In his multiple roles as harpsichordist, conductor, musicologist and teacher, William Christie is the architect of one of the most remarkable musical adventures of the past thirty years. A pioneer in the rediscovery of Baroque music, he has revealed the French repertory of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to a very wide audience. The career of this native of Buffalo, educated at Harvard and Yale, who has lived in France since 1971, took a decisive turn in 1979 when he founded Les Arts Florissants. At the head of his new ensemble, William Christie succeeded in establishing a highly distinctive style as a musician and a man of the theatre while exploring a repertory that until then had been largely neglected and forgotten. The production of Lully’s Atys at the Opéra Comique in 1987 marked a true breakthrough in public recognition both in France and abroad.
From Charpentier to Rameau, by way of Couperin, Mondonville, Campra and Montéclair, William Christie remains the interpretative reference in tragédie lyrique and opéra-ballet, the French motet and music of the French court. Nevertheless, his attachment to French music does not prevent him from exploring other worlds. His interpretations of the Italian repertory (Monteverdi, Rossi, Scarlatti, Landi) and of Purcell, Handel, Mozart and Haydn have made an enduring impact.
He continues to work regularly in the field of opera and his collaborations with some of today’s leading directors are invariably greeted as major events. William Christie often appears as a guest conductor at such prestigious opera festivals and opera houses as Glyndebourne, the Metropolitan Opera New York, Opernhaus Zürich and the Opéra National de Lyon. His extensive discography (more than one hundred recordings, which have won many international awards) also bears witness to his richly varied and intense artistic achievement.
In nearly forty years of activity, William Christie has introduced the public to several generations of singers and instrumentalists. Many directors of French Baroque ensembles began their careers in Les Arts Florissants. He was a professor at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris between 1982 and 1995 and is frequently invited to direct masterclasses, notably at the Juilliard School of Music in New York, where he is artist in residence along with musicians from Les Arts Florissants.
In 2002, with a view to widening the scope of his pedagogical work, he founded with Les Arts Florissants a biennial academy for young singers, ‘Le Jardin des Voix’; its graduates, after an international tour with Les Arts Florissants, swiftly embark on prestigious careers. Among the Academy’s discoveries are Sonya Yoncheva, Christophe Dumaux, Emmanuelle de Negri, Marc Mauillon and Amel Brahim-Djelloul.
A passionate enthusiast for the art of garden design, William Christie created ‘Dans les Jardins de William Christie’, a festival that has been held annually since 2012 in the grounds of his house at Thiré in the Vendée département. It brings together Les Arts Florissants, his students from the Juilliard School and the prizewinners of Le Jardin des Voix for ‘musical promenades’ in these gardens.
William Christie became a French citizen in 1995. He holds the rank of Grand Officier in the Ordre de la Légion d’Honneur, the Ordre des Arts et Lettres and the Ordre National du Mérite, and honorary doctorates from the State University of New York at Buffalo, the Juilliard School of Music and the University of Leiden (Netherlands).
He was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in November 2008 and made his inaugural speech beneath the dome of the Institut de France in January 2010. William Christie is also an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music in London.