Les "Indes dansantes"
Composed in 1735, Les Indes Galantes is certainly the best-known of Jean-Philippe Rameau's stage works.
It is also one of the high points of a genre which was extremely fashionable in the first half of the 18th century: the opéra-ballet. "...symphonies combined with airs, ariettas, recitatives, duets, quartets and choruses, a prologue; the first three entrées, which make up in total 80 individual pieces, from which I have made four suites in different keys: the symphonies are transcribed as harpsichord pieces, and the ornaments are as those in my other harpsichord works, not that it prevents them being played on other instruments as one has only to always take the highest notes for the top line and the lowest for the bass. Those which are too high for the cello can be played an octave lower. While no-one has yet heard the new entrée des Sauvages which I add here to the first three I have risked presenting it complete. I will be happy if success responds to my attentions!" Jean-Philippe Rameau, Avertissement des Indes Galantes.
And successful it was. Seven parodies of Les Indes Galantes were subsequently performed at the Opéra-Comique and the Théâtre Italienne: Les Indes chantantes, Les Indes dansantes, Les Amours des Indes... It is true that intrigue and characterisation take a back seat in sumptuous productions where sets, costumes and machinery provide a magnificent showcase for dance.
The four danced acts, Le Turc généreux, Les Incas du Pérou, Les fleurs and Les Sauvages, offer the spectator a succession of exotic tableaux without the need to seek any real dramatic coherence. Tambourins, gavottes, menuets and chaconnes follow each other in orchestral writing which is virtuosic and richly coloured.
Adopting this very baroque freedom to make use of a score for whichever musical forces are at hand, to adapt a work for a particular circumstance, the Ambronay Baroque Academy has asked Hervé Niquet to conceive a framework from the acts of Les Indes Galantes to produce our own 21st century ‘Indes dansants'. A delicate balance between the original score with its exquisite timbres, and the integration of vocal and choral passages into the instrumental transcriptions, which the direction of French music specialist Hervé Niquet is perfectly placed to deliver. An approach which is at the same time artistic, musical, impertinent and musicologically aware, which finds its counterpart in the choreographic stylings of Nathalie Pernette.