We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Jean-Philippe Rameau
Our sole exposure to Rameau's operas had been a delightful performance of Platée at the New York City Opera in 2004 and a somewhat less delightful one at the Santa Fe Opera in 2007.  We had enjoyed the music and therefore looked forward to hearing more of it last night when Juilliard 415, a period instrument group directed by Robert Mealy (who plays first violin in the ensemble) presented excerpts from two of his other operas.  The first half of the program was devoted to the 1737 Castor et Pollux and the second half to the 1739 Dardanus, both having been written before Platée.

The ensemble comprises mostly strings with a harpsichord, a pair of flutes, a pair of oboes and a pair of bassoons, none of which resemble their modern counterparts.  A theorbo was also featured which resembles nothing.  Rameau was considered radical in his day and made notable advances over the music of Lully.  He produced a wealth of instrumental music but did not start composing operas until the age of 50.  We found much to like in his daring harmonies and wide variation of mood in the dance forms which made up much of the sequence of numbers.  We confess to ignorance of Passepieds, Tambourins, Rigaudons, Gavottes and Chaconnes but would have been happy to have seen one of the city's baroque dance companies illustrate them.

There was no such lack in the vocal department.  Sopranos Pureum Jo and Mary Feminear, baritone John Brancy and bass-baritone Davone Tines performed with skill and emotional investment.  Most of the arias were laments but some were joyful.  The end result was a most pleasant evening and a feeling of having only scratched the surface of this major musical force.

(c) meche kroop

No comments:

Post a Comment