Rameau, Les Indes Galantes, Genève



Opéra-ballet de Jean-Philippe Rameau

Livret de Louis Fuzelier

Créé à Paris en 1735

Pour la première fois au Grand Théâtre de Genève

Direction musicale Leonardo García Alarcón
Mise en scène Lydia Steier
Chorégraphie Demis Volpi
Scénographie Heike Scheele
Costumes Katharina Schlipf
Lumières Olaf Freese
Dramaturgie Krystian Lada
Direction des choeurs Alan Woodbridge
Hébé / Émilie / Zima Kristina Mkhitaryan
Amour / Zaïre Roberta Mameli
Phani Claire de Sévigné
Fatime Amina Edris
Bellone / Osman / Adario Renato Dolcini
Ali Gianluca Bura o
Don Carlos / Damon Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani
Huascar / Don Alvaro François Lis
Valère / Tacmas Cyril Auvity
Cappella Mediterranea
Choeur du Grand Théâtre de Genève

The cincture of the sound

Is holy ground,

Where all are Brothers,

Not faceless Others.

W. H. Auden

« A Hymn to the United Nations »


In 1725, French colonists in what is now Illinois sent Agapit Chicagou,

chief of the Mitchigamea Nation, and fi ve other chiefs, on a journey to

Paris, where they pledged allegiance to King Louis XV and performed

dances of their people for the public at the Théâtre-Italien ; dances that

were to provide Jean-Philippe Rameau with the inspiration for one of

his keyboard works, the rondeau Les Sauvages. With this charming little

piece, Rameau planted the seed of a musical idea that would take eleven

years to come to fruition. By liberally lacing the vocal parts of Les Indes

galantes (1735) with dance numbers, as required by the lighter genre of

the opéra-ballet, Rameau created a masterpiece for the ages.

At the time, most faraway shores were known as “The Indies” and the

“gallantry” in the opera’s title has more to do with things erotic than

simply holding the door open for ladies. Rameau’s librettist for Les Indes

galantes, Fuzelier, was inspired by the best-selling travel literature of his

time : Jesuits, adventurers, the fi rst translations of the Arabian Nights.

The common theme that Love reigns supreme, even in the most exotic

climes, links the four stories told in the opera. The opera’s prologue sets

the tone : Hebe, Goddess of Youth, bemoans the loss of her followers to

the ranks of Bellona, Goddess of War, who promises them military glory.

Hebe asks Love to send his little, winged Cupids to recruit warriors all

over the world for the “gallant” cause. Four successive stories take us to

different parts of the world, each describing the erotic confl ict between

the “conquered” indigenous and their “conquerors”.

This is the starting point of Lydia Steier’s project. The US-born stage

director, very active on the great stages of the German-speaking countries

and notably the Salzburg Festival, raises the curtain of her new

production for Geneva on the incipient confl ict between the followers of

Hebe and Bellona’s cohorts. Both sides are motivated by an ill-defi ned

sense that their way of life is endangered. One side loses itself in games

of a dionysiac, almost pre-Armageddon, nature. The other does all it

can to regain control by imposing martial law. Bombs start falling and

each side pays its tribute. In the end, there is nothing more to do except

work together on a new community of nations. Lydia Steier : “This is an

important aspect of our project for Geneva, a city which stands for human

rights like no other in the world, not to point an accusing fi nger at anyone,

but we have no problems sticking it where it hurts.”

The Grand Théâtre welcomes Rameau’s masterpiece for the fi rst time

ever on its stage, The music will be conducted by a quasi-local talent :

Leonardo García Alarcón and his Cappella Mediterranea, who will have

cut their teeth on the French baroque repertoire the previous season, with

Médée by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Rameau’s predecessor of genius.

With Rameau’s opéra-ballet, the Grand Théâtre also opens a new era of

artistic collaboration between its opera stage and the Geneva Ballet. It

takes an opera where voice and dance are almost in perfect parity to

do this, which is defi nitely the case of Les Indes galantes. Lydia Steier

has invited the young Argentinian-born choreographer Demis Volpi

to design the choreographic elements of the production and direct the

Geneva Ballet in them. Among the many distinguished artists of the cast,

we are happy to welcome once again to Geneva the impressive voice of

Kristina Mkhitaryan, who fi gured so eminently in our past production

of Cavalli’s Giasone.