Rameau, opera selections

Jean-Philippe Rameau, selections from three operas

“Orage” from Platée
“Entrée” from Act 4 of Les Boréades
“Forêts paisibles” from Les Indes Galantes


Recorded Aug. 13, 2016 at City of Lights concert
Trinity Episcopal Church, Staunton, VA
Duration: 13’03”


SMF Baroque Players, conducted by Carsten Schmidt
with Molly Quinn (soprano) and Peter Walker (bass) in “Forêts paisibles”



Forêts paisibles, jamais un vain désir ne trouble ici nos coeurs.
S’ils sont sensibles, Fortune, ce n’est pas au prix de tes faveurs.
Dans nos retraites,
Grandeur, ne viens jamais offrir tes faux attraits!
Ciel, tu les as faites
Pour l’innocence et pour la paix.
Jouissons dans nos asiles,
Jouissons des biens tranquilles!
Ah! peut-on être heureux,
Quand on forme d’autres voeux?

Peaceful forests, mever (may) a vain desire trouble here our hearts.
If they are sensitive, Fortune, it is not at the price of your favours.
In our retreats,
Greatness, never come to offer your false attractions!
Heaven, you have made them
For innocence and for peace.
Let’s enjoy our refuges,
Let’s enjoy peaceful things.
Ah! Can one be happy
When one has other wishes?


Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) was born and raised in Dijon. His first taste of success—a publication of harpsichord works—came during a short residency in the French capital, which would become his permanent home in 1722. That year coincided with his second important publication, A Treatise on Harmony, for which Rameau has been best known ever since. His reputation as an opera composer blossomed only later, after his 50th birthday. As such, these dramas enjoy the fruits of Rameau’s long maturation. Indeed, there are no operas later than Les Boréades, which was in rehearsal in 1763 but never publicly performed. No one knows for certain why this opera was not performed until after Rameau’s death, but quarrels over musical style would not be impossible. Years earlier Rameau represented one side in a famous pamphleteer battle between the devotées of French and Italian operatic style. Tonight we will hear excerpts from Platée, Les Boréades and Les Indes Galantes (1735), three of Rameau’s most popular works. We’ll allow the listener to judge if the French language can support naturally beautiful melodies, as Rameau and others firmly believed; or if, in the words of its harshest opponent (ironically enough, French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau), “French singing is only continual barking.”

© Jason Stell, 2016