Jean-Philippe Rameau: Les Indes Galantes

Les Indes Galantes is very much a product of its time.

Classic FM image

‘The amorous indies’ of the title is thought to refer, in a 1730s context, to exotic lands: not specifically the Indies, but anywhere suitably remote and alien to its intended audience.

Rameau was fifty-three at the time of writing and not long engaged on his course to change the face of French opera. As a result, he was willing to tinker and tweak his works, to get them exactly right. First presented in 1735 with the help of his new found patron, the wonderfully named Alexandre le Riche de la Poupelinière, it was reworked numerous times, with something changed or added on each occasion, in an attempt to get it just right. Taken alongside the operas that followed behind, Castor et Pollux and Dardanus, this was the making of Rameau, sealing his reputation.

The narrative for the opera seems rather strange now, with various smaller stories presented, one in each act (or entrée) all on the theme of love in unfamiliar climes. 

Recommended Recording  

Les Arts Florissants; William Christie (conductor). Harmonia Mundi: HMC901367/69.

Rameau: Les Indes galantes recordings