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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

In Context: Rameau maître à danser

Photo: Philippe Delval

Widely considered among the foremost interpreters of early-music for modern audiences, celebrated conductor William Christie and his acclaimed ensemble Les Arts Florissants present two pastoral opera-ballets that burst with the sensuous promise of spring. Originally penned by 18th-century French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau for the court of Louis XV, these enchanting operatic miniatures, La naissance d'Osiris and Daphnis et Églé, served as both a symbol of the court’s opulence and a source of evening entertainment. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below, and on social media using #Rameau.

Program Notes


“Everyone Danced in France”: A Baroque Bourrée Comes to BAM (The New York Times)
An exploration of the use of various dancing styles in opera-ballets like Rameau, maître à danser and in other 17th- and 18th-century French opera forms.

Les Arts Florissants and BAM: A 30-Year Romance (BAM Blog)
Highlights from 30 years of baroque operas, many of them seldom heard or seen, that Les Arts Florissants brought to BAM, beginning with Atys in 1989. Includes audio and video.

Rameau Redux: Why the French Composer Deserves Our Attention (WQXR)
This case for why modern audiences should rediscover and appreciate Jean-Philippe Rameau includes quotes from Claude Debussy as well Rameau’s 1722 Traité de l’harmonie.

From the Archives
Featured Collection: Les Arts Florissants at BAM (BAM Archives)
Photographs, programs, and other archival materials from Les Arts Florissants’ many appearances at BAM.

Watch & Listen

William Christie: A Modern Maestro (BAM YouTube)
“How do you give music life? And how do you give old music new eloquence?” asks William Christie in this short documentary that takes a look at his and Les Arts Florissants’ love of baroque music.

A Closer Look: Sophie Daneman on Rameau, maître à danser (BAM YouTube)
Stage director Sophie Daneman comments on the uniqueness of the opera-ballet and the sense of community that she sought to create in Rameau, maître à danser.

Les Arts Florissants recordings (
Listen to Les Arts Florissants’ extensive recording archive, searchable by composer.

Now your turn...

What did you think? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below and on social media using #Rameau.

© 2019 Brooklyn Academy of Music, Inc. All rights reserved.


  1. I enjoyed the performance but was initially wondering when the actual dancing would start. It did, of course, but it took a while for me to become fully engaged with the program. Overall,the music was joyful and delightful to hear.

  2. It was a wonderful program. But where was the diversity? Where were the singers and dancers of color?

  3. I enjoyed the singing and dancing overall. The two stories were a bit too much alike though, both cheerful tributes to LOVE. One darker piece might have made for a more interesting evening. But I was horribly embarrassed by the woman to my left, who booed loudly and yelled "Shame" at the curtain calls. Unless the production is completely inept, no one deserves that!

  4. In the past I have been often been thrilled by Mr. Christie's concerts and operas. Some have been all time greatest musical experiences. Last night at BAM was pleasant, but that was all. I have to damn it with faint praise.

  5. Fluff of the first water. If you like your theatre chock-a-block with toes that twinkle and plenty of periwinkle then this is the ticket for you. But if you love to listen to baroque music expertly performed, as I do, then it might behoove you to just stay home and listen to a recording; if you prefer to hear it live there are plenty of professional venues in town that offer terrific period music performances. Someone above bemoaned the "wonderful program" that lacked diversity and performers of color. Perhaps Mr. Christie couldn't find any "singers and dancers of color" who would willfully be a part of an endeavor so inane. Just for the record, I attended Les Arts Florissants' marvelous last appearance at BAM (Les Fetes venitiennes) and was deeply impressed with the entire production. But this is an eye-rollingly silly affair that assumes (probably because of Mr. Christie's reputation) that patrons with even half a brain would come away sufficiently moved or, at the very least, entertained, and they would be correct, for at the end there are the obligatory and predictable (and delirious) BAM ovations.

  6. Very disappointing dance & theatrical content. Considering the richness of french baroque dance vocabulary and considering the fullness of previous Christie/Les Arts Florissants presentations, I was shocked by how underdeveloped & one dimensional this was. perhaps this should have been music concert offered with less pretension and less costly ticket prices.

  7. A few flashes of vintage Les Arts Florissants, but overall, I was disappointed by the level of performance. Magali Léger, in particular, sounded strained, had intonation problems, and made for painful listening. None of the soloists, even the usually excellent Reinoud Van Mechelen, sounded at ease. The orchestra was below its best, with sometimes-sluggish ensemble playing, and out of tune oboes. The two one-act opera-ballets are not exactly Rameau's best work, and it would take a better performance than this to make up for the silly, inconsequential plots. The dancing, however, was better than the singing.

    Hope to see them back in one of their magnificent fully-staged productions, like Les Fêtes Vénitiennes a couple of years ago!

  8. It was a lackluster performance; nothing in this whole production justified the high price of the tickets.

  9. This was my first time coming to the opera and this performance was very entertaining and enjoyable next time i will not sit in the balcony. I really enjoyed the show bravo.

  10. Not very interesting. Dancers were fabulous but I had to search for their names, and no bios! For better staging, dancing, and singing bring Boston Early Music Festival.

  11. Rameau's music is extremely beautiful and delicate, although not at all dramatic. These two pieces are sort of Pastoral-Ballet, with almost no plot at all, like a Watteau painting reincarnated into music. It seemed to me that the ability to appreciate and understand and truly enjoy this kind of art had waned much before the 19th century, maybe even at the middle of the 18th century, when these works were written and performed, of course, not to the general public. Behind these faux-shepherds and shepherdess one cannot avoid hearing the menacing drumroll of the coming revolution...
    The orchestra played well but suffered from the too-wide-space of the BAM hall. Nevertheless I enjoyed the first violin's playing, the wonderful bassoon, the elegant continuo and irresistible musette, played by the great François Lazarevitch. I wished a better performance though from the principal oboe player.
    The staging was OK. Daneman (an excellent singer!) doesn't have the vision and talent of, say, Benjamin Lazar, but she has grace and respect to the score. Dancers were really terrific, and the late Françoise Denieau choreography was pure and simple. Singers: most were good, especially the lovely Élodie Fonnard and the impressive Reinoud Van Mechelen.
    All in all: we're happy (heureux!) we made it all the way from Philly.

  12. Disappointing. I've seen Les Arts many times at BAM over the years and have thoroughly enjoyed the performances...up until this one. Rather than repeat many of the critical comments mentioned above with which I agree, I'd like to add something which has not been mentioned above, that of the orchestral sound. Putting the orchestra way back on stage adversely affected the sound of this wonderful orchestra. The sound got lost in the proscenium causing the orchestra to sound muted or dull. Perhaps a better designed acoustic shell could have projected the sound forward and alleviated the problems. But why not put the orchestra in the pit as was done years ago when a fully staged opera was performed?

  13. I went twice and would gladly have heard the program a third time. The two leads were some of the finest period singers and actors I've encountered and it was nice to see Bill Christie embrace some period elements in his stagings. Plenty of minor quibbles (please dance the dances, don't have the chorus mill around on stage), but overall an entrancing pair or rarities.


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