superiority complex. There are people everywhere, dancers and pointless mummers and animated scenery (another low point, a Disneyesque minaret on legs), and no one ever stands still. It must have been unnerving for the singers, few of them on top form – though Christie certainly is and Rameau’s fabulous music almost saves the day. The video director seems to agree, offering few wide shots of this sorry spectacle. Nick Morgan