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 premiere, including only the prologue and the first two of its four entrées (acts), was staged 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 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. 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 a lukewarm reception from the audience[5] and, at the third performance, a new entrée was added under the title Les Fleurs. However, this caused further discontent because it showed the hero disguised as a woman, which was viewed either as an absurdity[1] or as an indecency. As a result, it was revised for the first time and this version was staged on 11 September.[2] Notwithstanding these initial problems, the first run went on for twenty-eight 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).

Now in something approaching a definitive form,[8] the opera enjoyed six 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 performed in Lyon on 23 November 1741, at the theatre of the Jeu de Paume de la Raquette Royale, and again in 1749/1750, at 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 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
Entrée I
Emilie soprano Marie Pélissier
Valère haute-contre Pierre Jélyotte
Osman baritone Jean Dun "fils"
Entrée II
Phani soprano Marie Antier
Don Carlos haute-contre Pierre Jélyotte
Huascar bass Claude-Louis-Dominique Chassé de Chinais
Entrée III (first version: August/September 1735)
Fatime soprano Mlle Petitpas
Zaïre soprano Mlle Eremans
Tacmas haute-contre Denis-François Tribou
Ali baritone Person
Entrée III (second version: 10 March 1736)
Fatime soprano Mlle Petitpas
Atalide soprano Mlle Eremans
Tacmas haute-contre Denis-François Tribou
Roxane soprano Mlle Bourbonnais
Entrée IV (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"



Scene: The palace of Hebe in the background and her gardens in the wings

Hebe, goddess of youth, summons her followers to take part in a festival (Air: Vous, qui d'Hébé suivez les lois). Young French, Spanish, Italians and Poles rush to celebrate with a series of dances, including a musette. The ballet is interrupted by the noise of drums and trumpets. It is Bellona, goddess of war, who arrives on the stage accompanied by warriors bearing flags. Bellona calls on the youths to seek out military glory (Air and chorus: La Gloire vous appelle). Hebe prays to Cupid (L'Amour) to use his power to hold them back. Cupid descends on a cloud with his followers. He decides to abandon Europe in favour of the "Indies", where love is more welcome.

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

Scene: The gardens of Osman Pasha bordering the sea

Osman Pasha is in love with his slave, the young Émilie, but she rejects him, telling him she was about to be married when a group of brigands abducted her. Osman urges her to give up hope that her fiancé is still alive (Air: Il faut que l'amour s'evole) but Émilie refuses to believe this is true. The sky turns dark as a storm brews; Émilie sees the violent weather as an image of her despair (Air: Vaste empire des mers). A chorus of shipwrecked sailors is heard (Chorus: Ciel! de plus d'une mort). Émilie laments that they too will be taken captive. She recognises one of the sailors as her fiancé Valère. Their joy at their reunion is tempered by sadness at the thought they are both slaves now. Osman enters and is furious to see the couple embracing. However, unexpectedly, he announces he will free them. He too has recognised Valère, who was once his master but magnanimously freed him. Osman loads Valère's surviving ships with gifts and the couple praise his generosity. They call on the winds to blow them back to France (Duet and chorus: Volez, Zéphyrs). The act ends with celebratory dances as Valère and Émilie prepare to set sail.

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

Scene: a desert in Peru with a volcano in the background

Carlos, a Spanish officer, is in love with the Inca princess Phani. He urges her to escape with him but she fears the anger of the Incas, who are preparing to celebrate the Festival of the Sun. Nevertheless, she is prepared to marry him (Air: Viens, Hymen). The Inca priest Huascar is also in love with Phani but suspects he has a rival and decides to resort to subterfuge, Huascar leads the ceremony of the adoration of the Sun, which is interrupted by a sudden earthquake. Huascar declares this means the gods want Phani to choose him as her husband. Carlos enters and tells Phani the earthquake was a trick, artificially created by Huascar. Carlos and Phani sing of their love while Huascar swears revenge (Trio: Pour jamais). Huascar provokes an eruption of the volcano and is crushed by its burning rocks.

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

  • First version.

Scene: The gardens of Ali's palace
Prince Tacmas is in love with Zaïre, a slave belonging to his favourite Ali, even though he has a slave girl of his own, Fatime. Tacmas appears at Ali's palace disguised as a merchant woman so he can slip into the harem unnoticed and test Zaïre's feelings for him. Zaïre enters and laments that she is unhappily in love (Air: Amour, Amour, quand du destin j'éprouve la rigueur). Tacmas overhears her and is determined to find out the name of his rival. Fatime now enters, disguised as a Polish slave, and Tacmas believes he has found Zaïre's secret lover. Enraged, he casts off his disguise and is about to stab Fatime when she too reveals her true identity. It turns out that Zaïre has been in love with Tacmas all along just as Fatime has been in love with Ali. The two couples rejoice in this happy resolution (Quartet: Tendre amour) and the act ends with the Persians celebrating the Festival of Flowers.

  • Second Version.

Sultana Fatime suspects her husband Tacmas of cheating on her with Atalide; she therefore disguises herself as a slave, succeeding in gaining Atalide's confidence and eventually recognises her suspicions are groundless. The happy couple take part in the Festival of Flowers.

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

Scene: The stage shows a grove in a forest in America, on the borders of the French and Spanish colonies, where the ceremony of the Peace Pipe is about to be celebrated

Adario, a Native American, is in love with Zima, daughter of a native chief, but he fears the rivalry of the Spaniard Don Alvar and the Frenchman Damon (Air: Rivaux des mes exploits, rivaux des mes amours). The Europeans plead with Zima for her love, but she says Damon is too fickle and Alvar is too jealous; she prefers the natural love shown by Adario (Air: Sur nos bords l'amour vole) and the couple vow to marry (Duet: Hymen, viens nous unir d'une chaîne éternelle). The act ends with the Europeans joining the natives in the ceremony of peace (Chorus: Forêts paisibles).

Recordings of the complete work[edit]

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 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]