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The Sunday Opera: "Les Indes Galantes" by Jean-Philippe Rameau

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“What the world needs now is love,” and we have an epic work by a true original looking at several aspects of love on this week’s Sunday Opera (5/17 3:00 p.m.).  Jean-Philippe Rameau seemed to approach all of his music as if it were going to be danced, and his ballet-opera “Les Indes Galantes” (“The Amorous Indes’) is a superb example of that.  Filled with Rameau’s charming dances, the opera begins with a prologue in which Hebe, the Goddess of Youth, referees a battle between Cupid and Bellone (the Goddess of War).  After this, the scenes of love unfold.  

The following four acts prove that love is far stronger than just about anything else.  In the first act, “The Generous Turk,” a pasha allows the slave he acquired to leave with her fiancé, who was also captured, because the fiancé had released the pasha, whom he had captured, years ago after recognizing his royalty.  

In “The Incas of Peru,” an Incan Maiden is in love with a Spanish soldier, but their love is thwarted by subterfuge by the Incan leader who is punished for his treachery.  

“The Flowers” is the story of a Persian prince and his favorite who are both jealous of each other because they believe they are in love with the same woman.  Through some silly disguises and mistakes, all works out happily.  

The final act is entitled “The Savages,” and there is some question regarding just who the savages are.  In the recently “discovered” land of America, a Frenchman and Spaniard are fighting for the attention of a beautiful Native American woman.  However, she doesn’t care for their artifice and affectations and prefers the natural and sincere love of her tribesman.  

Our large cast includes Danielle de Niese, Joao Fernandes, Valerie Gabail, Paul Agnew, Nathan Berg, Richard Croft, Nicolas Rivenq, Patricia Petibon, and Maria Panzarella among others.   The Orchestra and Chorus of Les Arts Florissants is conducted by William Christie.  We’ll round out our time together with a short harpsichord piece and a ballet suite arranged from another Rameau opera entitled “Dardanus.”