Jean le Rond d’Alembert tells us in his writing De la liberté de la musique : “Here at home [in France], comedy is the representation of the spirit, tragedy that of the soul, the opera that of the senses » (« Chez nous la comédie est le spectacle de l’esprit, la tragédie celui de l’âme, l’opéra celui des sens. »). How does the Ballets figuré in Jean-Philippe Rameau’s lyric works make us listen, watch and become aware of our senses ? The perceptions that the audience experiences come directly from the senses, and especially from sight and hearing. Rameau and his librettists succeed in this appeal to the senses in different ways, mainly through the form of the ballet figuré.
The Reception of the Ballet Figuré in Rameau’s Zoroastre
Rameau exploits the Infernal ballet in many works such as Castor et Pollux, the prologue to Le Temple de la Gloire, and Zoroastre. But the most impressive is beyond all doubt Zoroastre. A succession of ballets figurés in the 4th act occupy the majority of the act, to the point where they become the very vehicle of the action. The expectations and criticisms of the public of the eighteenth century are a way to explore the aesthetics of the Infernal ballet, to recreate its tradition, and to better understand the popularity of the Ballets figurés in 4th Act of Rameau’s Zoroastre.
Following studies in both baroque dance and music, Edith Lalonger has extensive experience as a dancer, choreographer and independent researcher. She has directed her own company, Les Plaisirs des Nations since 1993. In England, one can remember Rameau’s Zaïs, Anacréon and Pygmalion with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (2014). Edith teaches in Paris at the Centre de Danse du Marais, and gives workshops at different institutions and conservatories. In addition to being an experienced teacher, she has conducted research through the Sorbonne which led to major publications and articles, and she has presented her research at several international conferences (Yale, Dresden, Belfast, London, Oxford, Salzburg, Paris).