Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s opera David et Jonathas, written for a celebration at a Jesuit school in 1688, premiered together with a Latin verse drama, Saul, now lost. As was the custom, acts of the opera alternated with acts of the drama, which had its own music. For their subject, Charpentier and his librettist Père François Brétonneau chose the episodes in David’s life just before he became King of Israel.
As the opera opens, Saul learns from the Witch of Endor (here, as in Chaucer, a Pythoness) that he will lose his children and crown for his failure to obey the Lord. Saul believes his commander David will bring this about and banishes him. David finds refuge with the Philistines and leads them to victory in battle. As David is gaining power with the Philistines, Saul declares a truce with them so he can watch over his enemy. David returns and has a tender reunion with Saul’s son Jonathan. They love each other deeply. Read more »