Rameau’s Plateé is a comedy in three acts with the obligatory allegorical prologue and lots of ballets. It tells the story of the bizarrely ugly water nymph Plateé. In an attempt to calm down Juno who, as usual, is angry at Jupiter’s infidelities, Mercury and the satyr Citheron arrange for Jupiter to pretend to fall in love with and marry Plateé. Juno arrives during the wedding in a fury but when she sees Plateé she realises the joke and is reconciled with Jupiter. Plateé returns, distraught, to her swamp. It’s all really rather cruel but does have a few good jokes.. and lots of ballets.
For his production at the Palais Garnier in 2002 Laurent Pelly chose a “theatre within a theatre” setting for the prologue. The drunken chorus are ushered hither and yon across the banked seats of a theatre first trying to persuade and then dissuade Thespis from writing a “realistic” comedy. A scantily clad Eros puts in an appearance. There’s also a non-singing frog who shows up at various points throughout the piece, usually to direct the action or make trouble. Who is this? Maybe the composer but more likely, I think, Louis XV for whom the work was written. In Act 1 the theatre is partly transformed into Plateé’s swamp which is then badly damaged to produce the set for Acts 2 and 3. There are a lot of flashy stage effects and the gods tend to arrive in baskets lowered from the fly loft. It’s more a homage to baroque stagecraft than the thing itself but it works with the general tenor of the production. There’s quite a lot of clowning between characters, especially the frog, and Marc Minkowski and the musicians in the pit. Costumes are sort of contemporary party wear with very sparkly outfits for the gods and a quite bizarre treatment for Pail Agnew as Plateé. There are lots of ballets.
The performances are very good on the whole. Paul Agnew gives a particularly fine performance, simpering and preening and all the while singing very stylishly. Other notable performances come from Vincent Le Texier as Jupiter, Yann Beuron as Thespis/Mercury and Laurent Naouri as Citheron and Mireille Delunsch as Thalie/La Folie. Marc Minkowski directs Les Musiciens du Louvre – Grenoble who probably know this score backwards. So, a bunch of French baroque specialists doing Rameau. It’s idiomatic and well done. The dancers aren’t credited despite the huge role they play. They do a pretty decent job with Laura Scozzi’s varied choreography but I’ve seen slicker ensemble work.
Video direction is by Don Kent and I find it quite annoying. It’s a silly mixture of close ups and weird angles and shots that show half the dancers in an ensemble number. It’s often difficult to get a grasp on what the whole scene looks like and the ballets are quite badly butchered. The picture quality is pretty decent though not as good as some recent releases. The DTS surround sound is vivid and spatially accurate. There’s a particularly finely placed cough from the audience at one point There are English, French, German, Italian and Spanish subtitles. There are no extras on the disk . The documentation consists of a track listing and a short essay.
This isn’t as much fun as Les Paladins and the video direction is a mess. Still, the production is quite interesting and Paul Agnew is good value.