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Nicolas McGegan conducts Rameau's Le Temple de la Gloire

Nicholas McGegan

While there are many operas based on works by literary giants, it's very rare that a literary giant directly collaborates with a composer in the creation of a work of musical theater. The librettist for Jean-Philippe Rameau's Le Temple de la Gloire  was none other than François-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire, who in 1745 found himself a victim of his own success, working for the court of Louis XV. This meant he had to produce art that glorified the king even though he earned his reputation with works that challenged the monarchy and authoritarianism. For his part Rameau confined his revolutionary impulses to his groundbreaking music; he was content to reap the rewards to be gained by staying in the King's good graces. Both men were in their early fifties, both had already attained near-legendary renown in their respective fields, and neither suffered fools. While this opera has been performed and recorded several times in its 1746 version, the original 1745 version was only recently discovered in the music library of the University of California at Berkeley, and this version turns out to be much more scathingly witty and politcially pointed; it's clear that after its premiere its creatiors had to tone things down in order to avoid wrath from the authorities. The fascinating saga of its journey from a library shelf to a fully-staged and rapturously received production in UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Auditorium in 2017 is here told by the conductor Nicolas McGegan, who leads the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and an international cast in this performance, and who will step down from his position as the PBO's music director in 2020, having held that position since 1985. Classical WETA's James Jacobs talks with Maestro McGegan about this opera, this recording, and what it means to go from being a Music Director to being a Conductor Laureate. The complete opera will be aired on Classical WETA Opera House, Saturday, June 29 at 1:00 pm, hosted by Linda Carducci.