Les Indes galantes

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Les Indes galantes (French: “The Amorous Indies”) is a ballet héroïque by Jean-Philippe Rameau with libretto by Louis Fuzelier. The première, including only the prologue and the first two of its four entrées (acts), was given by the Académie Royale de Musique at its theatre in the Palais-Royal in Paris on 23 August 1735,[1] starring the leading singers of the Opéra, Marie Antier, Marie Pélissier (fr), Mlle Errémans, Mlle Petitpas, Denis-François Tribou, Pierre Jélyotte, and Claude-Louis-Dominique Chassé de Chinais, and the dancers Marie Sallé and Louis Dupré. Michel Blondy provided the choreography.[2] The ballet's Premier Menuet was famously used in the soundtrack of the 2006 film Marie Antoinette.[3]


On 25 November 1725, after French settlers in Illinois sent Chief Agapit Chicagou of the Metchigamea and five other chiefs to Paris, they met with Louis XV, and Chicagou had a letter read pledging allegiance to the crown. They later danced three kinds of dances in the Théâtre-Italien , inspiring Rameau to compose his rondeau Les Sauvages.[4]

Performance history[edit]

The premiere met with quite a lukewarm reception from the audience[5] and, at the third performance, a new entrée was added under the title Les Fleurs. This was however a further cause of discontent on account of its showing the hero disguised as a woman, which was seen either as an absurdity[1] or as an indecency: thus it was given its first revision which was staged on 11 September.[2] Notwithstanding these initial problems, the first run went on for a good 28 performances between 23 August and 25 October,[6] when, however, only 281 livres were grossed, the lowest amount ever collected at the box office by Les Indes galantes.[2]

Nevertheless, when it was mounted again on 10 (or 11) March 1736, a very large audience flocked to the theatre resulting in "prodigious" takings.[7] The entrée des Fleurs had been "replaced with a version in which the plot and all the music except the divertissement was new",[1] and a fourth entrée, Les Sauvages, had been added, in which Rameau reused the famous air des Sauvages he had composed in 1725 on the occasion of the American Indian chiefs' visit and later included in the Nouvelles Suites de pièces de clavecin (1728). Having so taken up something like a definitive form,[8] the opera enjoyed 6 performances in March and was then mounted again as of 27 December.[2] Further revivals were held in 1743-1744, 1751 and 1761 for a combined total of 185 billings.[6] The work was also given in Lyon on 23 November 1741, at the theatre of the Jeu de Paume de la Raquette Royale, and again in 1749/1750, on the initiative of Rameau's brother-in-law, Jean-Philippe Mangot.[2] Furthermore, the prologue and individual entrées were often revived separately and given within the composite operatic programs called 'fragments' or 'spectacles coupés' (cut up representations) that "were almost constant fare at the Palais-Royal in the second half of the eighteenth century".[9] The prologue, Les Incas and Les Sauvages were last given respectively in 1771 (starring Rosalie Levasseur, Gluck's future favourite soprano, in the role of Hebé), 1772 and 1773 (also starring Levasseur as Zima).[1] Thenceforth Les Indes galantes was dropped from the Opéra's repertoire, after having seen almost every artiste of the company in the previous forty years take part in its complete or partial performances.[6]

In the twentieth century the Opéra-Comique presented the first version of the Entrée des Fleurs, with a new orchestration by Paul Dukas, on 30 May 1925, in a production conducted by Maurice Frigara,[6] with Yvonne Brothier as Zaïre, Antoinette Reville as Fatima, Miguel Villabella as Tacmas and Emile Rousseau as Ali.[citation needed]

Finally, Les Indes galantes was revived by the Opéra itself, at the Palais Garnier, with the Dukas orchestration supplemented for the other entrées by Henri Busser, on 18 June 1952:[6] the production, managed by the Opéra's own director, Maurice Lehmann and conducted by Louis Fourestier,[2] was notable for the lavishness of its staging[1] and enjoyed as many as 236 performances by 29 September 1961.[6] The sets were by André Arbus (fr) and Jacques Dupont (1909 - 1978) (prologue and finale), Georges Wakhevitch (first entrée), Jean Carzou (second entrée), Henri Raymond Fost (1905-1970) and Maurice Moulène (third entrée) and Roger Chapelain-Midy (fr) (fourth entrée); the choreography was provided by Albert Aveline (1883-1968) (first entrée), Serge Lifar (second and fourth entrées) and Harald Lander (third entrée).[2]

In the 1st Entrée ("The Gracious Turk"), Jacqueline Brumaire sang Emilie, Jean Giraudeau was Valère and Hugo Santana was Osman; the dancers were Mlle Bourgeois and M Legrand. In the 2nd Entrée, ("The Incas of Peru"), Marisa Ferrer was Phani, Georges Noré was don Carlos, and René Bianco was Huascar, while Serge Lifar danced alongside Vyroubova and Bozzoni. The 3rd Entrée, ("The Flowers") had Janine Micheau as Fatima, side by side with Denise Duval as Zaïre. Giraudeau was Tacmas and Jacques Jansen, the famous Pelléas, was Ali, with Mlle Bardin dancing as the Rose, Mlle Dayde as the Butterfly, Ritz as Zéphir and Renault as a Persian. The 4th Entrée, ("The Savages of America"), had Mme Géori Boué, as Zima, with José Luccioni as Adario, Raoul Jobin as Damon and Roger Bourdin as don Alvar. The dancing for this act was executed by Mlles Darsonval, Lafon and Guillot and Messieurs Kalioujny and Efimoff.[citation needed]


Les Indes Galantes
title page of the 1736 libretto
Role Voice type Premiere Cast,
23 August 1735
(Conductor: - )
Hébé soprano Mlle Eremans (also spelled Erremans)
L' Amour soprano en travesti Mlle Petitpas
Bellone baritone en travesti Cuignier
Act 1
Emilie soprano Marie Pélissier
Valère haute-contre Pierre Jélyotte
Osman baritone Jean Dun "fils"
Act 2
Phani soprano Marie Antier
Don Carlos haute-contre Pierre Jélyotte
Huascar bass Claude-Louis-Dominique Chassé de Chinais
Act 3 (first version: August/September 1735)
Fatime soprano Mlle Petitpas
Zaïre soprano Mlle Eremans
Tacmas haute-contre Denis-François Tribou
Ali baritone Person
Act 3 (second version: 10 March 1736)
Fatime soprano Mlle Petitpas
Atalide soprano Mlle Eremans
Tacmas haute-contre Denis-François Tribou
Roxane soprano Mlle Bourbonnais
Act 4 (10 March 1736)
Zima soprano Marie Pélissier
Adario tenor (taille) Louis-Antoine Cuvillier (or Cuvilier or Cuvelier)
Damon haute-contre Pierre Jélyotte
Don Alvar bass Jean Dun "fils"



Hébé and Bellone extol the pleasures of a personified Amour (Love).

Entrée I - Le turc généreux (The Gracious Turk)[edit]

Valère has been roaming the world seeking his love, Emilie, captured by Valere's former servant Osman. When he finds them both, a repentant Osman releases his captive so that she may be reunited with her former lover.

Entrée II - Les incas du Pérou (The Incas of Peru)[edit]

Represents the rivalry of the Inca Huascar and the Spaniard Don Carlos, both in pursuit of Princess Phani. A wonderful eruption of a volcano is the central moment of this act.

Entrée III - Les fleurs (The Flowers)[edit]

  • First version.

A Persian love intrigue in which Prince Tacmas is in love with his favourite, Ali's, slave Zaïre. Tacmas's slave Fatime in turn is in love with Ali. The two men eventually exchange slaves and both couples take part in the festival of flowers.

  • Second Version.

Sultana Fatima suspects her husband Tacmas of being cheating on her with Atalide; she therefore disguises herself as a slave succeeding in gaining Atalide's confidence and has to eventually recognize the groundlessness of her suspicions. The happy couple take part in the festival of flowers.[1]

Entrée IV - Les sauvages (The Savages)[edit]

The setting is Illinois, where Don Alvar, a Spaniard, and Damon, a Frenchman, compete for the love of Zima, daughter of a native chief, who prefers one of her own people.


  • Soloists, chorus and orchestra conducted by Jean-Claude Malgoire (recorded in 1973) on 3 Columbia LPs, ASIN: B006DQL43W
  • Gerda Hartman, Jennifer Smith (sopranos); Louis Devos, John Elwes (tenors); Philippe Huttenlocher (baritone). The Ensemble Vocal à Coeur-Joie de Valence and the Orchestre Jean-François Paillard, Valence conducted by Jean-François Paillard (recorded in 1974). ERATO 4509-95310-2
  • Miriam Ruggeri (soprano), Bernard Delétré (bass), Howard Crook (tenor), Nicolas Rivenq (baritone), Noémi Rime (soprano), Sandrine Piau (soprano), Jean-Paul Fouchécourt (tenor), Jérôme Corréas (baritone), Isabelle Poulenard (soprano), Claron McFadden (soprano). The Ensemble of Les Arts Florissants conducted by William Christie (recorded in 1991). Duration 3 hours 13 mins. Harmonia Mundi 901367
  • Nathan Berg, Valérie Gabail, Nicolas Cavallier, Patricia Petibon, Paul Agnew, Jaël Azzaretti, Danielle de Niese, Anna Maria Panzarella, Nicolas Rivenq. The Ensemble of Les Arts Florissants conducted by William Christie (filmed in 2003 in Paris). Released on 2 DVDs. BBC/Opus Arte Catalog No. 923
  • Valérie Gabail, Stéphanie Révidat, Reinoud Van Mechelen, François-Nicolas Geslot, Aimery Lefèvre, Sydney Fierro, Chorus and Orchestra of La Simphonie du Marais, conducted by Hugo Reyne (Musiques à la Charbotterie, 3 CDs, 2014)

Separately, Camille Maurane (on Philips) and Gérard Souzay (on Decca) have left recorded performances of Huascar's Invocation au Soleil from the Peruvian Entrée, a seminal piece in the history of French musical drama.



  1. ^ a b c d e f Sadler
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Le magazine de l'opéra baroque.
  3. ^ http://www.what-song.com/Movies/Soundtrack/175/Marie-Antoinette
  4. ^ Indiana University Archives
  5. ^ Pitou, article: Les Indes galantes, p. 285; Le magazine de l'opéra baroque.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Pitou, article: Les Indes galantes, pp. 285-287.
  7. ^ "Le samedi 10 mars 1736, pour la Capitation des acteurs et avec un concours prodigieux" ("Mercure de France", as quoted by Thédore de Lajarte, Bibliothèque Musicale du Théatre de l'Opéra. Catalogue Historique, Chronologique, Anecdotique, Paris, Librairie des bibliophiles, 1878, I, p. 176, accessible for free online at Internet Archive). The performances "pour la Capitation des acteurs" were extraordinary benefit representations whose takings were intended to help artistes pay the capitation tax that applied to (almost) all French subjects (Solveig Serre, « Capitations », galas, gratis ... Les représentations exceptionnelles de l'Opéra de Paris à la fin de l'Ancien Régime.. La sortie au spectacle (XIXe-XXe siècles) : le cas français, HAL, 2010, France, <halshs-00586863>).
  8. ^ "In the course of many revivals, however, the number and order of entrées was frequently altered" (Sadler).
  9. ^ Pitou, article: Spectacle coupé, p. 502.


  • Spire Pitou, The Paris Opéra - An Encyclopedia of Operas, Ballets, Composers, and Performers - Rococo and Romantic 1715-1815, Westport (Connecticut), Greenwood Press, 1985 (ISBN 0-313-24394-8)
  • Graham Sadler, Indes galantes, Les, in Stanley Sadie (ed), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Grove (Oxford University Press), New York, 1997, II, pp. 795–796. ISBN 978-0-19-522186-2
  • Stéphane Wolff, L' Opéra au Palais Garnier, 1875-1962 Paris, Entr'acte, 1962.

Online sources

External links[edit]