Opera Scotland

Platée Plataea

Music

Jean-Philippe Rameau (born Dijon c25 September 1683; died Paris, 12 September 1764)

Text

Adrien-Joseph Le Valois d' Orville, revised by Ballot de Sovot

Source

Play Platée, ou Junon jalouse by Jacques Autreau.

 

Premieres

First Performance: Versailles (La Grande Ecurie), 31 March 1745.

First Performance (revision): Paris (Opéra), 4 February 1749.

First Performance in UK: London (Sadler's Wells Theatre), 4 October 1983.

First Performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Festival Theatre), 11 August 1997.

Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.

 

Background

The main form baroque opera took in France was that of the tragédie lyrique, a form that included grand scenic effects and dance episodes, but was throughout deeply serious. Platée is extremely unusual in being a comedy. The title role is a travesti one, with the nymph who mistakenly considers herself beautiful being sung by a high tenor. A strange subject for a wedding entertainment, it quickly became one of Rameau's most popular works. Rameau's music is full of wit with deliberate parodies of the serious styles. While the subject might seem cruel, and politically incorrect by today's standards, the title character never loses the sympathy of the audience.

In recent decades it has also become one of the most frequently revived of Rameau's works in France. It has been rather less popular in Britain, where it was staged first as part of the English Bach Festival in 1983. The excellent Royal Opera production, mounted while the Opera House was closed for renovation, has never been performed there.

 

Main Characters

Platée, a marsh nymph (haute-contre)

Jupiter (baritone)

Junon (mezzo-soprano)

Mercure (tenor)

Cithéron (bass)

 

Plot Summary

As usual, the opera commences with an allegorical prologue. Thespis, Momus, Thalie and Amour will show the method by which means Jupiter cured his wife Juno of her constant jealousy.

In a marshland at the foot of Mount Cithaeron lives Platée. She is a marsh nymph, hideously ugly, but is convinced of her own beauty. Mercury agrees with King Cithéron a plan whereby Juno will be able to discover plans for a marriage between Jupiter and Platée, the revelation of which will lead to Juno looking ridiculous.

The scene of Jupiter's courtship of Platée shows him appearing transformed into various guises, all of which cause her increasing delight. This is followed by a grand divertissement led by Momus and La Folie. By the time Juno hears the news, the ceremony is about to take place. Platée is heavily veiled for the occasion, and the furious Juno rips the disguise away, only to collapse with laughter at the appearance of the nymph. The chastened Platée returns to her marshy homeland.

The Cast

Amour
 L'Amour, God of Love
Cithéron
 a King
Clarine
 Lizard-in-Waiting
Folie
 La Folie, Personification of Folly
Junon
 Goddess of Gods
Jupiter
 God of Gods
Mercure
 Messenger to the Gods
Momus
 Personification of Sarcasm (1)
Momus
 Personification of Sarcasm (2)
Platée
 a Naiad, or water nymph
Satyr
 Goat-man
Thalie
 Muse of Comedy
Thespis
 Inventor of Comedy

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