Rameau's 'acte de ballet' 'Pygmalion', was the composer's first work to bear that designation. The term denotes a one-act opera with the usual solo numbers, duets, and choruses, interspersed with dance episodes and is generally more pageant-like than plot-driven! The opera was performed 30 times in 1748 and was revived to rapturous acclaim three years later.
The story of Pygmalion dates back to Greek and Roman mythology: the sculptor of the title forswears marriage, but then falls in love with his own perfect representation of a woman, beseeching Aphrodite (or Venus) to bring her to life. In Rameau's hands, the story became a sunny romantic comedy and one of his best-loved works. Like Ovid's Love, Christophe Rousset gives life to this score and leads a new and essential reading.
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