Castor et Pollux, Complainte de Télaïre (Tristes apprêts)
Castor et Pollux, Complainte de Télaïre (Tristes apprêts)
In this vocal session, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt and Laure Poissonnier explore the numerous technical challenges concerning the mouth, throat, and larynx.
Produced by the Saline royale Academy
In this masterclass for voice, Professor Jean-Paul Fouchécourt and his student Laure Poissonnier work on the beautiful Tristes apprêts from Jaen-Philippe Rameau’s opera Castor et Pollux.
Fouchécourt explains to his student that the main challenge of this piece is to find the right balance between short and long vowels, a common obstacle when interpreting French songs. Moreover, Fouchécourt frequently indicates in his classes that “regularity destroys the French language”. It is especially true in Tristes apprêts, where the emotional range may be underdeveloped if the singer does not impose variety.
With this, Poissonnier must work on the complex mechanics of the tongue and throat to free up the larynx and remove the pressure on the voice. Fouchécourt advises his student to work on her breathing through her throat. Lastly, the pair work on Poissonnier’s attacks and ornaments.
Avoiding regularity in the length of the phrases and vowels.
Evoking the many emotional nuances of the piece.
Implementing the ornaments of the piece carefully.
Avoiding pressure on the larynx and finding more space.
Working on the mechanics of the tongue and throat.
Jean-Philippe Rameau was a pioneer in French opera. In 1733, he premiered Hippolyte et Aricie, a polarizing opera in the style of “tragédie en musique.” This production caused a rift between conservative music critics who preferred the traditional music of Lully and those who were more progressive and lauded Rameau for his innovative use of harmony.
In 1737, he premiered Castor et Pollux, his second attempt at writing in the genre of “tragédie en musique.” Like most operas in this style, it draws from Classical mythology and follows a conventional format in five acts. It tells the story of brothers Castor and Pollux, who are both in love with the same woman, Telaira, who has a preference for Castor. When he is killed in war, she urges Pollux to beg his father, Jupiter, to bring Castor back to life. Jupiter tells him this can only be done if he trades his life for Castor’s. Feeling his life is worthless without Telaira, Pollux agrees to the exchange and descends into the Underworld. When the brothers reunite, Castor decides he will return to the living world for a single day to reunite with Telaira, and then give life back to his brother. Impressed by the sacrifice that both brothers were willing to make for the other, Jupiter decides to save them both, giving both brothers immortality. The opera was a relative success upon its premiere and has experienced several revivals; it is now considered one of Rameau’s greatest achievements.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this masterclass for voice. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Jean-Paul Fouchécourt’s feedback and comments.
He is now passing on his experience to the younger generation and has been directing the destiny of the Studio de l'Opéra de Lyon (SOL) since the 2010-2011 season.
Jean-Paul Fouchécourt has gained an international reputation by his portraits of Platté de Rameau and Arnalta (l’Incoronazione di Poppea) of Monteverdi, the 'character' roles, such as Offenbach's Four Valets (Offenbach's Tales), Chabrier's Phew (The Star), Ravel's Child and Spells and The Spanish Hour.
Beginning his musical journey as a classical saxophonist and conductor, Fouchécourt became a singer after singer Cathy Berberian encouraged him to work on his voice. He made his debut in 1993 at the Amsterdam Opera with L'Incoronazione di Poppea alongside Christophe Rousset.
In 1996, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt was hired to sing the roles of Poulenc's Mamelles de Tirésias 'Husband' directed by Seiji Ozawa at the Saito Kinen Festival, which marked his international debut and provided him access to major venues, including but not limited to London's Covent Garden, New York City Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Opera Bastille, etc. He has also appeared at festivals in Aix-en-Provence, Salzburg, and more. He is a frequent guest of the Boston Symphonic, National of France, Vienna Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, and the Rotterdam Philharmonic. Furthermore, he has worked with prestigious conductors including Charles Dutoit, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Valery Gergiev, Yannick Nézet- Seguin, James Levine, Antonio Pappano, and Sir Simon Rattle.
With over a hundred recordings, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt has a broad repertoire. He is delighted to pass on his experience to the younger generation, and has been working at the Studio de l'Opéra de Lyon (SOL) since 2011. He is a Knight in the National Order of Merit.
Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) was an influential French Baroque composer and music theorist. The details of his early life are somewhat unknown. He was born in Dijon, France, where his father worked as a church organist. He was originally meant to pursue law, but his poor performance in school eliminated this as a possibility, causing him to become a musician instead. After his father’s retirement in 1709, he briefly took over his duties as a church organist in Dijon before exploring similar posts in other French cities. He often composed motets, cantatas, and works for harpsichord, and spent years contemplating harmony and theory.
In 1722, Rameau moved to Paris. He published his famous text on music theory, Traité de l'harmonie, the same year. This treatise used the natural overtone series to develop a new system of harmony that has since become the foundation of modern music theory. He followed this treatise with another important work, Nouveau système de musique théorique, in 1726. The two texts catapulted him to fame as a music theorist.
Unusually, he did not become prominent as a composer until 1733, when he premiered his first opera, Hippolyte et Aricie. The opera was in the tragédie en musique genre, which had been developed by Jean-Baptiste Lully. Though Hippolyte et Aricie was a great success with audiences, it caused a rift in the music community between conservative supporters of Lully and those who lauded Rameau’s bold innovation. With the help of his wealthy patron Alexandre Le Riche de La Poupelinière, Rameau’s career took off. He composed several more important tragedie en musique operas, as well as comic operas, opera-ballets, and works for harpsichord. Some of his most well-known works include Les Indes galantes (1735), Castor et Pollux (1737), Dardanus (1739), Platée (1745), and Pigmalion (1748).
In the 1750s, however, the complexity of French opera had begun to wear on audiences and music critics alike, who began to favor the simplicity of Italian opera. Rameau’s works began to fall out of style, and despite efforts to adapt to the times, his later works went underappreciated. He continued to study music theory and compose until he died of illness at the age of eighty. He remains one of the most important figures in music history, responsible for creating our modern tonality and for making monumental developments in music for the stage.