William Christie, musical director, founder
Paul Agnew, associate musical director, associate conductor
Jonathan Cohen, associate conductor
Founded in 1979 and dedicated since then to the performance of Baroque music on period instruments, Les Arts Florissants enjoys a worldwide reputation. The ensemble, which takes its name from a short opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, has been indissociable from its founder William Christie right from the start, but has also been conducted regularly by Paul Agnew since 2007. Les Arts Florissants has been a pioneer in the rediscovery of a long-neglected repertory from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (especially French music of the age of Louis XV), which it has firmly established in performance in France and around the world.
Ever since the famous production of Lully’s Atys at the Opéra Comique in Paris in 1987, revived to triumphal acclaim in May 2011, it is on the operatic stage that Les Arts Florissants has enjoyed its greatest successes, with works by Rameau, Lully and Charpentier, but also Handel, Purcell, Mozart, Monteverdi, Landi, Cesti, Campra and Hérold. Its large discography – more than one hundred audio and video recordings – reflects this constant renewal of its repertory.
Appearances in the concert hall play an equally essential role in the renown of Les Arts Florissants, which tackles a wide range of music both secular (madrigals, airs de cour, concert versions of operas) and sacred (oratorios, petits motets and grands motets, hymns). Each year the ensemble presents a season of around a hundred concerts and operatic performances in the world’s leading venues, most particularly the Philharmonie de Paris and Lincoln Center in New York.
Les Arts Florissants attaches great importance to training young musicians and passing its experience on to others. In 2002 it founded the biennial academy ‘Le Jardin des Voix’, which has discovered numerous new talents since then. The ‘Arts Flo Juniors’ programme, inaugurated in 2007, gives conservatory students an opportunity to join the orchestra or chorus for one production, from the first day of rehearsals to the final performance. In the same year William Christie and the ensemble set up a partnership with the Juilliard School of Music in New York, which has permitted a genuine Franco-American artistic exchange.
Alongside this, numerous outreach activities aimed at new audiences (amateur musicians and non-musicians, children and adults alike) are organised each year in association with the ensemble’s season. All the aspects of this intensive activity were combined in the creation of an annual festival at Thiré, ‘Dans les Jardins de William Christie’, in partnership with the Conseil Départemental de la Vendée. The musicians of Les Arts Florissants, students from the Juilliard School and prizewinners from Le Jardin des Voix appear there in concerts and open-air ‘musical promenades’.
The ensemble Les Arts Florissants receives support from the French Ministry of Culture and Communication and has been in residence at the Philharmonie de Paris since it opened in 2015.