2020


Comments

  1. Here are several comments which appeared after the Glyndebourne Festival performance of “Hippolyte et Aricie” in July 2013.


    1) Musically, “Hippolyte et Aricie” falls curiously flat. In vain one waits for any of the voices to break free from the conversational monotony and understated politeness of the score. With very few exceptions, the work saunters on in a well-behaved manner which is undoubtedly elegant, but hardly touching. Not even Phaedra’s agonised soul-searching in Act 4, quite redeems what is, in essence, a very boring work.

    2) Rameau's score darts between court formality — measured out in the mincing steps of the minuet — and interiority, and is still a bit of a shock to Handel-accustomed ears. Musical expectations are thwarted, resolutions delayed, until we are driven mad with frustration. I believe this work will remain side-repertory mainly for absolute opera experts.

    3) This opera is based in a very strict aristocratic tradition that makes very little sense to us today. The result is opera that is less emotionally engaging. I once had a directing student in Brazil who staged quite a nice “Hippolyte et Aricie” but the Latin audience found it emotionally cold and too cerebral.

    4) It has taken Rameau’s five act opera “Hippolyte et Aricie” a mere 280 years to travel from Paris to its first production at Glyndebourne: was it worth the wait? I found myself underwhelmed at the end of an evening that consisted of so much effort. I foresee a revival in four or five years time, and then a quiet withdrawal from the schedule — perhaps for another very, very long period. I am delighted to have seen this “Hippolyte” but I won’t be rushing to see it again.

    5) In his first opera Rameau created a more sophisticated musical edifice and it has not really caught on with the wider public. Much of the piece seems somehow too precious for consumption outside its native land. Without prejudice, I will pass over it lightly.


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