Jean-Philippe Rameau

Les Indes galantes, opéra-ballet

    Description by Rita Laurance

    Les Indes Galantes (The Gallant Indians) was Rameau's second theatrical work. Termed an opéra-ballet, it was essentially a dance spectacle with sung elements. (The form was descended from the earlier ballet a entrées of the French court.) There was more than one kind of opéra-ballet; the more dramatic works were termed ballets heroïques, and Les Indes Galantes was one of these. It was first given on August 23, 1735, to reviews that both praised and condemned it. Much of the music was quite adventuresome and elicited strong reactions from the Parisian public. The libretto was by Louis Fuzelier, a writer of comedies and a well-known author. The Prologue has a theme taken from mythology, and concerns the universality of Love. Each section or entrée is set in an exotic locale and contains a story of an amorous nature.

    The exotic locations, while typical of the genre, here point vaguely toward Enlightenment-oriented human universals. Nevertheless, there is plenty of pure spectacle. Le Turc Genereux (The Generous Turk) contains a descriptive storm scene, a chorus of sailors, and a ballet by African slaves. The storm music is quite effective, and makes use of Vivaldi-like tremolos and scalar patterns, as well as dramatic key changes.

    The Incas' Festival of the Sun is depicted in the second entrée in a grand spectacle full of choruses, symphonies, and airs. There is a long scene in which the sun is invoked by the priest Huascar, and the chorus "Brillant Soleil" (Brilliant Sun) is its climax. Although this scene was praised by Voltaire, many found it too new and unusual. The earthquake that follows is described in the orchestra by tremolos, rushing scales, and dissonant harmony, and was considered too difficult to perform. An unusual trio for Phani, Don Carlos, and Huascar is another highlight of this entrée; Huascar's voice argues in counterpoint with the two lovers, right before he is vanquished by the eruption of a volcano. The music of this entrée is very dissonant, emotionally sustained, and quite modern.

    Les Indes Galantes contained only the first two entrées and the Prologue at its premiere. Afterwards, Rameau added Les Fleurs, which offers emotional release after so much drama. The dominant element in this entrée is the dance; there is no drama, only serene music. The final Les Sauvages (The Savages) was added at a much later date. Set in a North American forest, with Native American characters, after an initial amorous story, the main body of the entrée is built around the Ceremony of the Pipe of Peace. Much of the music for the ceremony was taken from harpsichord music Rameau had published in 1730, and the entree ends with a chaconne written for the opera Samson.


    1. Ouverture
    2. Scene 1. Air. Vous, qui d'Hébé
    3. Scene 2. Entrée des 4 nations
    4. Scene 2. Air. Amants sûrs de plaire
    5. Scene 2. Air grave pour les Polonais
    6. Scene 2. Menuets 1 & 2
    7. Scene 2. Air et Chœur. Musettes, résonnez / Musette en rondeau
    8. Scene 3. Air. La Gloire vous appelle
    9. Scene 3. Air pour les deux guerriers portants des drapeaux
    10. Scene 3. Air pour les amants qui suivent Bellone / Chœur. Vous nous abandonnez
    11. Scene 4. Hébé et sa suite / Scene 5. L'Amour et sa suite, Hébé / Air. Pour remplacer les cœurs / Air. Ranimez vos fla
    12. Scene 5. Air pour les Amours
    13. Scene 5. Duo et Chœur. Traversez les plus vastes mers
    14. Scene 1. Air. Il faut que l'Amour s'envole
    15. Scene 2. Air. Vaste empire des mers / Chœur. Diel! de plus d'une mort
    16. Scene 3. D'infortunés captifs
    17. Scene 4. / Scene 5
    18. Scene 6. Marche / Duo et Chœur. Volez, Zéphyrs
    19. Scene 6. Air pour les esclaves africains
    20. Scene 6. Ariette. Hâtez-vous
    21. Scene 6. Ariette. Régnez, Amours
    22. Scene 6. Rigaudons 1 & 2
    23. Scene 6. Tambourins 1 & 2 / Partez
    24. Scene 1.
    25. Scene 2. Air. Viens, Hymen
    26. Scene 3. / Scene 4. / Scene 5.
    27. Scene 5. Air. Soleil, on a détruit
    28. Scene 5. Prélude pour l'adoration du Soleil
    29. Scene 5. Air et Chœur. Brillant Soleil
    30. Scene 5. Air des Incas
    31. Scene 5. Air et chœur. Clair flambeau
    32. Scene 5. Loure en rondeau
    33. Scene 5. Air. Permettez, astre
    34. Scene 5. 1st Gavotte. / 2nd Gavotte en rondeau
    35. Scene 5. Tremblement de terre / Chœur. Dans les abîmes
    36. Scene 6. Air. Ici, je vois partout / Scene 7. Trio. Pour jamais / Scene 8. La flamme se rallume
    37. Scene 1. Air. L'objet à qui je rends les armes / Scene 2.
    38. Scene 3. Air. Amour, quand du destin
    39. Scene 4. Duo. Doit-on aimer. Scene 5. / Scene 6. Air. Dans ces jardins. / Scene 7. Air. Deviez
    40. Scene 7. Quatuor. Tendre Amour
    41. Scene 8. Marche pour la fête des fleurs / Chœur. Dans le sein de Thétis
    42. Scene 8. Air. L'éclat des roses
    43. Scene 8. Air et Chœur. Triomphez, agréables fleurs
    44. Scene 8. Airs pour les Persans 1 & 2
    45. Scene 8. Air. Papillon inconstant
    46. Scene 8. Ballet des Fleurs / Airs pour les Fleurs 1 & 2 / Gavotte en rondeau / Orage / Air po
    47. Scene 8. Airs pour Zéphire 1 & 2 / Air pour les Fleurs / Gavotte
    48. Scene 1. Air. Rivaux de mes exploits
    49. Scene 2. Air. L'inconstance ne doit blesser / Scene 3. Air. Nous suivons sur nos bords
    50. Scene 3. La terre, les cieux et les mers / Air. Le cœur change à son gré
    51. Scene 3. Air. L'habitant des bords de la Seine
    52. Scene 4. Prélude, qui annonce la fête
    53. Scene 5. Air. Sur nos bords l'amour vole / Duo. Hymen, viens nous unir
    54. Scene 6. Air et Chœur. Bannissons les tristes alarmes
    55. Scene 6. Danse du Grand Calumet de la Paix (Danse des Sauvages)
    56. Scene 6. Duo et Chœur. Forêts paisibles
    57. Scene 6. 1st Menuet pour les Guerriers et les Amazones / 2nd Menuet / Gavotte
    58. Scene 6. Prélude / Air. Régnez, Plaisirs et Jeux
    59. Scene 6. Chaconne

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2007 Erato
    1992 Harmonia Mundi 901367/9
    1991 Harmonia Mundi 290605
    Harmonia Mundi 901367