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The Sunday Opera: Jean-Philippe Rameau's "Dardanus" (1744 version)

A statue of Dardanus with the ruins of ancient Phrygia.
A statue of Dardanus with the ruins of ancient Phrygia.

Our Sunday Opera this week (4/7 3:00 p.m.) is featuring a lesser-known work by Jean-Philippe Rameau, “Dardanus” which was written in 1739 and revised in 1744. The libretto, the reason for its revision, was by Charles-Antoine Leclerc de la Bruere, and although Rameau’s score has been credited as one of his best, the plot was found to be superficial and lacking.  

The plot deals with the titular character who is the son of Electra and Zeus and the leader of an army at war with King Teucer of Phrygia. Teucer’s daughter, Iphise (whom history labels as Batea or Arisbe) is secretly in love with Dardanus. Dardanus loves Iphise as well, and finds out about her love through the help of a magician named Ismenor. 

Complications arise through King Antenor to whom Iphise has been promised. Along with his servant Arcas, he devised a plan to kill Dardanus after he has been captured, but by releasing Dardanus’ soldiers to cause a distraction, he is mortally wounded and inadvertently the tool of Dardanus’ release. 

The opera does have a happy ending, and along the way, we’ll witness battles, conjured spirits, and transformations and, of course, a visit from the gods in the prologue and finale. 

The cast on this recording includes Cyrille Dubois as Dardanus and Jupiter (Zeus) and Judith Van Wanroij as Iphise (and L’Amour, Thomas Dolie is King Teucer and Ismenor, Tassis Christoyannis is King Antenor and Clement Debieuvre as Arcas. Chantal Santon Jeffery is Venus. 

They’re joined by the Purcell Choir and the Orfeo Orchestra conducted by Gyorgy Vashegyi. 

We’ll follow the opera with more music of Rameau featuring two suites from two of his operas that include some of his marvelous dance music. The first is a suite from what has been called his greatest one-act work which was based on the myth, “Pigmalion.” The other comes from one of our favorite works, “Les Indes Galantes,” which includes some of Rameau’s most recognizable music, especially “Les Sauvages.”

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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