Padmâvatî - Albert Roussel

An inspired blend of opera and ballet makes a heady mix for this early Twentieth Century operatic excercise in Orientalism.  This seldom performed gem was the result of Roussel's visit to the ruins of Chittor and is full of rich eastern harmonies and melodies.  

It's rather ritualistic in it's construction, almost like an oratorio with movement and one of my favourite scores from the period.  To me it ranks up there with Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe in exoticism and as first performed at the Paris Opera on June 1, 1923.  

I love this score, it is rich and hypnotic, you could be forgiven for thinking it was Hollywood soundtrack in some parts.  You can hear Roussel's influence on composers like Bernard Hermann for example, in his soundtrack to the 50's blockbuster about Akhenaton, The Egyptian.

There is a great role for mezzo in the title role herself, and much haunting, mystical chorus work.  The example below is from the above recording and is the final ten minutes of the opera, when Rata-Sen is stoned to death and Padmâvatî joins him on the funeral pyre.  And who doesn't like a good funeral pyre to finish off an opera?