MARC-ANTOINE CHARPENTIER'S MÉDÉE
Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 11th of November 2007 at 3 pm
LIBRETTO (in French)
STORYLINE From the Creation and the Flood to Medeia's ultimate return to her homeland, look at my version of Apollodoros's ancient account at:
SYNOPSIS Jason and his lover Medea had fled from her homeland with the golden fleece. They eventually reached Corinth, where Jason fell in love with Princess Creusa. Jason is going to marry her, and let her be mother to Medea's children. Medea obtains vengeance: she causes the death of Creusa, and kills her own children.
This action will fill five acts, and RadioNZ has set aside the space from 3 till 6.30 pm to fit it in.
MARC-ANTOINE CHARPENTIER (died 1704)
Médée, an opera in five acts with prologue
Médée.......................... Lorraine Hunt Lieberson
Jason............................ Mark Padmore
Créon........................... Bernard Deletré
Créuse.......................... Monique Zanetti
Oronote........................ Jean-Marc Salzmann
Nérine........................... Noémi Rime
Cléone.......................... Isabelle Desrochers
Arcas............................ François Bazola
Les Arts Florissants/William Christie (Erato 4509 96558)
Marc–Antoine Charpentier was born in, or near, Paris in 1643 and died in February 1704. Charpentier was the son of a master scribe who had connections to influential families in the Parlement of Paris. Marc-Antoine received a very good education, perhaps with the help of the Jesuits, and registered for law school in Paris when he was 18. He was in Rome, probably between 1667 and 1669, and studied with Giacomo Carissimi.
On his return to France he most likely he worked for Marie de Lorraine, Duchesse de Guise as her house composer, until her death in 1688. During this time he composed a considerable quantity of dramatic secular vocal works, as well as Psalm settings, hymns, a Magnificat setting, a mass, and motets. Beginning around 1672, he worked with Molière, after Molière's falling out with Jean-Baptiste Lully.
During the 1680s Charpentier served as Maître de Musique at the Jesuits' Paris church of St. Louis as well as being the music teacher to Philippe, Duke of Chartres. In 1698 he was appointed Maître de Musique à la Sainte Chapelle a post he held until his death in 1704.
His compositions include oratorios, masses, operas, and numerous smaller pieces that are difficult to categorise. Many of his smaller works for one or two voices and instruments resemble the Italian cantatas of the time.
This opera is a second recording of Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Médée by William Christie and his group, Les Arts Florissants. Christie said he loves Charpentier’s music and considers Médée to be the most important of all his works.
“It is also the one that moves me most. Much has happened to me and my ensemble since Médée in 1984. Most important is the practical experience gained in the theatre by my singers on stage, and myself in the pit. We have put on fully-staged productions of Atys, Le Malade Imaginaire, Les Indes galantes, Castor et Pollux and lastly and most importantly, Médée.
“The experience has been invaluable, and the effect of staging on music immeasurable.
“Les Arts Florissants has learned to accompany, to listen and to support the singers and chorus on stage. It has acquired what is most important for a good interpretation of stage music: sharp reflexes, a spontaneous musical gesture and a total familiarity with the 17th-century French style,” says Christie.
(Notes provided by Radio New Zealand)
Let's get a few things sorted out, first. The composer is Marc-Antoine Charpentier (born 1634 according to two encyclopedias, but Wikipedia says 1634, and RNZ has him as 1643 or c1645). He is to be distinguished from the other Parisian composer with the same surname, Gustave Charpentier (1860-1956), best known for the soprano aria "Depuis le jour" from his only successful opera, Louise (1900); but she loves a tenor (Placido Domingo on the recording I have).
This Medea opera is not the one by Luigi Cherubini, in which Maria Callas excelled; nor Medea in Corinto by Mayr (broadcast in the past week by John Ward from the Gramophone Room). But it tells the usual tale, based on Euripides, here with a libretto by Thomas Corneille.
Les Arts Florissants is another Baroque opera by Charpentier, but it is also the name given to a French orchestra founded by William Christie (an American), and they and their choir will be performing in this recording from 1995. They had made a celebrated record, issued in 1985, but Christie made a second attempt to achieve perfection, and this time he had the mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. In real life she was a tragic figure, having succumbed to cancer at age 52 in 2006: the critics said she had a talent for tragedy, displayed consummate artistry, and was renowned for her passionate and beautiful interpretations of roles in Handel operas, notably Irene in Theodora (available on video-recording, a Glyndebourne performance, William Christie conducting The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment).