Donald Macleod discusses Rameau's favourite singers at the Paris Opera and the roles he wrote to show off their vocal talents.
Donald Macleod continues his series marking the 250th anniversary of Jean-Philippe Rameau's death by taking a look at the roles Rameau created for his favourite singers.
Controversy was never far away from Jean-Philippe Rameau. He lived a long life, amid the lively cultural and aesthetic debates that erupted in France after music was freed from Jean-Baptiste Lully's artistic monopoly. An octogenarian at his death in 1764, Rameau was by then a prosperous and successful opera composer. Unlike his contemporaries, Bach, Handel and Scarlatti, Rameau was something of a later starter. Born in Dijon, he spent the first part of his life in the provinces, working in relative obscurity. He didn't make his name until the age of 50 when he conquered the stage in Paris. What followed was a remarkable burst of creativity, amounting to about a hundred works, in addition to the prolific publication of original theoretical writing.
Today Donald reflects on the considerable vocal challenges Rameau set his singers and discusses the close relationship between music and dance in his stage works, with Dr. Jonathan Williams, founder of The Rameau Project at the University of Oxford, whose activities this year include preparing and performing two of Rameau's operas, Zaïs and Anacréon.