Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Les Indes Gallantes

Some wonderful, kind, beautiful, public-spirited, good-natured person has uploaded the whole of Les Indes Gallantes by Rameau, the 18th-century French composer, to YouTube. It's a Paris Opera and the Opera Ballet production; it was written as an opera-ballet, and it's an all-singing, all-dancing production, vividly coloured throughout, joyful, lively, visually inventive and sometimes ridiculously funny. Three hours of it, and I wanted more. Music played by Les Arts Gallantes with William Christie, one of the best period instrument ensembles. Subtitles in English. I'm going to have to buy the double DVD because of the music, and because it's such fine entertainment, exactly the cure for a cold, dark wet winter afternoon. 

Sadly, this upload has cut out the encore, in which the entire cast and the conductor sing and dance to the best dance number in the piece. Generally the style of dance is basic modern ballet, but the choreography throws in stuff from popular dance, silly disco moves and all. There is also a stream from which includes this encore. The subtitles to this version are in Russian, although it hardly matters, as the sense is pretty clear. But both the YouTube and Balletoman versions suffer from poor synch of sound and image.

Balletoman is organised by a Russian dancer and gives access to hundreds of dance videos: literally dozens of versions of the classics like Swan Lake, but there's a substantial amount of contemporary choreography there too, including, for instance, the whole of Pina Bausch's Vollmond (the one with the big rock and a lot of water). Also contemporary versions of the classics: Mats Ek's version of Sleeping Beauty is a great retelling of the old classic.  

'Les Indes Gallantes': they are well-behaved in exotic lands. It fascinated me that in a 1735 libretto a French and a Spanish conquistador are shown as clowns. They are clowns in this production, and the script is clear; they try to bribe the Indian princess, and when this doesn't work they try to force her. She outwits them and laughs: she has thoughts only for her lover. People from exotic countries could be more 'gallant' than the French and Spanish.

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