When Rameau died in 1764, the Mercure de France concluded its epitaph to him with the words ‘Here lies the God of Harmony’. In many ways he defined 18th-century French music, publishing his widely influential Treaty on Harmony in 1722. He was known as the leading music theorist of his time and as the composer of numerous works for the keyboard before he made a thrilling late career shift and turned his hand to opera.
Hippolyte et Aricie was Rameau’s first work for the stage, written when he was nearly 50. It is also Glyndebourne’s first opera by Rameau and will strike audiences, as it did in Paris in 1733, with its richness of invention.
This production reunites the team who created such a dazzling entertainment with Purcell’s The Fairy Queen: conductor William Christie, a leading exponent of the Baroque repertoire, director Jonathan Kent and designer Paul Brown. They are joined by choreographer Ashley Page making his Glyndebourne debut. Dance is integral to this opera, acting as a counterpoint to the unfolding story of a woman who falls in love with her stepson, a man who jumps to the wrong conclusions and is pursued by fate, and the uncertain destiny of two young lovers.
Rameau drew on ancient Greek tragedy and 17th-century classical French drama to create a version of the story of Theseus, Phaedra and Hippolytus that is his own unique construct. In a welcome return to Glyndebourne, the pivotal role of Phèdre is performed by Sarah Connolly.
Recorded live at Glyndebourne Opera House, Festival 2013.