‘Opera Sauvage’: Vangelis’ Beautiful Ode To Nature
Full of lush electronic orchestration, this documentary score by Vangelis remains an underrated gem.
Opera Sauvage, the score for a French filmmaker Frédéric Rossif’s natural history documentary, is not as well known as many of Vangelis‘s film scores or many of his other albums, but it is one of his best. It is a beautiful album that really makes you feel a connection with nature without even the need for on-screen images to make the connection for you.
The opening “Hymne” is typical of Vangelis’s layered keyboards, especially his use of the electric piano; it has an incessant hook that stays in your mind long after the album has finished playing. “Hymne” featured in the film, Chariots Of Fire when a re-recorded version was used as the score for Eric Liddell’s first race in the Scottish highlands.
One of the album’s two lengthy pieces follows, it is the delicate “Rêve” that is dreamlike and, at the same time, there’s an intensity that Vangelis injects with synthesizer effects that underplay the haunting theme. As it builds to its climax there’s even a hint of jazz that makes this one of the composer’s most effective compositions.
“L’Enfent” is another of Vangelis’s deceptively simple themes that builds and is beguiling. The director Hugh Hudson originally intended to use “L’Enfant,” for the opening titles sequence to Chariots of Fire in the first scene on the beach. It was Vangelis who talked him out of it and maybe that was no bad thing as he came up with his iconic theme for the movie. Despite this Hudson had “L’Enfant” being played in the film by a brass band.
“Mouettes” is another short piece and has perhaps the least memorable theme of any of the tracks on the album. It’s followed by “Chromatique” that at once manages to sound classical and new, the blending of different synthesizer parts is subtle like the waves lapping against the shore. “Irelande” is well titled; it has the air of Celtic mystery about it – peat bogs shrouded in the early morning mist and the incessant tolling of a distant bell.
“Flamants Roses,” unlike the other pieces on the album is less cohesive as a single track – not that this is a bad thing. It manages to combine several parts following the slow introductory element that features Jon Anderson of Yes, and Vangelis’s collaborator on several albums, playing harp. It builds to a central upbeat, incessant piece that feels like a raging river, before it mellows into a bluesy finale that has elements that are reminiscent of Vangelis’s amazing score for the movie Blade Runner.
Opera Sauvage was recorded at Vangelis’s Nemo Studios in London, during 1978 and 1979. It made No. 42 on the Billboard charts, but not until December 13, 1986, because it was used for a Gallo Wine commercial; it became the second most successful of his albums in the USA, after Chariots of Fire topped the charts in late 1981. Strangely, though, it failed to make the bestseller list in Britain.
August 27, 2014 at 9:08 pm
Have loved and cherished it for 30+ years. As beautiful now as it was the first time I listened to it. Along with L’Apocalypse Des Animaux, my two favourite Vangelis recordings.
August 27, 2014 at 10:41 pm
One of my favourites ever. The review seems legit and quite enjoyable, I must say: I had no idea that Jon was playing the harp in Flamands Roses!
I thought that you decided to say some words about each track, but you skipped Irlande. Was it on purpose?
Mouettes may be indeed the least memorable one, but a couple of years ago it was my favourite from the whole album.
Anyway, the review is super; it reveals a bunch of stuff that I wasn’t aware of. Congrats!
August 27, 2014 at 10:48 pm
Stephanie, thank you! We didn’t miss Irelande, we said “‘Irelande’ is well titled; it has the air of Celtic mystery about it – peat bogs shrouded in the early morning mist and the incessant tolling of a distant bell.”
September 3, 2014 at 5:33 pm
Yes, you are right, I overlooked it. My bad.
September 23, 2014 at 9:10 pm
My two favourites too Opera Savage and L’Apocalypse Des Animaux that is. I also like Earth. Early Vangelis at his best! Irelande is my favourite track. I visited Ireland and took plenty of video of the landscape. I put Irelande as soundtrack to it and it was so beautifully matched.
August 27, 2014 at 9:26 pm
One of my favorite song by Vangelis, the portraits album excelent and more
August 28, 2014 at 12:38 am
The seductive sound of the music.
Hogne B. Pettersen
August 28, 2014 at 8:49 am
Alan White of Yes has this album on his list of deserted island discs. It’s always been among my favourites. Not a single weak track
August 28, 2014 at 5:30 pm
This album is immaculate. One of the soundtracks of my life. I did not know Alan had such good taste to include this on his desert island list!
August 28, 2014 at 9:56 am
22 movie “l’opera sauvage”
01 – L’oiseau couleur du temps.
02 – Le chemin vers la mer.
03 – La passion du souvenir.
04 – Le temps de dieu.
05 – Par tous les vents.
06 – Ces chants qui viennent de la mer?.
07 – L’oeil du condor.
08 – Hier et demain, la Grèce.
09 – Rajahstan, tout est amour.
10 – Une musique venue de la mer?.
11 – Le rêve celtique, Irlande.
12 – Voyage à Java.
13 – L’espace et le souvenir.
14 – Un rythme absolu.
15 – Voyage au Célèbes.
16 – Le coeur musicien.
17 – Une musique qui vient de Bali.
18 – Singapour cette ville qui vient de la mer.
19 – Au début ce fut la musique.
20 – zimbabwe.
21 – Karnataka – Inde du sud.
22 – Quel est ton destin.
August 28, 2014 at 9:02 pm
On February 22, 2015 i organize my second exposure 700 objects on Vangelis in northern France.
In memory of Frédéric Rossif and Nico Papathanassiou.
( Forminx, Aphrodite’s Child, Vangelis and Frédéric Rossif, Jon and Vangelis, Irene Papas and Vangelis, Vangelis and Demis Roussos, Vangelis and Ridley Scott …).
September 15, 2014 at 8:56 pm
Jon Anderson of YES also played on this album
September 17, 2014 at 7:11 am
una obra de arte de disco, para la eternidad
September 23, 2014 at 9:46 pm
What a surprise, thought I had heard all of Vangelis. Great. But Antarctica remains the best ever for me, gets you floating out of your mind (kind of ;-))
September 23, 2014 at 10:02 pm
Years ago and for several years, “Hymne” has been used by a Barilla commercial in Italy.
Since then, it became the “Barilla song” for all Italian.
It was the standard song played by anyone with a keyboard in front: even when the player didn’t know how to play music, that song was the first thing you would hear.
I think that at one point, maybe that track got spoiled.
Even today, it’s still called the “Barilla song” and almost nobody knows that is called “Hymne” or that is from Vangelis.
Sad to write, but Vangelis, nowadays, is really little known in Italy, despite he did a lot for and in this country.
September 24, 2014 at 8:38 am
This was my first Vangelis LP (vinyl), received in ’81 from my father. It marked my musical life forever, as I still remember now every note from its titles… ‘Reve’ is my favourite title, and I still use it as ‘atmosphere’ music, along with my wife…
December 28, 2014 at 9:47 pm
Mi concepción de la realidad se debilita; cuando escucho esta música, y me recuerda que como nacido, no moriré…
May 1, 2015 at 12:23 pm
‘Rêve’ has been with me since the album was released. I have come to consider it a metaphore for how (my) life has evolved, Yin and Yang combined. I can only be grateful such infinitely beautiful music has been made.
June 12, 2015 at 5:01 pm
My wife chose Hymne to walk down the aisle at our wedding and Re’ve is one of my most favorite Vangelis tracks.
August 29, 2015 at 2:54 pm
I have had the chance of watching it. I would like to name Vangelis as the Beethoven of our times full of innovation and the spiritual sounds he creates in his mind then represents them in the form of a unique music which only belongs to him.
September 30, 2015 at 6:16 pm
I CANT LISTEN THEY LAY TO ME THAT I HAVE SPOTIFY FRI 30 days VRAGOVI PLOT BLAGOSLOV !
December 13, 2015 at 6:58 pm
C’est à chaque fois
C’est quand tu es sur une plage
Une mer brille
Au fond de tes yeux
Et tout au long de ton corps
C’est à chaque fois
C’est reparti pour cette nuit
Et pas demain
La Lune te réveille
Te redonne les ailes
Pour nager entre les étoiles
Le mal est ailleurs
Le bien est caché
Les miens aussi
En refermant mon souffle
Tout autour de ton être
Je ressens l’entièreté
Et quand le vent souffle
Tes cheveux s’unissent en cascade
Elles déshabillent ton visage
Il ne me reste qu’à te regarder
À entendre tes pensées
Entre chaque vague
Une différence en direct
Un changement qui s’avance
Une ouverture pour un ciel
Pour l’aventure qui se réveille
Réjean Desrosiers © 2015 12 13 ☮ 001 / 20151213001
April 13, 2016 at 10:04 pm
An excerpt of l’enfant can be found on the 1982 Peter Weir film A year of living dangerously. Ufortunately, it’s not included on the OST.