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on 28 July 2011
there are not enough superlatives available, to describe the modern colourful productions of French Baroque Opera.Each of the six DVDs merit 5 stars, so we are looking at 35 stars here. William Christie an American who took French citizenship in 1989, conducts and gives commentaries in the special features. He created Les Arts Florissants, La La Steps groups of singers and dancers, who perform very modern Ballet, some of it like ritual dancing.The sets are modern and symbolic.The singing in French is enthralling accompanied often by original instrumentation. Each 2 disc set has a synopsis booklet,in English, French and German, with high definition production photographs. Subtitles are for six languages.

Rameau was an exact contemporary of Bach, spending 40 years as a church organist, and writer of philosophical works. He wrote 'street entertainment' before composing Opera, late in life, from 1750. All the humour, hypocracies, and cross-gendre of characters are brought to life in a mixture of 18th Century and very contemporary dress styles.
In some ways Rameau's last Opera 'Les Paladines' is the most modern and adventurous with a whole back drop of a split level screen, showing the actors on stage plus various other scenes simultaneously, dancers change into animals, Body Popping and Break Dancing along side traditional Ballet, and completely nude female and male dancers emulating Rodin and Athenian sculptures.

'In Convertendo' is not an opera but nevertheless, a complete joy. It is a Motet sung in Latin featuring Nicolas Rivenq, Sophie Daneman, Jeffrey Thompson, and Olga Pitarch, with Les Arts Florissants and William Christie. The DVD also features 3 chamber music pieces, and a biographical documentary of Rameau.

'Les Indies galantes' is one of the longest operas with prologue, and four acts and reprise, featuring Danielle de Niese, Nicolas Cavalier, Anna Maria Panzarella, and Paul Agnew and Nicolas Rivenq plus others, who also appear in the other productions. All the characters call for great versatility, and the format is usually story line firstly sung, and then interpreded by ballet. With the Opera de National de Paris, and inventive props of large astrolobes, orbs walking minarrets, and large opening and closing tableau pods.

Castor and Pollux the story of the twins, one mortal, one a God, who become united forever as stars in the Galaxy. Beautiful interpetation with The Nederlandse Opera and Le Talens Lyriqoes, conducted by Christophe Rousset.

Les Boreades ,very dark and formal contrasted by rainbow coloured floral scenes, and joyful dancing as Queen Alphise manages to avoid a forced marriage , and finds that the one she loves turns out to be a of noble birth, so her position is not compromised. Brilliant performances throughout.

Zoraster, perfomed in the Baroque Theatre of Drottningholm with musical director Chrsitophe Rousset, and Les Talens Lyrique. The Tragedie Lyrique style is dramatically staged, this time with costumes resembling the 18th Century,throughout, mainly in white and cream, with warm sepia and amber backdrops, and very dramatic dark thunderstorm sequences. Wonderful
On a monetery level, the whole set may seem expensive, but it is worth every penny , incomparable value.
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VINE VOICEon 31 December 2014
Jean-Philippe Rameau was born in Dijon in France in 1683 and died just before his 81st birthday in 1764. His father, who was a church organist, wanted him to become a lawyer, but Rameau, who loved music, had other ideas, which lead him into becoming an all time great composer. It is not recorded any where whether or not he liked mustard with his food, but there's certainly an appetising bite to his genius with his works adapting well to fit in with every day and age. Although I've owned this box set for quite a while now, I've never got round to reviewing it because I wasn't sure how best to go about doing this: should I review each work individually or the whole box set in one go? I've finally decided on the latter course of action.

LES PALADINS. This production had me jumping up and down for the sheer joy of it. The work is presented here as a ballet-opera delightfully choreographed by Jose Montalvo and Dominique Herview. It was a brilliant idea to have up and down staging with the upper half incorporating lots of animals, beautiful gardens and extra dancing and there are lions, tigers, elephants and lots of horses all moving along in harmony with the music. There are different kinds of birds including storks, cranes, owls and chickens. Below them, on the stage, all the performers are singing and dancing around in scintillating fashion delightful to behold. Had Jean-Philippe Rameau been able to see this performance I'm sure he would be delighted that his genius could inspire so much scintillating creativity. The whole production is in the nature of being a riveting expression of joie de vivre and musical director William Christie certainly seemed to be enjoying it all.

It's fascinating the way the performers appear and disappear through tent-type doors at the back of the stage. Sometimes, in the top half of the stage, a beautiful garden appears with people and animals moving around in it with the humans sometimes not wearing clothes to fit in with the animals.. The singing is top class with even the singers joining in with some of the dancing. There are seven lead singer-actors and the storyline is rather complicated. However, since this is a performance that Rameau fans and, indeed many others, will enjoy watching many times, everything soon becomes clear. The booklet that accompanies the work is both helpful and very interesting. It explains the plot and describes the characters, gives details of how the work came to be composed and gives information about the performers. I could detect no below par performances. I thought they were all excellent. Although this box set is not Blu-Ray, both picture and sound quality are very good. Maybe Blu-Ray versions will be produced some day.

LES BOREADES. The staging, which includes, amongst other venues, a flower meadow, is very effective in this brilliant production of Rameau's Les Boreades and I liked the sensible costumes, which give the impression of having been designed not to detract from either the acting or the inspiring music. There's nothing quite so ridiculous as actors clad in kitsch costumes pertaining to depict how the ancient Greeks were supposed to have dressed. In these cases it's much better to opt for a closer to modern day form of costumes.

It was a brilliant idea to engage the La La La Human Steps dancers who admirably enact how the wind blows in its less dangerous forms from zephyrs to strong breezes. As I watched them dance I thought to myself how cleverly they were interpreting precisely how I've so often felt the breezes blowing and how they would increase and decrease through time. The way in which the choreography blended in with the music, singing and acting could not have been better achieved.

I simply loved to bits all the music and singing. The chemistry between Barbara Bonney as Alphise and Paul Agnew as Aharis was electrifying and, wow, can they sing! No one could have performed better. The rest of the cast were equally good in their roles, all of them performing just like winds do. For me, this opera is all about the personification of wind and the North Wind, or Borealis, in particular. Having been brought up in a very rural environment I've always been acutely aware of the importance of both wind direction and wind force and Rameau has cleverly interpreted all this into music, dancing and singing.

I can recall how, as a child, I used to skip and dance into the wind through the flower meadow beyond the large garden behind our house and how my mother would call for me to come back because the rain clouds were approaching. Maybe Rameau had similar childhood experiences and, in his special brilliance, was able to turn them into this great operatic art work. Although the North Wind is the one usually associated with cold weather, in the Suffolk of my youth, we knew better. The truly cold wind was the East Wind blowing across Europe straight from Siberia. Great steel-blue clouds would loom up from the East and the old people would say they were snow clouds; and they certainly were. Ryder Haggard once said that the native Suffolk and Norfolk people were 'a strange people born of the East Wind.' Maybe this is why I love this opera, especially this interpretation of it, so much and why it means so much to me. Rameau certainly understood wind and this brilliant production of his great opera has done him proud. I thoroughly recommend it.

IN CONVERTENDO. Many of the motets composed by Rameau have not survived. Here we have performed some that did and what a blessing they are still with us. On this disc, shorter than the other five in the collection, they make pleasant and inspiring listening. The accompanying booklet relates how they came to be composed and also gives some information about Rameau, who was certainly a most interesting character. Nicolas Rivenq, Sophie Daneman, Jeffrey Thompson and Olga Pitarch are enjoyable to watch as they play the music on period instruments.

ZOROASTRE. This work has a dark, sombre quality absent from the other works in this collection and there is no prologue. There isn't as much dancing as in the other four works in this collection, but what there is is, nevertheless, expressive and very much in keeping with what is going on. My guess is that fewer viewers will like this opera than those who will like the other four in this box set. However, this is rather a pity because the music is actually very beautiful and thought provoking. and it's fascinating to see how the singing and dancing team up together so successfully. In this work Rameau employs clarinets for the first time I find that watching the performance several times improves the appreciation of it. The musical director here is Christophe Rousset.

LES INDES GALANTES. This opera-ballet work, which had its debut in 1735, is divided into a prologue and four entrees with the god-godess stuff being confined to the prologue in which Hebe, the goddess of youth, conflicts with Bellone, the goddess of war, who attempts to seduce the young men, causing Hebe to invoke Cupid in an effort to induce love rather than conflict.

The gods are nowhere to be found in the four entrees, the first of which is centred in Turkey and features the generous ruler Topal Osman, who is shown as behaving in a much more magnanimous fashion than is found in European countries. In this way Rameau drops hints and takes swipes at bad government on the home front. The second entree is situated in Peru and is clearly designed to expose corruption among the clergy, epitomised here by the Inca high priest, who gets his 'cum-uppance' at the hands of the enlightened Don Carlos who wins the hand of the Inca princess. The third entree is centred in Persia and the fourth among the North American Indians. It's interesting to see how Rameau causes under-dogs and/or local people to win throw and come out on top in one way and another as in the fourth entree where the invading Spaniards and French are made to look ridiculous with the indigenous people winning through and coming out on top. This work was composed around a century before the final subjugation of the native North Americans was achieved.

It's all beautifully staged and acted with lots of colour and dancing and it seems that all those taking part are thoroughly enjoying themselves. One of the great delights of Rameau's works is that they seem designed to illustrate the triumph of the human spirit over adversity and it's a tribute to his genius that they lend themselves to creative interpretations and adaptations without compromising the composer's original genius. We certainly have here a creative and very watchable interpretation of Rameau's creativity. It's surprising that more of his works are not available in Blu-Ray.

CASTOR AND POLLUX. Here we are back to Greek myth and it is all very well presented and acted. I'm so pleased I bought this box set of some of Rameau's works. It's all so very watchable, giving endless enjoyment, besides which it has the effect of inspiring the viewer to explore and find out more about the composer, how the works came to be composed, to find out more about the times in which the composer lived and how to appreciate his compositions within the framework of operatic evolution. circa 1600 to circa 1840 is a fascinating period in the evolution of opera and it's interesting to discover that, in those times, there was much less 'hero/heroine dying at the end stuff.' that became so fashionable from circa 1840 onwards. We might also ask why opera and ballet eventually diverged so much when composers such as Rameau were so successful in merging them together.

If you enjoy inspiring creativity and love good music, singing and dancing, you will love this box set. Here we have the best possible example of how to present early opera in the most realistic and enjoyable way in the Twenty First Century. This box set is one of my most cherished opera buys ever.
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on 31 May 2017
I found this box set a real treat and delight to watch these opera treasures conducted and sung so well. I was already familiar with this composer (from Les Indes Gallantes and Hippolyte and Aricie) and owning this set has enabled me to get to know other operas of his coupled with some excellent commentaries. I also enjoyed the dancing of La La La Human Steps in Les Boreades showing their unique movements which possess fantastic musicality. The whole box set is, without doubt, five stars.
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on 6 October 2013
If you only make one purchase this year, let it be this. Don't be put off by its elderly origins, in so many ways it has more relevance now than when these pieces were actually written. At least today we are not distracted by the trends and huge social changes that took place during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Today we have the privilege to watch and listen without such distractions, in the privacy of one's own home. In addition the technical excellence achieved in the production of these discs, in this reviewers opinion, is outstanding, both sonically and visually.
Even if you've never experienced baroque music listen to this, you most assuredly will not be disappointed. There's no point in trying to convey familiarity by way of comparison, in any case one is presented with such a a variety of experiences, from the tragic drama of Zoroastre, to the comedy of Le Paladins, in between is the most scintillating and beautifully choreographed dance. Thrown in for good measure is an abundance of documentary information on both the music's author and his influences, plus each and every story is clearly explained. I have owned this marvellous set for some weeks now before making any attempt to write a review, still I cannot find fault of any description, it seems the teams of individuals responsible for these productions have left little or nothing to chance.
A couple more points are worth mentioning before I finish, firstly the costume and stage presentations, on offer here is a mixture of both traditional and a more up to date approach, although it must be said I have always preferred traditional costume and stage settings, none of the modernity on offer in some of these operas is so avant-garde as to detract from one's enjoyment of the pieces. Further, as with so many orchestras nowadays mostly original instruments are used, again their use in no way detracts form one's enjoyment of these pieces, in fact I would suggest if anything their inclusion adds to their overall authenticity.
There is so much more one could say about this set, for fear of becoming boring I shan't. Finally though with all else considered, not only is this the a most wonderful set, and takes pride of place in my decidedly large collection, price wise it was an absolute bargain. I genuinely cannot recommend this set too highly, don't miss out on what is a feast of sonic and visual beauty verging on aesthetic perfection.
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on 25 July 2014
Modern dance spoiled the enjoyment
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on 28 November 2012
All of these productions solve the difficult task of mounting opera ballet in a form that is acceptable to a modern audience. And they do it with such brio that for me they are the high points of opera on DVD. Immensely enjoyable. Wonderful singing, perfect conducting and playing, dance as an integral part of the spectacle not an add on. Heaven
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on 14 February 2014
Rameau's operas are brought to life particularly by William Christie led productions adding ballet to the music. Les Indes Gallentes is the very best.
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on 12 February 2015
My first instruction with Rameau and what enjoyment. There where times when I became irritated with the design. I never like opera when the designer thinks he is more important than the music. On the whole very good value for money.
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on 28 May 2014
This is a splendid set. Not only does one get the operas very well sung and directed but also very valuable extras which I enjoyed very much. . Absolutely excellent value.
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on 25 December 2016
great operas
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