Les arts florissants (opera)
It was written in 1685 for the group of musicians employed by Marie de Lorraine, Duchess of Guise, at her residence in Paris. The reason behind the creation of this work, as well as its place of performance, remain a matter for speculation. The French libretto, written by an unknown author, is allegorical in nature and draws on aspects of mythological and natural symbolism familiar to 17th-century audiences to add depth to a superficially simple plot.
The story of the opera concerns the eponymous Arts, shown flourishing under the beneficent and peaceful reign of Louis XIV, as they and a group of warriors become drawn into a dispute between the central characters of La paix (Peace) and La discorde (Discord). After a brief struggle in which Discord and his Furies gain the upper hand, Peace appeals to Jupiter to intervene on her behalf. Discord and his followers are chased back into Hades by a hail of thunderbolts, and Peace holds sway once more.
The manuscript score also calls for two choruses in the form of a Troupe de Guerriers (Troop of Warriors) and a Chœur de Furies chantantes (Chorus of singing Furies), to be sung by all available singers, and a troupe of Furies dansantes, si l'on veut (Dancing Furies, if desired). The instrumentalists are included in the original character list under the entry Suite de la Musique, and the overture is labelled pour les symphonistes de la Suite de la Musique (for the orchestral players in Music's following).
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast, 1685
(Conductor: – )
|La Musique, Music||soprano||Jacqueline-Geneviève de Brion|
|La Poésie, Poetry||soprano||Antoinette Talon|
|La Peinture, Painting||haute-contre||Marc-Antoine Charpentier|
|L'Architecture, Architecture||mezzo-soprano||Marie Guilbault de Grandmaison|
|La Discorde, Discord||bass||Pierre Beaupuis|
|La Paix, Peace||soprano||Elisabeth "Isabelle" Thorin|
|Un Guerrier, A Warrior||baritone||Germain Carlier|
- Charpentier: Les Arts florissants / William Christie, Les Arts Florissants CD. Harmonia Mundi Musique d'Abord (1999). Catalog# 1901083. (not widely available)
- Marc-Antoine Charpentier: "Les Arts florissans", Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Œuvres complètes, ser.I vol.7 (facs.), ed. H. Wiley Hitchcock (Paris: Minkoff France, 1996) 120-164
- The vocal forces usually employed by Marie de Lorraine (Hitchcock suggests there were never more than fourteen singers at a time, and usually fewer) would otherwise have been too small to make this proliferation of choruses feasible. In Charpentier's manuscript, the various vocal lines of each chorus are labelled with the names of the seven soloists, which would seem to confirm that they were required to double as both choruses. See Hitchcock and Charpentier.
- H. Wiley Hitchcock: "Marc-Antoine Charpentier 1. Life", Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed August 25, 2006), www.grovemusic.com (subscription access)
- John S. Powell: "Les Arts florissants", Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed August 25, 2006), www.grovemusic.com (subscription access)
- Patricia M. Ranum: "The 'Guise Music': some thumbnail sketches of the members of Mlle de Guise's ensemble", Ranums' Panat Times website (Accessed August 25, 2006), www.ranumspanat.com/guise_music.html