Founded by William Christie in 1979, the ensemble Les Arts Florissants played a pioneering role in introducing to the musical scene what was then an unknown repertoire, that of the French Grand Siècle. From Charpentier to Rameau, by way of Couperin, Mondonville, Campra and Montéclair, William Christie has achieved recognition as the undisputed master of tragédie lyrique, opéra-ballet, petits and grands motets and the music of the Versailles court. Nevertheless, his attachment to French music has not prevented him from exploring other repertoires and other periods of European music.
In association with major stage producers (Jean-Marie Villégier, Robert Carsen, Alfredo Arias, Pier Luigi Pizzi, Jorge Lavelli, Adrian Noble, Andrei Serban, Graham Vick) and choreographers (Francine Lancelot, Béatrice Massin, Ana Yepes, Shirley Wynne, Maguy Marin, François Raffinot, Jiří Kylián, Bianca Li), Les Arts Florissants are extremely active on the international musical scene, with twenty-five years of productions of operatic, choral and sacred music to their credit. Among the highlights of this long history, many of them preserved in distinguished recordings, are Actéon, Les Plaisirs de Versailles, La descente d’Orphée aux Enfers, Médée (Charpentier), Atys (Lully), Zoroastre, les Fêtes d'Hébé, Les Indes galantes, Castor et Pollux, Les Paladins (Rameau), Idoménée (Campra), Jephté (Montéclair), L'Orfeo (Rossi), Dido & Aeneas, Le Messie, Israël en Egypte, Theodora (Haendel) and the Grands Motets, of Rameau, Du Mont, Mondonville and Desmarest.
The conductor, harpsichordist and musicologist William Christie is also an outstanding teacher. He has introduced several generations of singers and instrumentalists to the public – most of the musical directors of today’s French Baroque ensembles began their career with Les Arts Florissants. He was a professor at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris and head of its Early Music class from 1982 to 1995, and is often invited to hold masterclasses and direct professional early music courses (académies) in such venues as Aix-en-Provence and Ambronay. He has himself founded such an académie for young singers in Caen – Le Jardin des Voix.
A frequent guest in many opera festivals and major opera houses, William Christie was the first conductor invited to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra by Simon Rattle in 2002.
William Christie is an Officier des Arts et des Lettres, and was raised to the rank of Officier de la Légion d'Honneur in April 2003.