I saw this film about a year ago and was not impressed. I must have been in a miserable mood that day because, when I saw it again yesterday, I found it irresistible. I suppose my problem was with Rameau's music. Most of the dramatic development is through music that sounds dangerously close to recitative. To be charitable, maybe Rameau was anticipating the 19th century move towards through-composed works without the big arias. There are a few arias, however, and some notable ensembles, particularly the quartet "Tendre amour" during the Fête persane episode. Otherwise, the big tunes, as is usual in Rameau operas, tend to be given to the dancers.
The opera consists of a prologue and four episodes, featuring Turks, Incas, Persians and Red Indians. The theme, the gallant Indies, seems quite daring for 1735 but this work could not anticipate the centuries of slavery and genocide that were to follow, nor our present-day suspicion of all things Arabic. The performance is beautifully presented by Paris National Opera using spectacular costumes on a bare stage back-lit by a bright diorama. There is a young and attractive cast of sixteen soloists fronting an energetic company of dancers. The effects, such as a shipwreck and a volcanic eruption are simple and impressive, as if they were taking place in a production given in 1753.
This was such a, literally, brilliant spectacle that, often, the subtitles were impossible to read against the bright background. There, I knew I could find something to complain about.
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