Campra was one of the leading French opera composers in the period between Jean-Baptiste Lully and Jean-Philippe Rameau. He wrote several tragédies en musique, but his chief claim to fame is as the creator of a new genre, opéra-ballet. He also wrote three books of cantatas as well as religious music, including a requiem.
Campra was the son of Jean-François Campra, a surgeon and violinist from Graglia, in Italy, and of Louise Fabry, from Aix-en-Provence. His father was his first music teacher. On December 3, 1660, he was baptised in the Église de la Madeleine in Aix. He became a choirboy in the Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur in Aix in 1674, and commenced ecclesiastical studies four years later. He was reprimanded by his superiors in 1681 for having taken part in theatrical performances without permission, but was nevertheless made a chaplain on 27 May of that year.
From 1694 to 1700, he was maître de musique (music director) at the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, after having served in a similar capacity in Arles and Toulouse. Campra controversially brought violins into the making of sacred music at Notre-Dame de Paris which at the time was seen as very avant-garde due to their reputation as 'street instruments'.
He began to turn toward the theatre in 1697 and published some theatrical compositions under his brother's name to protect his reputation within the church. In 1700 he gave up his post at Notre-Dame and concentrated on his theatrical music to critical success. By 1705 he was a musical celebrity but this resulted in him becoming a target for negative articles in the press. From 1720 onwards, he returned to the composition of sacred music. Although Campra had obtained critical success he did not have financial security and hence in 1722 he was engaged by the Prince of Conti as maître de musique although this appointment was short lived. After the death of the regent, Campra became sous-maître at the Royal Chapel in Versailles in 1723. In 1730 he became the Inspecteur Général at the Opéra (Royal Academy of Music).
He died at the age of 83.
- L'Europe galante, opéra-ballet (1697)
- Le carnaval de Venise, opéra-ballet (1699)
- Hésione, tragédie en musique (1700)
- Aréthuse, opéra-ballet (1701)
- Tancrède, tragédie en musique (1702)
- Les muses, opéra-ballet (1703)
- Iphigénie en Tauride, tragédie en musique (1704)
- Télémaque, tragédie en musique pastiche (1704)
- Alcine, tragédie en musique (1705)
- Hippodamie, tragédie en musique (1708)
- Les fêtes vénitiennes, opéra-ballet (1710)
- Idoménée, tragédie en musique (1712)
- Télèphe, tragédie en musique (1713)
- Énée et Didon, fête musicale (1714)
- Camille, reine des volsques, tragédie en musique (1717)
- Les âges, opéra-ballet (1718)
- Achille et Déidamie, tragédie en musique (1735)
- Book I 1708 - Hebe. L'Heureux jaloux. Didon. Daphne. Arion. Les femmes.
- Book II 1714 - Les Heureux Epoux, Silène, Achille oisif, La Dispute de l'Amour,
- Book III 1728 - Enée et Didon 
- Nisi Dominus (1722)
- Requiem (after 1723)
- Motets for the royal chapel (1723–1741)
It is likely that his best known, or most often heard, piece is the "Rigaudon" from his opera Idoménée, in an arrangement for the pipe organ. It is very frequently used as a wedding processional, and is often recorded in that respect by many organists making musically polyglot recordings of generic "wedding music".
- Hlden, p.180
- Maurice Barthélémy, André Campra – 1660-1744, Arles: Actes Sud, 1995
- James R. Anthony La musique en France à l'époque baroque: de Beaujoyeulx à Rameau 1981 "Enée et Didon (Livre III), qui est pratiquement une cantate-opéra, mettant en scène deux protagonistes, ... Dans les cantates plus tardives de Campra, l'usage systématique de tous les procédés lyriques se conjugue avec une utilisation ..."
- Anthony, James R. "Campra, André". Grove Music Online (subscription access).
- Holden, Amanda (Ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam, 2001. ISBN 0-14-029312-4
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to André Campra.|
- Free scores by André Campra at the International Music Score Library Project
- Free scores by André Campra in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)