Name: Bethany Shepherd
Main Subject: Early Music Singing
Research Supervisor: Charles Toet
Title of Research: Subversive Climes: Exploring the role of exoticism in Les Indes Galantes
Research Question: What is the role of exoticism in Les Indes Galantes?
Summary of Results: Exoticism in Rameau’s opéra-ballet Les Indes Galantes has three primary functions. By setting the plots of the four independent entrées in real but geographically distant cultures, the librettist Louis Fuzelier was able to introduce new spectacles to the operatic stage, providing novelty for audiences jaded by the tradition of entertainment based on gods and mythology. This dramatic development in turn provided Rameau with the opportunity to manipulate and extend the musical conventions of the time in order to create a style of expression appropriate to depict these exotic characters and locales. A deeper understanding of the context in which Rameau and Fuzelier created this work was has further revealed that the libretto and Rameau’s musical depiction of the characters in Les Incas du Pérou and Les Sauvages reflect the practice in early Enlightenment literary and philosophical cirlces of idealising exotic cultures to criticise eighteenth century French society. These conclusions offer modern performers a wider range of interpretive options when approaching this work, allowing for a more nuanced performance which brings together the elements of drama, music, philosophy and entertainment in a cohesive manner.
Biography: Australian soprano Bethany Shepherd studied Classical Singing at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, under renowned Wagnerian soprano Lisa Gasteen. After obtaining a Bachelor degree with distinction in Australia, Bethany moved to The Netherlands to undertake studies in Early Music at the Koninklijk Conservatorium. She is currently completing a Master of Early Music Singing, studying with Rita Dams, Jill Feldman, Peter Kooij, Michael Chance and Pascal Bertin.