Going for Baroque with the Opéra-Ballets of J-P Rameau

Thursday, February 7, 1pm | Mount Carmel Lutheran Church


Going for Baroque with the Opéra-Ballets of J-P Rameau

Jean-Philippe Rameau, (September 25, 1683, Dijon – September 12, 1764) was the most important French composer and music theorist of the Baroque era. He replaced Jean-Baptiste Lully as the dominant composer of French opera-ballet and is one of the leading opera composers in history.

Opéra-ballet was a popular genre of French Baroque opera that grew out of the ballets à entrées of the early seventeenth century. It differed from the more elevated tragédie en musique as practiced by Lully in several ways. It contained more dance music than the tragédies and the plots were not always derived from Classical mythology; it even allowed for comic elements. The opéra-ballet consisted of a prologue followed by a number of self-contained acts (known as entrées), often loosely grouped around a single theme.

This course considers four of Rameau’s opera-ballets: Hippolyte et Aricie (1733), Castor et Pollux (1737), Platée, (1749) and Les Paladins (1760). These operas are presented in four different and contrasting styles ranging from traditional baroque with elaborate sets and costumes to wildly contemporary using fantastic staging and computer driven imaging. All of them have one thing in common - Rameau’s imaginative and innovative music which lends itself to a variety of interpretations, stagings and dance styles.

Feb 7 - Hippolyte et Aricie is rendered in the traditional baroque style with opulent elaborate sets and classical ballet recorded live by the Paris Opéra in 2012. It aims to recreate the sumptuously costumed and ritualized spectacle Louis XV might have enjoyed when the piece was first performed in 1733.

Feb 14 - Castor and Pollux as performed by De Nederlandse Opera in 2008 features spare, geometric sets and props with simple costuming. The singers are doubled by dancers who enact the emotions of the principle singers with highly stylized contemporary dance movements.

Feb 21 - Platée was performed at the Opera national de Paris, Palais Garnier in 2002. It was originally a ballet bouffon devised as a great spectacle with ballet, magnificent costumes and brilliant music. This version is set in a mock theater with the dancers in contemporary dress running up and down aisles and across rows in rigid formations. The choreography is brilliant and contemporary.

Fwb 28 - Les Paladins was recorded at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris in 2004 featuring the orchestra of Les Arts Florissant. Performers include breakdancers, Brazilian martial artists, ballet dancers, acrobats and African dancers, with extraordinarily high-spirited choreography. The entire back wall of the stage is covered by giant video projections which features18th-century characters in wigs bouncing around in clouds, images of the dancers you see on stage and lots of shape-shifting, people turning into animals, and a Metro train. The costumes are wildly colorful with the odd naughty flash of nudity. It's a fantastic, high-energy production.

Each Session meets at the Mt. Carmel Lutheran Church, 1701 Frederick St. SLO

Located at the intersection of Hwy 101 and Grand Ave, just off the Freeway.

All sessions run from 1- 4PM, Thursdays, February 7, 14, 21, 28

Each session includes a video segment from each of the operas and discussion.

Participants receive a 30-page course syllabus with bios, synopses and commentary.

The donation is $20 for the entire 4-session course or $7 for a single session.

All proceeds go to Support OperaSLO

To register, send a check addressed to:

OperaSLO, PO Box 14760

San Luis Obispo, CA 93406

Checks or cash will be accepted at each session.

(write “rameau” on the lower left line of the check)

For specific questions and additional information please contact

John Frey at JENFREY@aol.com or phone 549-0721.