LES ARTS FLORISSANTS
Saturday Evening, October 8, 2016, 7:30 p.m. at Caruth Auditorium, SMU
The Dallas Bach Society James Richman, Artistic Director
Clare Cason, Michelle Hanlon, Baroque Violins
Tamara Meredith, Janelle West, Baroque Flutes
Eric Smith, Viola da Gamba
Chrisopher Phillpott, Baroque Cello
James Richman, Harpsichord
with THE NEW YORK BAROQUE DANCE COMPANY
Catherine Turocy, Artistic Director – Carly Fox Horton, Glenda Norcross, Alexis Silver, Catherine Turocy, Brynt Beitman, Brock Henderson, Gabriel Speiller, Andrew Trego
Anna Frederica Popova, Camille Ortiz-Lafont, Rebecca Beasley, Sopranos
Katrina Burggraf-Kledas, Mezzo-Soprano
Nicholas Garza, Tenor
Patrick Gnage, Baritone
Joshua Hughes, Andrew Dittman, Bass
The creation of this production of Les Arts Florissants was made possible by generous grants from TACA, the Texas Commision for the Arts, the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, and numerous private donors. We are also grateful to Bruce Wood Dance Project and Contemporary Ballet Dallas for their support.
When he composed Les Arts Florissants, Marc Antoine Charpentier was in the service of the Duchesse de Guise, where he enjoyed the presence of a small but exquisite ensemble of musicians, several of whom were also servants. He produced a prodigious amount of music in all genres, which has the delightful characteristic that every “new” piece discovered and performed in our day proves to be of very high quality!
Les Arts Florissants, his Idyle en musique, was written in 1685 as best as can be judged, and thus during the lifetime of Lully, who held the Royal Patent for opera. Simply put, this Patent meant that no one else in the kingdom was allowed to use more than eight singers and eight musicians for dramatic musical works. While Charpentier did live long enough to survive this prohibition and write one full-blown opera, the cleverness with which he overcame the legal limitations in the current work is perhaps even a greater proof of his genius. He constructs a vocal ensemble of seven (in five parts with doubling of the soprano and bass parts) who serve as the solo Arts, as well as the chorus of Arts and Warriors. With the proper preparation, they also flee the stage, only to reappear as the followers of Discord. When Discord is vanquished by Peace (the eighth vocalist), they come back in their original guise to honor the return of Peace and the Flourishing Arts, in a finale of celestial beauty and perfection.
The exact reference to a real Peace has been much debated, as Louis XIV, whose Peace is clearly in question, was involved in a number of foreign conflicts at this time. One possibility that has not been much spoken of, but which may be the most important of all, is the turning of the tide in the ongoing war with the Turks, including the siege of Esztergom and the important victory at Novy Sad, as well as the turning back of the Turkish forces at the Gates of Vienna in 1683. This marked the beginning of the end of these conflicts, and Louis’s involvement in the victory was duly acknowledged by the Sublime Porte when he was ceded the title of protector of the Christian holy places in Palestine. Whatever the actual peace, however, Charpentier’s sublime work celebrates the bounty of peace on a higher level, with real gratitude for the blessings peace brings, especially for the arts.
Charpentier’s Sonata, a rare instrumental work, seems related to Les Arts Florissants by its position in the manuscript volumes containing his compositions. It stands alone as a work of great inventiveness, but is even more interesting in this context. His delightful Song of the birth of Jesus dates from the same period and was written for the same musicians and singers.