Visitors to Versailles
Quick Overview of the Program
Our final program of the 2017-2018 season is a musical journey through the reigns of Louis XIV, XV, and XVI, featuring music from Lully’s Acis et Galatée to Grétry’s Richard, Cœur de Lion, inspired by The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition Visitors to Versailles (1682 – 1789), on view at The Met Fifth Avenue April 16–July 29, 2018.
Wednesday, May 2, 7:30 p.m.
A free pre-performance talk will begin at 6:30 p.m. Location and speakers TBA.
Terrace Theater, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2700 F Street Northwest Washington, DC, 20566
Thursday, May 3, 7:00 p.m.
The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10028
Tickets to this event in New York City are sold exclusively through the Metropolitan Museum of Art and include same-day Museum admission.
Enjoy a pre-performance drink in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. Doors will open approximately one hour prior to the event and you may purchase a drink prior to the show.
The program will last approximately one hour with no intermission.
- Ryan Brown, Conductor
- Rosa Lamoreaux, Soprano
- Anna Reinhold, Mezzo-Soprano
- Aaron Sheehan, Tenor
- Victor Sicard, Baritone
- The Opera Lafayette Orchestra
- Gallery Voices
Letter from Artistic Director Ryan Brown
We are delighted to have been asked by The Metropolitan Museum of Art to create a musical program that complements the exhibition entitled 'Visitors to Versailles (1682 – 1789)'. Much of Opera Lafayette's work has been focused on music from this period, and we have been visitors to Versailles on two occasions when we were invited to perform in the Royal Opera house there, and thus are among the many captivated by this extraordinary place.
Our approach has been to divide the program into three sections, starting with the period just before the Revolution and going back in time to the reign of Louis XIV. The first section consists of works which speak to conflicting views of the monarchy, the second offers two beautiful divertissements emblematic of court life, and the third presents the final scenes of a poignant early pastoral tragedy. We close with a familiar encore which reminds us of Versailles' origins.
We hope you enjoy the program, and that it offers a musical and theatrical perspective on the fascinating role Versailles played in history and the hold it continues to have on our imaginations today.
Peut-on affliger ce qu’on aime? - Monsigny, from Le Déserteur
‘How could one hurt that which one loves?’
Air de chasse - Monsigny, from Le Roi et le fermier
Le Bonheur est de le répandre………..tout ce qu’ils ont droit d’en attendre
‘Happiness (of a sovereign) is to give…all that his people expect from him.’
Ô Richard, ô mon Roi, l’univers t’abandonne - Grétry, from Richard, Cœur de Lion
‘O Richard, my king, the universe has abandoned you’
Aaron Sheehan, tenor, Victor Sicard, baritone
Both the Grétry and Monsigny ‘Peut-on affliger’ were performed on October 1, 1789, at Versailles during a banquet for soldiers brought to secure the chateau in the wake of the Parisians threatening it. ‘Peut-on affliger’ was also used, without words, by Jean Renoir in his 1939 film The Rules of the Game to underscore his aristocratic characters’ obliviousness to the impending catastrophe in Europe. Monsigny’s Le Roi et le fermier was a popular opera from 1762 in Paris which portrayed, for the first time on stage, a king speaking to a commoner, and was performed by Marie Antoinette and friends in her private theater at Versailles in 1780.
Excerpts from Acts II and V - Gluck, Armide
Plus j’observe ces lieux, et plus je les admire
‘The more I view this (beautiful) place, the more it pleases me’
Trio: Au temps heureux où l’on sait plaire
‘In happy times when one can take pleasure’
Choeur: Ah! quelle erreur, quelle folie, de ne pas jouir de vie
‘What folly not to enjoy life….’
Solo et Choeur: C’est l’amour qui retient dans ses chaînes
‘It is love who holds us in his chains’
Solo et Choeur: Jeunes Cœurs
Mr. Sheehan, tenor, Anna Reinhold, mezzo-soprano
Rosa Lamoreaux, Rebecca Kellerman, Rachel Barham, soprano trio
Gluck’s Armide was performed during the visit of Gustav III of Sweden in 1784. The libretto by Quinault was first set by Lully, and Lully’s version performed frequently at Versailles before Gluck’s, during both Louis XIV’s and Louis XV’s reigns. These excerpts are from the divertissements Armide creates to seduce and hold Renaud in her power, much like the pleasures of Versailles were intended.
From Act V - Lully, Acis et Galatée
Enfin j’ai dissipé la crainte
‘At last I have dispelled the fear’
Je sors de mes grottes profondes
‘I come forth from my deep grottoes’
Que votre sang se change et devienne une eau pure
‘Let your blood be changed and become pure water’
Sous ses lois l’Amour veut qu’on jouisse, un bonheur qui jamais ne finisse
‘Under its laws Love wishes us to enjoy a never-ceasing happiness.’
Ms. Reinhold (Galatée), Mr. Sicard (Neptune), Mr. Sheehan (Acis),
Ms. Barham, Ms. Kellerman, Barbara Hollinshead, Ericka Riss, Ms. Lamoreaux, Nayades/chorus soloists
Performed frequently at Versailles, including for the Queen of England (wife of exiled James II) in 1695. A meditation on loss, the sea nymph Galatea slowly realizes Acis has been killed. Neptune comes forth and transforms Acis into a stream so that he and Galatea may be together forever.
À la chasse, à la chasse - Rameau, from Hippolyte et Aricie
Ms. Lamoreaux, soprano, James Rogers, bass-baritone
Versailles was originally a hunting lodge, and Louis XIV, and especially Louis XV, were fond of hunting. The text has followers of (the chaste goddess) Diana singing that the god of love should give way to the pleasures of the hunt.
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