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You might almost say Les Indes galantes arrived in instalments. The premiere, in August 1735, comprised a prologue and two entrées: Ramaeau almost immediately appended a third (Les Fleurs), but it featured a prince disguised as a woman, which so scandalised people it had to be rewritten. In March 1736 he added a fourth entrée, Les Sauvages, and the popularity of its Danse du grand calumet de paix, finally secured the work’s success.

Les Indes galantes is an opéra-ballet, with separate, self-contained acts, so Rameau was able to set each entrée in a distant land, thus appealing to a French fascination with the exotic and allowing him to orchestrate such extraordinary onstage events as a tempest, an earthquake and a Persian flower festival!

This live recording uses a new edition of the score, prepared by Hugo Reyne and Nicolas Sceaux, which reinstates material previously cut or revised (including the original Les Fleurs). Six soloists share 17 leading roles, so the singing is variable and voices can sound strained. However, La Simphonie du Marais do splendid justice to Rameau’s imaginative orchestrations, playing with finesse and vibrancy, from fiery trumpet fanfares to the gorgeous flutes that weave deftly through the score.

Graham Lock Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2015 - ©Rhinegold Publishing