This film was shown by Artsworld in its Birth of Opera series. It's easy to think of Rameau's operas as early examples of the genre but Les Boréades was written in 1763, more than 100 years after Montiverdi's masterpieces. It comes after all of Handel's operas and only predates Mozart's works by a few years. Perhaps it is better to think of Rameau's operas as belonging to an evolutionary dead-end. They consist of long, flowing vocal lines that are very recitative-like. Instead of arias there are usually dance numbers. It is tempting to think that if they had lifts in the 18th century, Rameau's music would have been played in them. If they had phones in the 18th century, Rameau's music would have been played while you were on hold.
The libretto is about the weather. Alphise is Princess of a warm summery country but tradition demands she marry one of the Boréades, descendants of the north wind. We get lots of contrasts between scantily-clad people frolicking in the sun and people in overcoats holding umbrellas. Barbara Bonney plays Alphise in what is, for her, an unusually mannered performance. The tenor, Paul Agnew plays her lover Abaris and is more successful at turning Rameau's vocal lines into interesting music.
The disaster of this production is the use of the modern dance group La La La Human Steps for most of the dance numbers. Their twitchy choreography was a real turn-off. They looked like demented grasshoppers in Marks and Spencer's underwear.
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