On Thursday, Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques bring Rameau's Les Indes Galantes to the Barbican Hall, London. MY REVIEW IS HERE. This is an extension of their tour which has taken in the Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse, The Opéra Ntaional de Bordeaux and the Staatstheater Nürnberg. They are using a version established by Les Talens Lyriques based on the manuscript stored at the Toulouse library. If you like nudity, the fully staged version is currently available on medici TV.
In a few hours we'll travel across continents and through time and spaces to locales the locals would never recognize. The first Entrée, Le Turc généreux unfolds on a beach. Émilie, in orange silk, is sunning herself, oblivious to the gathering storm clouds. So she gets picked up by a Turk, as does happen to tourists in the Med. But Rameau throws in a jolly little riff and Osman relents. Osman and Valère are mates, after all : "Au plus parfait bonheur il a droit de prétendre, Si la vertu peut rendre heureux"
The William Christie/ Les Arts Florissants Les Indes galantes (Serban 2002) was so audaciously spectacular that all else pales in comparison. Who can forget the "clouds" flats floating in space, the volcano and the Inca headresses ? Or the Red Indians with bison heads ? This new staging goes, instead for more down to earth humour. The trio of tourists who dance throughout the entire opera/ballet tell us we're with the Incas of Pérou because they drink cocoa, and wear souvenir hats. You can tell that this Les Fleurs is set in Persia because the women wear burkas, and that Les Sauvages are American because they go in for tacky advertisng signs. All a bit jokey, but what is Les Indes Galantes but humorous fantasy ? If this staging is weak, at least we can listen better to the singers, and to Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques. The dancing in this version is livlier and more naturalistic than in Chrsitie/Les Arts Flo, though they saved a bit on costumes !