The prologue of the opéra-ballet Les Indes Galantes begins with the goddess Hebe, who invites young people for a celebration of Amor. However, Bellona (an allegory of war) enters the scene to recruit the youth, who leave in search for military glory. This contrast between love and violence that sets out the prologue of Les Indes Galantes, develops into four « entrées » or chapters, whose storylines take place in Turkey, Peru, Persia and finally among native Americans. The narrative of Les Indes Galantes, which is full of disasters, shipwrecks and surprising sets of coincidences, stages several love conflicts as a result of dominant relationships, for example: Balances of power between Catholic conquistadors and indigenous pagans, between settlers and « savages », or between men and woman in a harem. This piece by Rameau thus balances between a cheap, entertaining exotism and ethical and political questions that symbolise eighteenth century philosophy.
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui adapts Les Indes Galantes to a contemporary setting, where globalization has transformed the notions of exotism and otherness. The artistic proposal of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui for Les Indes Galantes highlights the background of the original story, the military context provoked by Bellone and its consequences, particulary on the matter of immigration – an issue that was previously adressed by the choreographer in La Zon-Mai and Babel(words), among others. The characters of Rameau’s opera become detached from that conflictual background, as if they were rising up from an overwhelming flow. From then on they have to become actors of the situation in order to change the course of things.
Ten singers and ten dancers of multiple origins, the conductor Ivor Bolton (who specialised in Baroque repertory), the set designer Anna Viebrock and the costume designer Greta Goiris accompany Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui on this adventure.