With this publication as part of the Rameau Complete Edition, a reliable version is now available for performances of the important opéra-ballet Les Indes galantes.
A complicated reconstruction
Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opéra-ballet Les Indes galantes, which had fallen into complete oblivion in the 19th century and was staged in the 20th century in various arrangements, is now regarded as probably Rameau’s most important stage work. It is the first of his six opéras-ballets and as such was subject to considerable reworkings during the composer’s lifetime. Reconstructing the work was correspondingly challenging. But now it’s complete: for the first time since Rameau’s lifetime the new edition of With this publication as part of the Rameau Complete Edition, a reliable version is now available for performances of the important opéra-ballet Les Indes galantes, published as part of the Opera omnia de Rameau, reconstructs a version of this major work which Rameau himself regarded as definitive – with regard to both the order of the entrées and their content. The 1736 version was selected for this edition in the order: Prologue (without the episode of L’Amour), Le Turc généreux, Les Incas du Pérou, Les Fleurs and Les Sauvages, which were added in March 1736. And so, the main part of the opera appears in a coherent version, in line with the adjustments made for the first performances. The only exception to this editorial choice is the earthquake (Tremblement de terre) in the Incas du Pérou, which is reproduced in the main music text in its original version of 1735. This difficult, previously unpublished version was rejected during the first rehearsals, because the performers regarded this imaginative music as unplayable, and Rameau felt forced to rework it into more typical music. With the introduction of the original version of the “Tremblement de terre” it should be possible, and justifiably so, to reveal Rameau’s genius once more. The chronology of the four entrées of 1736 is identical with the revival of 1743, with the exception that Les Incas du Pérou was exchanged at that time for Le Turc généreux.
About the order
An overview of the order of the entrées (see below) shows that there was never a fixed configuration, leaving aside the fact that from 28 August 1735, Les Fleurs always appeared in its revised version and the Incas du Pérou always occurred in second or third place. Les Sauvages was always a constant insofar that this section always concluded the opera after it was introduced, except in July 1761 when Les Fleurs followed. These many interventions make clear that the ballet as a genre had a really variable structure, and gave interpreters great freedom; it is difficult to give preference to one compilation over another.
All other previous and subsequent versions compared with that of 1736 are reproduced in this edition in twenty appendices, with a piano reduction and orchestral material where applicable. The Appendix also contains the original version of the prologue with the episode of Amour and the first version of Les Fleurs (both of which were rejected as early as five days after the premiere), the simplified version of the “Tremblement de terre” of 1736 from the Incas du Pérou and all other alterations from 1743, 1751 and 1761.
In order to reconstruct the complex history of the composition of With this publication as part of the Rameau Complete Edition, a reliable version is now available for performances of the important opéra-ballet Les Indes galantes, it was necessary to examine more than twenty sources (music and libretti), including one full score and two parts in particular which had been used at the first performances and some of the following revivals, and which have miraculously survived. As the full score contains numerous incomplete sections, these had been rather arbitrarily reconstructed in modern editions. However, the missing sections were largely found beneath the pastings over in the parts. With the assistance of the Conservation Department at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, which removed all the pastings over, it was possible to make the music visible once more. By studying the coloured annotations and the paper types it was then possible to assign each of the pastings over to one version of the work and to distinguish those which were, in fact, cut, from those which reproduce the 1735 status of the work.
What explanation can be given for these differences between the score and the individual parts? It is fair to assume that at the time, the (now missing) autograph manuscript was used for copying the orchestral parts and, in the same way, to prepare the score for the conductor. We have to imagine that after Rameau and the conductor had revised the work during rehearsals, in the evenings the copyist at the Opéra, Brice Lallemand, continued to write out a fair copy of Rameau’s manuscript and in the process, to make alterations which for the most part had been made during the day. This hypothesis would explain the fact that in Lallemand’s copy, rejected sections were either crossed out or (especially in the Prologue) pasted over, that a few passages which were found to be too difficult (in the soprano and bass) were only partially notated and simplified (such as the “Tremblement de terre” in the Incas du Pérou) and that finally other parts (particularly in Les Fleurs) are missing entirely. The urgency was so great that in Les Fleurs Brice Lallemand did not have time either to complete the figured bass from the first version or to make a fair copy of the second version, so that Rameau wrote them into the conductor’s score himself.
The alterations which were made during the revivals are so essential and complex that it is not possible to describe them here in detail. All in all, this new edition of Les indes galantes differs so considerably from the well-known editions that it also clearly differs from the recordings of this Ballet héroïque. On the one hand, the twenty appendices (approximately 120 pages of score) will provide those who are curious with plenty of material to study or perform the many differences. But above all, for the first time this publication provides an authoritative basis for interpreters who want to perform a version of the work which Rameau himself established, in all its stylistic and theatrical coherence.
(translation: Elizabeth Robinson)
(from [t]akte 1/2016)