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The Sunday Opera: Jean-Philippe Rameau's "Les Indes Gallantes"

Jean-Philippe Rameau’s first “dance opera” is on tap for this week’s Sunday Opera (6/25 3:00 p.m.) as we showcase “Les Indes Gallantes.” This interesting work features a prologue where Hebe, the goddess of youth, calls everyone to a festival celebrating love only to be challenged by Bellona, the goddess of war, encouraging all to search for the glory of war. All is resolved when cupid arrives on a cloud and sets all back on the path to love.

What follows are four acts where love is tested but finally wins the day.

Act 1 takes place in the garden of a pasha where one of his slaves tells him that she was about to be married just before she was captured. Fate plays a role when a shipwreck leaves a young sailor stranded who not only is the young slave’s betrothed, but is also the man who showed great kindness to the pasha who returns the kindness. The slave and sailor are reunited and leave for home.

Act 2 takes place in a desert in Peru where the Inca princess Phani has fallen in love with a Spanish officer named Carlos who urges her to escape with him. She’s afraid of the wrath of the Inca people and that of the priest, Hauscar, who is also in love with Phani. Hauscar causes an earthquake, telling the Incas that it’s god’s way of saying that Phani should marry him. However, this also causes a volcano to erupt, and a large boulder thrown from the volcano crushes Hauscar, allowing Phani to leave with Carlos.

Act 3 opens in another garden, this time, in Ali’s palace. Tacmas is in love with Zaire who is a slave owned by his favorite, Ali. To see if Zaire loves him, Tacmas disguises himself as a woman and slips into the harem. Tacmas misunderstands Zaire’s unhappiness and is determined to find out who his rival is. Meanwhile, Fatime, who is in love with Ali, disguises herself as a man making Tacmas believe she is the Zaire’s lover. However, Fatima is in love with Ali and has come in disguise to find out who her rival for Ali’s affection is. It’s confusing, but everything works out, and both couples end happily.

Act 4 takes place in a forest in North America where Zima finds herself being pursued by two foreigners: the jealous Spaniard Don Alvar and the fickle Frenchman Damon. All is resolved here as well when Zima declares that she prefers the “natural love” of another of her tribe named Adario, and this too ends happily as everyone joins in with the ceremony of peace. Rameau’s very popular rondeau “Les Sauvages” appears in this act.

Our cast includes Danielle de Niese, Valerie Gabail, Jaoa Fernades, Anna Maria Panzarella, Paul Agnew, Nicoals Cavallier, Jael Azzaretti, Francois Piolino, Nathan Berg, Malin Hartelius, Gaele Le Roi, Richard Croft, Patricia Petibon, Nicolas Rivenq, Christoph Strehl, and Christophe Fel with Les Arts Florissants, William Christie, conducting.

We’ll follow the opera with more music of Rameau including a piece from one of his suites for harpsichord performed by Sophie Yates as well as a ballet suite from another of his operas, “Dardanus.”

Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.
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