Artist Catalog

Les Arts Florissants

Les Arts Florissants is a Baroque musical ensemble in residence at the Théâtre de Caen in Caen, France. The organization was founded by conductor William Christie in 1979. The ensemble derives its name from the 1685 opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. The organization consists of a chamber orchestra of period instruments and a small vocal ensemble. Current notable members include soprano Danielle de Niese and tenor Paul Agnew, who has served as assistant conductor since 2007. Jonathan Cohen is also on the conducting staff. Christie remains the organization's Artistic Director.

Although not specifically a baroque opera ensemble, it is within this field that Les Arts Florissants has achieved its greatest successes. The majority of the ensemble's performances are of period operas (both staged and in concert), many of which are available on CD on the Harmonia Mundi and Erato labels and on DVD. The group first drew international acclaim in the area of opera in December 1986-January 1987 with a production of Jean-Baptiste Lully's Atys at the Opéra-Comique in Paris. The opera had not been performed since 1753 and Christie had unearthed the score at the Bibliothèque nationale de France and created a performing edition. William Christie: "There were a number of important moments in the history of the Arts Florissants, but there's one moment that obviously stands out - and that's the moment when we produced Atys." Christie had been approached by the director of the Paris Opera, Massimo Bogianckino, to think about putting on a Lully opera. Christie was advised by the Opéra-Comique's Thierry Fouquet that Quinault's libretto for Atys would demand an extraordinary stage director - Jean-Marie Villégier took this role and he, together with Christie, created Atys. The production marked the renaissance of Baroque Opera in France. The ensemble has continued in a similar vein of presenting rarely heard works at their home in Caen and on the stages of major opera houses and concert venues like the Teatro Real, the Opéra national du Rhin, the Opéra National de Paris, Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Barbican Centre. The ensemble also occasionally presents works from the standard repertoire, most particularly a number of operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Les Arts Florissants has also had a number of successes in the concert repertoire. The organization has performed and recorded a number of oratorios, cantatas, madrigals, masses, motets, and other musical forms typical of early music. Occasionally the ensemble has made forays into contemporary repertoire, notably performing the world premiere of Betsy Jolas's Motets III - Hunc igitur terrorem at a gala on the occasion of the ensemble's 20th anniversary in 1999.

Many former members of Les Arts Florissants have gone on to have successful music careers outside of the organization. These include several internationally renowned conductors in the field of early music, including Marc Minkowski (founder of Les Musiciens du Louvre), Christophe Rousset (founder of Les Talens Lyriques), Hugo Reyne (founder of La Simphonie du Marais), and Hervé Niquet (founder of Le Concert Spirituel).