William Christie to Conduct Les Arts Florissants in DAVID ET JONATHAS at BAM, 4/17-21
Following their landmark revival of Atys in 2011, esteemed conductor William Christie and his early music ensemble Les Arts Florissants return to BAM with another French Baroque gem: David et Jonathas, in a production directed by the general manager of Zurich Opera House Andreas Homoki, making his US debut.
First presented in 1688, Marc-Antoine Charpentier's David et Jonathas dramatizes one of the most celebrated male loves in the Bible: that of the young Israeli prince, Jonathas, and its future king, David. Israeli King Saül, jealous of David's military prowess and suspicious of his affection for his son Jonathas, banishes the young shepherd, who then flees to the opposing Philistine camp. Saül's hatred leads him to a battle that claims both his and Jonathas' lives, paving the way for David's ascension to the throne.
David et Jonathas was originally conceived as a series of interludes woven into a five-act biblical play, now lost, by the Jesuit priest Eìtienne Chamillart. William Christie first presented the opera in concert and recorded it in 1988. It wasn't until 2012 at Aix-en-Provence that he was able to present it in a full production by Andreas Homoki, who updated the setting to the Mediterranean in the early 20th century and highlighted the work's pacifist message. Its ingenious staging places the action within a constantly-moving wooden frame, which expands and contracts to reveal a series of flashbacks of happier times for the two young protagonists. Comparing their story to that of Romeo and Juliet, Homoki said that Charpentier found a "poignantly intense music tone" to portray the doomed relations between David and Jonathas and that the piece reminds us of the "power of love to erase borders and to transform hate into love."
For the past 30 years, William Christie has led the international revival of French Baroque music and many of his acclaimed productions are seen in New York on BAM's stages. To celebrate his long-standing relations with BAM, starting with his first appearance with Atys in 1989, an Iconic Artist Talk will be held on Apr 21. Maestro Christie will discuss his music career, as seen through his considerable number of engagements at BAM, with longtime theater critic, author, and current Vanity Fair columnist John Heilpern.
David et Jonathas US Premiere
By Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Les Arts Florissants
An Aix-en-Provence Festival production
Conducted by William Christie
Directed by Andreas Homoki
Scene design by Paul Zoller
Costume design by Gideon Davey
Lighting design by Franck Evin
Cast: Pascal Charbonneau (David), Ana Quintans (Jonathas), Neal Davies (Saül), Kresimir Spicer (Joabel), Dominique Visse (La Pythonisse), and Fréderic Caton (Archis)
Performances take place at BAM's Howard Gilman Opera House (30 Lafayette Ave) on Apr 17, 18 & 20 at 7:30pm; and Apr 21 at 2pm. Tickets start at $30. In French with English titles.
Iconic Artist Talk: William Christie
Moderated by John Heilpern
Apr 21, 11am
BAM Fisher (Fishman Space)
Tickets: $20 ($10 for Friends of BAM)
A Special Screening for Friends of BAM: Atys in HD, introduced by William Christie
Apr 18, 6:15pm
BAM Rose Cinemas
Tickets by RSVP and for Friends of BAM only
William Christie, harpsichordist, conductor, musicologist, and teacher, is the inspiration behind one of the most exciting musical adventures of the last 30 years. Born in Buffalo, William Christie studied at Harvard and Yale Universities and has lived in France since 1971. He founded Les Arts Florissants in 1979 and received major public recognition in 1987 with the production of Atys at the Opéra Comique in Paris (the production's US debut was presented at BAM in 1989; its much-anticipated revival was presented at BAM in September 2011). His pioneering work has led to a renewed appreciation of 17th- and 18th-century French repertoire. He is equally adept at other European repertoire and has given many acclaimed performances of works by Monteverdi, Rossi, Scarlatti, Purcell, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart. His extensive discography (more than 100 recordings, many of which have won awards in France and abroad) with Harmonia Mundi and Warner Classics/Erato is proof of this versatility.
William Christie has a particularly busy operatic career and has collaborated with renowned directors such as Jean-Marie Villégier, Robert Carsen, Alfredo Arias, Jorge Lavelli, Graham Vick, Adrian Noble, Andrei Serban, and Luc Bondy. In great demand as a guest conductor, he has been invited by the Berlin Philharmonic, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Metropolitan Opera of New York, the Zurich Opernhaus, and the Opéra national de Lyon. Christie is Commandeur of l'Ordre de la Légion d'Honneur as well as Officier of l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 2008 and received the 2005 Georges Pompidou Prize as well as the Liliane Bettencourt Choral Singing Prize awarded by the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 2004.
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 William Christie and takes its name from a short opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. Les Arts Florissants played a pioneering role in the resurgence of interest for a repertoire which had up until then been neglected but which is now widely performed and admired. Les Arts Florissants has also embarked upon contemporary repertoire, giving the premiere of Motets III - Hunc igitor terrorem by Betsy Jolas in 1999, to mark the ensemble's 20th anniversary. Since its first appearance in 1989 (Atys), Les Arts Florissants has brought many of its notable productions to BAM, including Atys (1992, revived in 2011), Castor et Pollux and Les Indes Galantes (1993), Médée (1994), Orlando (1996), Hippolyte et Aricie (1997), Zoroastre (1998), Odes & Birthday Music by Henry Purcell (1999), Theodora (2000), Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria (2002), Les Boréades (2003), Hercules (2006), Dido and Aeneas, Actéon, and The Fairy Queen (2010).
Starting with the 2012/13 season, Andreas Homoki took up the position of general manager of the Zurich Opera House where his Der fliegende Holländer was presented in a co-production with the Teatro alla Scala Milan and the Norske Opera in Oslo. In addition, in April 2013, he will direct Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. His production of Charpentier's David and Jonathas, staged in the summer of 2012 for the Aix-en-Provence Festival, can also be seen at the Edinburgh Festival, the Opéra Comique Paris, and BAM. His international career was launched in 1992 with Die Frau ohne Schatten at the Grand Théâtre de Genève, a production which was revived the following year at the Châtelet in Paris and won the French Theatre Critics Award for Best Opera in the 1993/94 season. In 2002 Andreas Homoki succeeded Harry Kupfer as principal stage director of the Komische Oper in Berlin, and a season later was appointed general manager, where he remained until the 2011/12 season. Under his direction the Komische Oper Berlin was nominated "Best Opera House of the Year" by the magazine Opernwelt in 2007. David et Jonathas marks his US debut.
French-Canadian tenor Pascal Charbonneau (David) studied at McGill University in Montreal and the Atelier Lyrique de l'Opéra de Montréal. He was awarded the Oratorio/Lied prize at the Julian Gayarre International Singing Competition. Recent professional highlights include David et Jonathas at the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence‚ Edinburgh International Festival, Opéra Comique, BAM‚ Acis and Galatea at La Fenice and Aix-en-Provence‚ Sweeney Todd and My Fair Lady at the Châtelet‚ From the House of the Dead at Opera National du Rhin‚ Knight Crew at Glyndebourne‚ and St. John Passion at Washington National Cathedral.
After earning a degree in Sculpture in 1998, soprano Ana Quintans (Jonathas) pursued her vocal studies at Lisbon Conservatory and later at the Flanders Opera Studio in Ghent with a Gulbenkian Foundation scholarship. She has worked with distinguished conductors and stage directors and her recordings include Fauré's Requiem with Sinfonia Varsovia and Michel Corboz, and Charpentier's Judicium Salomonis with Les Arts Florissants and William Christie. Performances on DVD include Drusilla in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea and a Witch in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas.
Welsh bass-baritone Neal Davies (Saül) studied at King's College, London, and at the Royal Academy of Music. He also studied at the International Opera Studio, Zurich under the patronage of Dame Gwyneth Jones. He won the Lieder Prize at the 1991 Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. He has been a regular guest at the Edinburgh Festival (performing under Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Donald Runnicles, and Charles Mackerras). Recordings include Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream under Sir Colin Davis, Messiah and Theodora under Paul McCreesh, Vivaldi's cantatas and Handel's L'Allegro under Robert King, and Henri Dutilleux songs under Yan Pascal Tortelier.