With Peter Sellars’s marvelous new Berlin production of Médée still on my mind, I sang its composer’s praises to Christian last week during one of Tannhäuser’s long intermissions. Marc-Antoine Charpentier wrote hundreds of compositions, but today Chris’s Cache offers just two short theatrical works and one sacred piece from the beguiling oeuvre of the guy who didn’t write Louise.

Of the 17th century’s great composers, Charpentier was among the unluckiest. Supporters of Lully blasted him for sounding too Italianate (he had studied with Carissimi): they ignored the irony that Lully himself was born in Italy. Even after Lully’s death, Charpentier was only able to get one full-length opera produced, the magnificent Médée. His equally wonderful David et Jonathas has often been staged but the sacred music drama was intended, like Handel’s oratorios, to be performed in concert. Its composer never married which might explain why he was drawn to that Biblical story.

Charpentier has long been championed by the French group Les Arts Florissants which takes its name from a short opera by the composer. Over the decades, William Christie’s group has brought many Charpentier programs to New York, as recently as this past spring to Zankel Hall. Both Médée (with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in the title role) and David et Jonathas were staged by them at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and I’ve several times seen the group perform Actéon which they always pair with Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.

All of LAF’s many Charpentier recordings are heartily recommended, as is a divine CD led by Jordi Savall.

Charpentier is often programmed this month as he composed an exquisite Messe de Minuit pour Noël. He’s lucky in having a lengthy biography available in English. My copy was picked up cheaply at the much-missed Patelson’s.

Charpentier: La descente d’Orphée aus enfers

Eurydice: Sophie Daneman
Prosperine: Monique Zanetti
Daphné/Oenone: Patricia Petibon
Aréthuze: Katalin Karolyi
Orphée: Paul Agnew
Apollon/Titye: Jean-François Gardeil
Ixion: Steve Dugardin
Tantale: François Piolino
Pluton: Fernand Bernadi

Les Arts Florissants
Conductor: William Christie
Institut Français, Budapest
14 May 1995

Charpentier: Actéon

Junon: Vivica Genaux
Diane: Daniela Skorka
Daphné/Aréthuze: Anat Edri
Hyale: Valérie Gabail
Actéon: Cyril Auvity
Orphée/Ixion:  Mathieu Montagne
Tantale: Paul Cremazy

Les Talens Lyriques
Conductor: Christophe Rousset
Théâtre des Champs-Élysées
1 October 2016

Charpentier: Te Deum

Eugénie Lefebvre
Jehanne Amzal
Clément Debieuvre
François Joron
David Witczak
Etienne Bazola

Ensemble Les Surprises
Conductor: Louis-Noël Bestion de Camboulas
Cathedral, Vác
9 July 2022

Trove Thursday previously offered Médée and David et Jonathas.

Like them, each of today’s selection can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a box with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

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