Les Arts Florissants & Paul Agnew
Biography Les Arts Florissants & Paul Agnew
Les Arts Florissants
The vocal and instrumental ensemble Les Arts Florissants is one of the most renowned and respected early music groups in the world. Dedicated to the performance of Baroque music on original instruments, the ensemble was founded in 1979 by the Franco-American harpsichordist and conductor William Christie who directs it to this day, and takes its name from a short opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. Les Arts Florissants played a pioneering role in the resurgence of interest in the French musical world for a repertoire which had up until then been neglected (in particular unearthing many treasures from the collections of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France) but which is now widely performed and admired: not only 17th-century French repertoire but also European music of the 17th and 18th centuries more generally.
Since the 1987 production of Lully's Atys at the Opéra Comique in Paris, triumphantly revived in May 2011, it has been in the field of opera that Les Arts Florissants have enjoyed their greatest successes. Notable productions include works by Rameau (Les Indes galantes, Hippolyte et Aricie, Les Boréades, Les Paladins), Lully and Charpentier (Médée, David et Jonathas, Les Arts florissants in front of the heads of state of the G7 in 1982, Armide), Handel (Orlando, Acis and Galatea, Semele, Alcina, Serse, Hercules, L’Allegro, il Moderato ed il Penseroso), Purcell (King Arthur, Dido and Aeneas, The Fairy Queen), Mozart (Die Zauberflöte, Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Monteverdi's lyric trilogy, and also rarer composers such as Landi (Il sant'Alessio), Cesti (Il Tito) and Hérold (Zampa).
The ensemble has collaborated on productions with renowned stage directors such as Jean-Marie Villégier, Robert Carsen, Alfredo Arias, Pier Luigi Pizzi, Jorge Lavelli, Adrian Noble, Andrei Serban, Luc Bondy, Graham Vick, Deborah Warner, Jérôme Deschamps and Macha Makeïeff and Andreas Homoki, as well as with choreographers Francine Lancelot, Béatrice Massin, Ana Yepes, Shirley Wynne, Maguy Marin, François Raffinot, Jiri Kylian, Bianca Li, Trisha Brown, Robyn Orlin, Sasha Waltz and José Montalvo and Dominique Hervieu.
Les Arts Florissants enjoys an equally high profile in the concert hall, as illustrated by their many acclaimed concert or semi-staged performances of opera and oratorio (Zoroastre, Anacréon and Les Fêtes d’Hébé by Rameau, Actéon and La Descente d'Orphée aux Enfers by Charpentier, Idoménée by Campra and Idomeneo by Mozart, Jephté by Montéclair, L’Orfeo by Rossi, Handel's Giulio Cesare with Cecilia Bartoli, The Indian Queen by Purcell) as well as chamber music programmes both secular and sacred (petits motets by Lully and Charpentier, madrigals by Monteverdi and Gesualdo, court airs by Lambert, hymns by Purcell...) their programmes for large-scale forces (Gluck/Haydn/Mozart Concert, Grands Motets by Rameau, Mondonville or Campra, oratorios by Haydn…) and also oratorios by Handel: Messiah, Israel in Egypt, Theodora, Susanna, Jephtha and Belshazzar).
The ensemble has an impressive discography: nearly one hundred recordings for Harmonia Mundi, Warner/Erato and Virgin Classics. Their most recent releases are Lamentazione, the first recording conducted by Paul Agnew, and Duetti, a recording of duets with countertenors Philippe Jaroussky and Max Emanuel Cencic, conducted by William Christie. Their DVD catalogue has recently expanded with La Didone by Cavalli (Opus Arte) and David et Jonathas (Bel Air Classiques). In autumn 2013 Les Arts Florissants will bring out a recording of Handel's Belshazzar on their own label, to be followed by that of the sixth edition of Le Jardin des Voix, Le Jardin de monsieur Rameau.
For twenty years, Les Arts Florissants have been artists in residence at the théâtre de Caen, and each year they present a concert season in numerous towns of the Basse-Normandie region. They also pursue an outreach policy towards new audiences at both a regional and national level. The ensemble also tours widely within France, (Bordeaux, Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Versailles, Grenoble, Vannes, Belfort… and in festivals such as Lessay, Beaune, Ambronay, Aix…), and is an active ambassador for French culture abroad, regularly invited to the Brooklyn Academy, the Lincoln Center in New York, the Barbican Centre in London and the Vienna Festival, Madrid's Teatro Real, the Edinburgh Festival, Madrid and Barcelona, the Bozar in Brussels, the Salzburg Festival…).
In recent years Les Arts Florissants have launched several cultural transmission programmes. The “Arts Flos Juniors” programme, launched in 2007, enables students from French-speaking conservatoires to join the orchestra and chorus for a production, from the first day of rehearsals up until the last performance; the “Le Jardin des Voix” academy, created in 2002, is held every two years at the théâtre de Caen and has already revealed a substantial number of new singers; the partnership set up between William Christie and Les Arts Florissants and the Julliard School since 2007 provides opportunities to build bridges between Europe and America; a large number of short-term educational actions are also carried out, in particular in the Basse-Normandie region (aimed at both amateur and non-musicians, adults and children) and also in conservatoires of the Paris suburbs.
In the course of their 2013-2014 season, placed under the sign of the “Rameau Year”, Les Arts Florissants will be performing in a programme of Music for Queen Caroline, composed of works by Handel (W. Christie); the second part of the Jardin des Voix tour – Le Jardin de monsieur Rameau (W. Christie); the revival of the ballet Doux Mensonges at the Palais Garnier (P. Agnew); a programme of court airs by Lambert and other composers (W. Christie); the continuation of the complete cycle of Monteverdi’s madrigals by Paul Agnew, with the Sixth and Seventh Books; Rameau's Platée in Paris, Vienna and New York (W. Christie, staged by Robert Carsen); a programme of airs and dances by Rameau (J. Cohen); a concert of sacred works by Henry Purcell (P. Agnew); a production staged by Sophie Daneman and choreographed by Françoise Denieau: Rameau, maître à danser, created in Caen (W. Christie) and grands motets by Rameau and Mondonville (W. Christie).
Les Arts Florissants receive financial support from the Ministry of Culture and Communication, the City of Caen and the Région Basse-Normandie. They are artists in residence at the théâtre de Caen.
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