About us / Contact

The Classical Music Network


Europe : Paris, Londn, Zurich, Geneva, Strasbourg, Bruxelles, Gent
America : New York, San Francisco, Montreal                       WORLD

Your email :



Jean-Philippe Rameau: Platée
Paul Agnew (Platée), Mireille Delunsch (Thalie, La Folie), Yann Beuron (Thespis, Mercure), Vincent Le Texier (Jupiter), Doris Lamprecht (Juno), Laurent Naouri (Citheron), Valérie Gabail (L'Amour), Franck Leguérinel (Momus), Orchestra and Chorus of Les Musiciens du Louvre - Grenoble, Marc Minkowski (conductor), Laurent Pelly (director, costume designer), Laura Scozzi (choreographer), Chantal Thomas (set designer), Joël Adam (lighting designer), Don Kent (director for TV/video)
Recorded at the Palais Garnier, Paris, 2002 – 150’
1 Blu-ray disc Arthaus Musik 108 132 – Performed in French with subtitles in English, German, Spanish, Italian – Booklet in French, English, German

Peter Noelke’s note in the booklet states that, at the time of the work’s 1745 premiere, “the text was considered confusing and shallow compared with Rameau’s sparkling music”. This is precisely the problem. The tiny plot (really more of a skit) takes up vastly more time than it deserves. Still the inventiveness of the production, plus the vibrancy of the music, make up for the thin dramatic premise.

The prologue plods on for 30 minutes and is the worst part of the opera - in fact I almost gave up. Various deities chatter amongst themselves and come up with a plan to cure Jupiter’s wife Juno of her non-stop jealousy. (This lighthearted treatment of the classical gods was handled with greater deftness and wit by Italian composers such as Cavalli a full century earlier, as in Gli amore d’Apollo e di Dafne (1640) reviewed here. Rule-bound French opera forbade such levity until Platée, a burlesque or ballet bouffon, was produced as part of the festivities accompanying a royal wedding.)

Mercifully the work comes to life with the opera proper in which the humanoid marsh nymph, Platée, is delusional enough to believe that Jupiter is in love with her, and a wedding is arranged. The vengeful Juno arrives; when Platée is revealed to her, the goddess realizes this liaison is all a joke and joins in the general merriment at Platée’s expense. Discombobulated, Platée retreats back into her marsh. That’s the plot. One hopes in vain for some sort of turnabout or witty twist but, alas, no. While the gods are shown to be silly, the central mortal is shown to be worthy of derision. One is reminded of the moral of Verdi’s Falstaff: “Tutto nel mondo è burla”. But this work has none of Falstaff’s generosity of spirit.

What carries the piece along is, first and foremost, Rameau’s lively, piquant music under the direction of Marc Minkowski. At times I felt the performance was better simply heard rather than watched, but that would mean missing Laura Scozzi’s zany choreography which occupies about half the work’s length and provides a terrific counterpart to Rameau’s bouncing score.

The soloists are all well-chosen, especially Paul Agnew in the title role. Hapless Platée is goofy and seriously deluded but he manages to make her lovable as well. The other parts are one-dimensional. Mireille Delunsch impresses vocally with a major aria for La Folie. Tenor Yann Beuron and bass-baritones Vincent Le Texier and Laurent Naouri all do well with their thin material.

And everything looks vibrant under Don Kent’s direction as presented on Blu-ray.

The disk contains a small bonus: a few abrupt cuts from a production of Handel’s Alcina in a production conducted by Marc Minkowski.

Michael Johnson




Copyright ©ConcertoNet.com