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Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale announce modern premiere of Rameau’s original “Le temple de la gloire” full-scale opera with Cal Performances
March 9, 2016
San Francisco, CA – Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale is planning an unprecedented season finale for its 2016/2017 Season of Heroes with the presentation of a full-scale operatic rendition of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s original version of “Le temple de la gloire.” PBO is collaborating with Cal Performances, Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles, and New York Baroque Dance Company to co-present the newly discovered original version of “La temple de la gloire” – with libretto by Voltaire – in April, 2017.
For a long time, this original version was partly lost. It has been found again in a score bought from Alfred Cortot’s holdings by the Hargrove Music Library of the University of California at Berkeley. This project has been a dream of Waverley Fund Music Director Nicholas McGegan’s since he first learned of its existence as the only copy of the original version. After Philharmonia recorded several movements from this score as part of the Rameau Orchestral Suites CD for Harmonia Mundi USA in the mid-1990s, he hoped that he would one day be able to mount the entire opera. Twenty years later, he finally has that chance. This will be the first complete and full-scale production of this original opera-ballet since its premiere in Versailles in 1745.
The version of this ballet héroïque that has been heard up until now is the second version which was substantially changed by Rameau to take into account the Parisian public’s aversion to moral maxims, and their preference for love scenes. Voltaire originally wanted this to be a philosophical reform of opera: an allegory around the idea of the temple of glory, a grandiose spectacle with moral and political overtones. This original 1745 version is much more spectacular, and its originality in the history of Enlightenment Theater calls for a twenty-first-century restaging.
Contrary to the French custom, the entire opera is set in a single space, the hall of Fame. In the prologue, Envy is chained to the throne of Glory by Apollo and the Muses. Next are the three acts of the ballet, which function dialectically. In the first act, Bélus, a bloodthirsty tyrant, is expelled from the hall of Fame by Apollo and the Muses for neglecting the people, represented by shepherds and shepherdesses. In the second act, Bacchus, an effeminate tyrant, is expelled from the hall of Fame by its Great Priest for corrupting the people. Only Trajan, in the third act, is crowned by Glory herself, not because he sought fame, but for his clemency: much like in Metastasio’s “Clemenza di Tito,” itself inspired by Corneille’s “Cinna,” Trajan forgives five disloyal kings who had rebelled against him. He then refuses to enter the hall of Fame, and prefers to transform it into the temple of Happiness for the Roman people.
Rameau’s music responds in full to the grandeur and seriousness of Voltaire’s libretto. The overture was much remarked upon at the time—this was the first time that two piccolos, two trumpets, two horns and timpani made an appearance alongside the usual grouping of strings and reed instruments. This astonishing fanfare was clearly intended to evoke the glory of military might that is the pretext for the opera.
Production design for “Le temple de la gloire” will be led by Catherine Turocy of New York Baroque Dance Company who will provide stage direction and choreography with her team including costume designer Marie Anne Chiment, set designer Scott Blake and lighting designer Pierre Dupouey.
An international cast of performing artists have signed on including Gabrielle Philiponet, soprano; Chantal Santon, soprano; Katherine Watson, soprano; Artavazd Sargsyan, haute-contre; Philippe-Nicolas Martin, baritone and Marc Labonnette, baritone. Additionally, members from Philharmonia Baroque Chorale, Bruce Lamott director, will perform as well as dancers from New York Baroque Dance Company.
Performances take place at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley CA on Friday April 28, 2017 at 8:00 pm, Saturday April 29, 2017 at 8:00 pm and Sunday, April 30, 2017 at 3:00 pm with preconcert talks currently scheduled for 45 minutes before each performance and available to all ticket holders.
Tickets to “Le temple de la gloire” will be available to both PBO and Cal Performances subscribers. PBO subscriptions are currently on sale and Cal Performances begins new subscription sales in April 2016. Single tickets for the event will go on sale in August 2016 through Cal Performances.
Cal Performances is the premier presenter of music, dance and theater in the San Francisco Bay Area, having commissioned or co-commissioned several important works in different genres: the US debut of Cecilia Bartoli, annual visits and co-commissions from Mark Morris Dance Group, annual residencies of world-class orchestras like the Vienna Philharmonic and dance companies like Alvin Ailey and Merce Cunningham. Cal Performances and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra have partnered several times with Mark Morris Dance Group on projects including “L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato,” “King Arthur,” “Dido and Aeneas,” “Acis and Galatea,” and “Platée.” Finally, since the original manuscript of “Le temple de la Gloire” has been nicknamed the “Berkeley version” due to its current location, the U.C. Berkeley-based Cal Performances is the ideal institution to co-present this modern day premiere.
Lauded by the New York Times as “America’s leading period instrument ensemble” and celebrating its 35th season, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale has been dedicated to authentic performances of Baroque, Classical and early Romantic music on original instruments since its inceptions in 1981. Under the leadership of Music Director Nicholas McGegan, Philharmonia was named Ensemble of the Year by Musical America in 2004. Celebrating his own 30th anniversary as Music Director in 2016, McGegan is regarded as one of the world’s experts in performing the music of Rameau. About the U.S. premiere of Rameau’s “Platée” given at Cal Performances, Anthony Tommasini wrote in The New York Times, “Both the humor and beauty of the score were wonderfully realized by the supple conducting of Mr. McGegan and the incisive playing of the period instrument Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.”
New York Baroque Dance Company, founded in 1976 by Catherine Turocy, specializes in producing 17th and 18th century programs ranging from street performances to fully staged operas, and is still leading the historical dance field today. There are over 60 operas in its repertoire as well as reconstructed dances and ballets choreographed in period style. Turocy and her team of designers (Scott Blake, set design; Pierre Dupouey, lighting design; and Marie Anne Chiment, costume design) have collaborated with Nicholas McGegan both as choreographer and stage director on over fifteen Handel opera productions at the International Handel Festival in Göttingen, Germany.
The Centre de musique baroque de Versailles was created in 1987 to rediscover and promote the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French musical heritage by Rameau, Charpentier, and Lully. They have constructed painted-canvas scenery, cast French opera singers, and provided some of the costumes specifically for this production, and will collaborate with different schools at the University of California, Berkeley to organize symposia in conjunction with this historic performance.