Marc-Antoine Charpentier, 1643-1704
Born in the year Monteverdi died, Charpentier though French had studied Italian music in Rome. Most of his works were religious, but he composed much incidental theatre music, especially for Molière, and eight operas, half of which are lost. He was much inhibited by a draconian law of Louis XIV that only Jean-Baptiste Lully, a favourite of his, could compose large works. He was considerably protected by the powerful Guise family, for whom he worked, and later the Jesuits. The death of Lully in 1687 and the king’s diversion to other interests gave Charpentier some of the freedom he needed. Wikipedia has a detailed biography. In addition to an enormous number of compositions in many genres - oratorios, masses, sonatas, ballets to name some, he was also a prolific writer on music theory. Nevertheless, interest in Charpentier seems to be a quite recent phenomenon - the first thorough catalogue of his works appearing only in 1982. Limelight ran an article on him last year in connection with a Melbourne performance of his opera La Descente d’Orphée aux Enfers  (yes, that doomed couple O and E again!)  It describes him as “an exquisite composer of great emotional power, dazzling invention, and consummate craftsmanship…a fondness for lyricism and dramatic effects and [a] keen oversight of structure and sure handed – indeed, virtuosic – command of counterpoint…also a brilliant orchestrator, deploying a vast palette of unique sonic effects in his sacred and secular music.” An elegant site to explore (in French) is Charpentier, musicien du Baroque,  a site in memory of the 300th anniversary of the composer's death. His best-known opera is Médée (Medea, libretto by Corneille) whose permiere in 1693 the king did see - but it enjoyed little popular success thanks to the Lully push. William Christie’s Les Arts Florissants revived it in 1984; an audio recording is on YouTube. We will be looking at David et Jonathas.

The world of Charpentier

1648 End of Thirty Years War 1661 Louis XIV takes the throne, starts to build Versailles 1666 Molière’s Misanthrope 1685 Louis XIV revokes Edict of Nantes which gave freedom of worship to protestants. 1689 Start of “French and Indian Wars” in America 1701 War of the Spanish Succession
Feb 24, David et Jonathas Feb 24, David et Jonathas