It is with immense pleasure that I announce two exciting new phases of the Rameau Project taking place in 2021 and beyond: performances of the original version of Castor et Pollux (1737) and the writing of a much-needed guidebook on performing Rameau’s operas. These are made possible by a significant donation from Mrs Aline Foriel-Destezet, whose generous help has been an essential part of the Rameau Project’s many activities since 2014. Everyone at the Rameau Project extends our heartfelt thanks to Mrs Foriel-Destezet for her continued support and encouragement.
Rameau’s Rising Stars: performing Castor et Pollux
This ambitious project involving some 100 singers, instrumentalists and dancers – as well as a director Guido Martin-Brandis and his theatre team – will bring to life Rameau’s third opera, Castor et Pollux. The libretto is written by soldier-turned-poet Gentil-Bernard and is one of the strongest to be set by Rameau. It tells how Jupiter rewards the twin brothers with immortality, transforming them into twin stars destined to be an eternal and shining example of filial love. Inspiring Rameau to some of his finest music, Castor et Pollux was rightly hailed as his ‘crowning achievement’.
Fascinatingly, there exist two quite different versions of Castor. The original, composed in 1737 and much influenced by Voltaire, presents Rameau’s new vision of what France’s most prestigious art form could be. Provocative and challenging, it sustained Rameau’s status as the fifty-something enfant terrible of French opera. (Astonishingly the score is yet to be published in modern times.) The second version of some eighteen years later – much reworked to reflect changing tastes and approaches – was performed in 1754 to unanimous acclaim. (It is this later version, sung in English, which formed the basis for ENO’s 2012 production, the only performance of Castor et Pollux in the UK during the past 40 or more years).
The Rising Stars project will involve performances of both versions. In 2022 we begin with the premiere of my new edition of the 1737 version, currently being prepared. It is proving to be a captivating task, requiring the reconstruction of numerous parts missing from the only extant source, a partition réduite (a kind of ‘short score’) published by Rameau in 1737. Performances of the better-known 1754 version in Denis Herlin’s new Bärenreiter edition will follow. Crucially our performances will be given with the same large team of singers, orchestral players, dancers and director; the shared experience will, we hope, provide unique insights into the changing aesthetics of opera composition and reception in mid-eighteenth-century France.
More details about workshops and performances will follow very soon. Meanwhile, do please contact me for any information!