Thanks a lot, Peter!
Not really sure what I'm looking for in Rameau, but I've been listening to recordings by Sabine Devieilhe and Carolyn Sampson lately, and find them extremely appealing. Dramatic heft is always good, but so far it's the glorious tunes that have piqued my interest.
For me, it's the combination of melodies and harmonies that sets Rameau apart from all other Baroque composers. The orchestration is amazing.
I just realised I have that Castor & Pollux in the big Harmonia Mundi Lumières box, so I'll definitely give that one a spin today, and go for Les Fêtes d'Hébé or Les Boréades next probably.
I don't recommend Castor et Pollux
as a first stop for Rameau operas. It's not the most tuneful Rameau opera – but it does have the stunning aria, "Tristes apprêts, pâles flambeaux":Rameau: Castor et Pollux -
(Agnès Mellon [sop]; Les Arts Florissants / William Christie)https://www.youtube.com/v/joJ37aNBdnE
I'd go with Les Indes galantes
. It's an overload of glorious tunes.
By the way, I take it you're a Christie fan?
I'm not much of a fan. It's just that he basically has a monopoly on recordings of Rameau operas. In Rameau, I prefer almost any other conductor, mainly because I find Christie too hard-driven most of the time. He's considered the world's foremost authority on Rameau, so I'm not in a position to say "Yes, but..."
For the record (tee hee), my favourite conductor of Rameau is Frans Brüggen. He lets the music breathe, and (to me) makes it sound like the greatest music ever written. Unfortunately, he never recorded a Rameau opera, only ever orchestral suites from the operas. Otherwise, I'd be recommending every Rameau recording by Frans Brüggen and his Orchestra of the 18th Century.
For example, get a load of this:Rameau: Les Boréades, Acte IV - Entrée
(Orchestra of the 18th Century / Frans Brüggen)https://www.youtube.com/v/OmOXl17ibDc