The Sunday Opera: Jean-Philippe Rameau's "Zoroastre"
An operatic fight between good and evil that contained several “firsts” on this week’s Sunday Opera (2/26 3:00 p.m.) can be found in Jean-Philippe Rameau’s “Zoroastre” in its 1756 version.
The “firsts” of this opera include that it’s the first French opera to do away with an allegorical prologue, and its libretto is not based on classical mythology of Greece and Rome as most were at this time, but rather, it was based on stories from Persia. Although not unique, the opera is also a thinly veiled look at Freemasonry. It’s premier of December 1749 was not well received despite it having spectacular staging effects, but the 1756 version, which was heavily re-written, was much more an audience favorite.
The good in the story is Zoroastre (John Elwes) who is loved by the two princesses of Bactria which is in chaos after the death of the king. Amelite (Greta de Reyghere) is the presumptive heir and Erinice (Mieke van der Sluis) are rivals in every way, but Zoroastre loves Amelite.
The evil of the story is the sorcerer Abramane (Gregory Reinhart) who works with Erinice to exile Zoroastre and imprison Amelite. This sets up the battle between Zoroastre and Abramane for Amelite’s life and the throne of Bactria.
The rest of the cast of this 1983 recording includes Agnes Mellon, Philippe Cantor, Jacques Bona, Michel Verschaeve, and Francois Fauche. The conductor here is Sigiswald Kuijken, and he is leading La petite bande and the Collegium Vocaled de Gand.
We’ll take a leap to the 20th century and the last ballet of Lord Berners (Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt-Wilson), “Les Sirenes.” This recording of the complete score for the ballet features contralto Miriam Blennerhassett who is joined by the RTE Sinfonietta under the leadership of David Lloyd-Jones.