Les fêtes de Polymnie

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Les fêtes de Polymnie (The Festivals of Polyhymnia) is an opéra-ballet in three entrées and a prologue by Jean-Philippe Rameau. The work was first performed on 12 October 1745 at the Opéra, Paris, and is set to a libretto by Louis de Cahusac. The piece was written to celebrate the French victory at the Battle of Fontenoy in the War of the Austrian Succession.[1] It was revived at the same venue on 21 August 1753.[2]

Neither Cuthbert Girdlestone[3] nor Graham Sadler (in the New Penguin Guide[4]) consider this among Rameau's finest works, though both remark on the originality of its overture, which breaks the traditional Lullian mould common to French overtures up to that time.


Information taken from the site Rameau2014.fr.[5]

Role Voice type Premiere Cast
Mnémosine soprano Marie-Jeanne Chevalier
La Victoire (Victory) soprano Mlle Rotisset de Romainville
Polymnie (Polyhymnia) soprano Bourbonnois
Le chef des arts (Chief of the arts) La Tour
Chorus: Followers of the chief of arts; the Muses
1st entrée: La Fable
Alcide (Hercules) haute-contre Pierre Jélyotte
Hébé (Hebe) soprano Marie Fel
Jupiter bass Joseph Le Page
Le Destin (Destiny) bass Lefèvre
Chorus : Games, Graces, Pleasures and followers of Hebe; gods and goddesses
2nd entrée: L'Histoire
Seleucus basse-taille (bass) Claude-Louis-Dominique De Chassé de Chinais
Stratonice soprano Marie-Jeanne Chevalier
Antiochus haute-contre Pierre Jélyotte
Une syrienne (A Syrian woman) soprano Marie-Angélique Coupée
Chorus: Peoples and warriors of Syria
3rd entrée: La Féerie
Oriade soprano Mlle Rotisset de Romainville
Argélie soprano Marie Fel
Zimès basse-taille (bass) Claude-Louis-Dominique de Chassé de Chinais
Chorus: Hunters; a troupe of nymphs from Oriade's court


Antiochus and Stratonice, Gerard de Lairesse, 1671-1675, Rijksmuseum Twenthe

The prologue, Le temple de Mémoire ("The Temple of Memory"), describes the victory of Fontenoy in allegorical fashion. The first entrée is entitled La fable (Legend) and depicts the marriage of Hercules and Hebe, the goddess of youth. The second entrée, L'histoire ("History"), tells the story of the Hellenistic king of Syria Seleucus I Nicator, who gives up his fiancée Stratonice when he learns his son Antiochus I Soter is passionately in love with her (this tale was also the subject of a later 18th century French opera, Étienne Méhul's Stratonice). The third and final entrée is called La féerie ("Fairy tale") and is set in the Middle East. Through her love for him, Argélie redeems Zimès from the power of the evil fairy Alcine.


  • Les fêtes de Polymnie Véronique Gens, Emöke Baráth, Aurélia Legay, Mathias Vidal, Thomas Dolié, Purcell Choir, Orfeo Orchestra conducted by György Vashegyi (2 CDs, Glossa 2015)


  1. ^ Holden, p. 839
  2. ^ Amadeus Almanac
  3. ^ Girdlestone p.445
  4. ^ Holden, p. 840
  5. ^ Les fêtes de Polymnie: Réprésentations


  • Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "Les fêtes de Polymnie". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
  • Holden, Amanda (Ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam, 2001. ISBN 0-14-029312-4
  • Girdlestone, Cuthbert, Jean-Philippe Rameau: His Life and Work (Dover paperback edition, 1969)
  • Sadler, Graham, (Ed.), The New Grove French Baroque Masters Grove/Macmillan, 1988

External links[edit]