Pastorale héroique in one prologue and four acts( 1748)
Music by Jean-Philippe Rameau
Libretto by Louis de Cahusac
Concertante performance in French
Friday, 17 April 2015, 7 pm
Conductor: Christophe Rousset
With Julian Pregardien, Sandrine Piau et al.
Choeur de Chambre de Namur
Les Talens Lyriques
In coproduction with the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles
Jean-Philippe Rameau wrote Zaïs in 1748 for the Paris Opera. A short time before, the composer had been appointed compositeur du cabinet du roi and in the following years produced a series of lighter, more entertaining opera ballets of which Zaïs was one. However, this does not mean that Rameau abandoned his own aim of redefining French opera. The eponymous hero, Zaïs, is a spirit of the air who is in a love relationship with the mortal shepherdess Zelidie. To test her fidelity, he subjects her to several trials, all of which she passes faultlessly. Eventually, she is granted immortality by Oromazès, king of the spirits, and Zaïs can marry her. The opera contains some of the most beautiful passages in French music, and was a remarkable success right from its very first performance. The overture and prologue were singled out for particular praise and discussion: in them, the possibilities of music are used to portray how the mighty Oromazès separates the elements and creates harmony in the world. Some contemporaries found the musical chaos too realistic, because it was too dissonant, while others were full of praise for the unconventional harmonies Rameau used to evoke the creation of the Earth.