Louis XIV arranged plenty of great feasts. In fact, each one was a true gem, blending entertainment, art, music with some drops of magic. But celebrations of 1664 named ‘Les Plaisirs de L’Ile Enchantée’ entered the history. Maybe because they were first ones arranged in Versailles, which at the time was only taking its shape. Maybe because the king & his court were so young & bold. Maybe because Jean-Baptiste Lully & Molière’s genii only appeared in the artistic Heaven of Apollo. In any case, there is something completely bewitching in these celebrations, some mystery covered under a thick veil of time.
The feasts took place in Versailles (7-13 May, 1664). Officially they were dedicated to the Queen Maria-Theresa of Spain, (Louis XIV’s wife…well as a king he had to have one), but in fact, to Mademoiselle de La Valliere, Louis’s love of that time. The King and the Court arrived at Versailles and enjoy various sorts of entertainments: carrousel, course de bague, jousting, theater, ballet, fireworks, strolling, lottery, etc.
The palace building and just made gardens were turned into Alcina’s palace, where the main theatric performances took place. The feasts started with staging a piece of Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto. The king played Ruggiero’s part. (A curious discovery I have made: Orlando Furioso was very popular in the 17th century France, though no complete translation was made. I suppose that it was also linked with close Italian-French intercommunication, in the artistic field as well.)
Molière presented the following comedies: La Princess d’E’lide, LesFâcheux, Le Mariage Forcé, Tartuffe (3acts).The Queen-Mother, Anne of Austria, resented the last comedy as it revealed a hypocritic nature of churchmen and she even told His Majesty to forbid it. Louis obeyed…but not for long. Some years later the comedy was staged already in 5 acts and it had a great success.
Animals also participated in these magnificent divertissements. Besides horses, parrots (as I suppose), there were bears, an elephant, and a camel.
Times passes, epochs change and a magic of ‘Les Plaisirs de L’ile Enchantée’ will remain, as they depict perfectly the one they were made for: Nec Pluribus Impar/Not equal to many.
Vive le Roy! 🙂 🙂 🙂
PS. Archive documents: Philidor L’aisné 1664, Robert Ballard, Paris, 1664.