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date: 29 May 2020

Zaïslocked

  • Graham Sadler

Extract

Pastorale-héroïque in a prologue and four acts by Jean-Philippe Rameau to a libretto by (Jean-)Louis de Cahusac ; Paris, Opéra, 29 February 1748.

A vogue for the enchanted world of Middle Eastern myth had been created by such works as Duval’s Les génies (1736) and Rebel and Francoeur’s Zélindor, roi des sylphes (1745). Elements of ‘la féerie’, as it was known, may be found in many of Rameau’s later operas, including Zoroastre, La guirlande and Les Paladins, but only Acante et Céphise and the present work devote themselves entirely to the genre.

Zaïs (haute-contre) is a ‘génie de l’air’, an elemental being who has fallen in love with Zélide (soprano), a shepherdess. Disguised as a shepherd, he gains Zélide’s love, but is commanded by L’Amour [Cupid] (soprano) to prove her constancy. From the various trials by ordeal that she is forced to undergo, Zélide emerges undaunted. She is nevertheless upset to learn of Zaïs’s noble lineage. The genie decides to sacrifice all for his love, and breaks the magic ring that is the token of his supernatural power. His temple collapses, and the lovers find themselves alone in a terrifying desert. Touched by this sacrifice, Oromasès (bass), the benevolent king of the genies, restores to Zaïs his power and grants immortality to Zélide....

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