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 and opéra-ballets that were extremely well received. 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, Italy, and Louise Fabry, from Aix-en-Provence. His father was his first music teacher. He was baptised on 4 December 1660 in the Église de la Madeleine in Aix. He became a choirboy in the Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur there 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.
He served as maître de musique (music director) at the cathedrals of Arles and Toulouse and then, from 1694 to 1700, served in a similar capacity at the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris. Campra added violins to the performance of sacred music at the Paris cathedral, a controversial innovation in an era when they were considered street instruments. He began to compose for the theatre in 1697 and published some theatrical compositions under his brother's name to protect his reputation with church authorities. In 1700 he gave up his post at Notre-Dame and devoted himself to theatrical music with critical success. By 1705 he was such a musical celebrity that he became a target for negative articles in the press. In 1720, he adopted the composition of sacred music as his only profession.
Although Campra had obtained critical success he lacked financial security. In 1722 he was engaged briefly as maître de musique by the Prince of Conti. After the death of the regent Philippe d'Orléans in December 1723, Campra became sous-maître at the Royal Chapel in Versailles. In 1730 he became the Inspecteur Général at the Opéra (Royal Academy of Music).
He died in Versailles on 29 June 1744 at the age of 83.
Compositions and style
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- 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)
- Darius Milhaud based his 1936 orchestral work Suite provençale on 18th-century themes, including some by Campra.
- A theme from Campra's opera Camille, reine des Volsques (1717) was used as the basis of the collaborative work La guirlande de Campra, a set of variations created by seven French composers in 1952.
- The "Rigaudon" from his opera Idoménée, in an arrangement for organ, is probably his most familiar work, often used as a wedding processional and often recorded.
- The Collège Campra, a state-owned secondary school in the centre of Aix-en-Provence is named for him and houses a statue of him.
- Holden, Amanda, ed. (2001). The New Penguin Opera Guide. New York: Penguin Putnam. p. 180. ISBN 0-14-029312-4.
- Anthony, James R. "Campra, André". Grove Music Online[permanent dead link] (subscription access)
- 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 ..."
- Porter, Andrew (28 September 1952). "Festivals in France" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
- Barron, James (24 June 1983). "Weddings March to New Tunes". New York Times. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
- Additional sources
- Maurice Barthélemy, André Campra: sa vie et son oeuvre (1660–1744) (Éditions A. et J. Picard, 1957)
- Catherine Cessac, ed., Itinéraires d'André Campra (1660–1744) (Editions Mardaga, 2012)
- Jean Duron, André Campra: un musicien provençal à Paris (Editions Mardaga, 2010), available online
- Cowart, Georgia (Summer 2001). "Carnival in Venice or Protest in Paris? Louis XIV and the Politics of Subversion at the Paris Opéra". Journal of the American Musicological Society. 54 (2): 265–302. doi:10.1525/jams.2001.54.2.265. JSTOR 10.1525/jams.2001.54.2.265.
- Jean-Paul C. Montagnier: The Polyphonic Mass in France, 1600-1780: The Evidence of the Printed Choirbooks, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.
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