Lost operas by Jean-Philippe Rameau
Three operas by the major French 18th-century composer Jean-Philippe Rameau are known to have been lost.
Rameau intended this work on the theme of Samson and Delilah as the follow-up to his first opera Hippolyte et Aricie. Like that, Samson was a tragédie en musique in five acts. Rameau's librettist was Voltaire, a great admirer of his music, and the two began collaboration in December 1733. However, an opera on a religious subject with a libretto by such a notorious critic of the Church was bound to run into controversy. The first Biblical opera to be given publicly in France had been Montéclair's Jephté (as recently as 1732) and that had been withdrawn from the stage after only a handful of performances. In spite of this, Rameau and Voltaire ploughed on and by October 1734 most of the score was complete and parts (including Acts III and V) were given a private concert performance. After this, Rameau appears to have had second thoughts about the viability of the project and he turned his attention to composing the opéra-ballet Les Indes galantes instead. Voltaire was deeply disappointed because he believed the work was "Rameau's masterpiece". The libretto has survived, but the score has not, although Rameau reused some of the music in his later operas. Voltaire's drama had some influence on Saint-Saëns's opera Samson et Dalila.
Another tragédie en musique in five acts with a libretto by Charles-Antoine Leclerc de la Bruère. Rehearsals took place at the house of the Marquise de Villeroy some time before 1752, but when the marquise was taken ill, they were suspended. Rameau returned to find all but the libretto and the parts for the first violin had been lost or stolen in the confusion.
Lysis et Délie
A one-act pastoral opera with a libretto by Jean-François Marmontel, Lysis et Délie was billed to appear at Fontainebleau on 6 November 1753. No performance took place and the music has since been lost. The reason given for the work's withdrawal was that it was too similar to Rameau's Daphnis et Eglé.
- Girdlestone, Cuthbert, Jean-Philippe Rameau: His Life and Work, New York: Dover, 1969 (paperback edition)
- Holden, Amanda, ed., The Viking Opera Guide, New York:Viking, 1993
- Sadler, Graham, ed., The New Grove French Baroque Masters Grove/Macmillan, 1988