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On Stage: Les Indes Galantes

The opéra-ballet, which combines dance with instrumental and vocal music, flourished during the French Baroque era. The emphasis was on spectacle, and common to the genre were exotic locales and ruminations on the nature of love.

Composer Jean-Philippe Rameau and librettist Louis Fuzelier premiered the work Les Indes Galantes –The Amorous Indies—at the Paris Opéra in 1735, and it was performed more than 60 times in the first two years. Rameau continued to tinker with it, later adding a third act and still later a fourth act, and it eventually won its place as the most popular of its genre. Rameau's music in Les Indes Galantes was considered dramatic and daring, and it caused a strong reaction among Parisian audiences. It was the second of Rameau's many opéras.

The work includes a prologue that introduces the theme, as well as four acts, or “entrées,” each taking place in a different location. The Europeans found anyone outside of Europe exotic, and “The Indies” was a term used to describe all such places—and so we have four tales of love, set on an island somewhere in the Indian Ocean, in Peru, in Persia, and in North America.

You can see this show onstage thanks to Wichita State University's School of Performing Arts. There will be four performances of Les Indes Galantes at Miller Concert Hall in the Duerksen Fine Arts Center from today, March 28 to April 3.

Sanda Moore Coleman received an MFA in creative writing from Wichita State University in 1991. Since then, she has been the arts and community editor for The Martha's Vineyard Times, a teaching fellow at Harvard University, and an assistant editor at Image. In 2011, she received the Maureen Egan Writers Exchange prize for fiction from Poets & Writers magazine. She has spent more than 30 years performing, reviewing, and writing for theatre.