With a brief foreword (Fr/Eng) containing salient information on the genesis of the work, the synopsis and the edition.
Les Fêtes de l’Hymen et de l’Amour was performed on 15 March 1747 on the occasion of the second marriage of the Dauphin Louis Ferdinand de Bourbon and Maria Josepha of Saxony in the Manège de la Grande Écurie in Versailles. This second collaboration between Rameau and Cahusac makes use of the “ballet héroïque” genre, usually known today as “opéra-ballet” based on various story lines which run independently of each other. The score is based on a libretto inspired by Egyptian mythology and freemasonry.
Rameau's “Les Fêtes de l'Hymen et de l'Amour” was long considered second-rate because its première was associated with a political event. Yet this ballet abounds in novel dramaturgical effects that foreshadow his later operas, such as “Zaïs”, “Zoroastre” and “Les Boréades”. Working together with his librettist Cahusac, Rameau sought to weave the dance numbers, choruses and stage machinery more tightly into the main plot. He also experimented with stylistic devices unique to this work, the most famous being unquestionably the scene in which the Nile overflows its banks (an impressive ten-voice double chorus with solo voices and orchestra) and the sextet from “Aruéris”, a scoring found nowhere else in his œuvre.
For the first time, this scholarly-critical edition of “Les Fêtes de l'Hymen et de l'Amour” presents a reference version of the work that is based on all the major sources for both the libretto and the music, including two recent musical discoveries. As most of the performance material for the première has vanished, this edition is based on the version prepared for the Académie Royale de Musique in 1748.