Opera Lafayette, the only opera company presenting full seasons in both Washington, D.C. and New York City, is excited to announce the performance lineup of its 29th season. This year’s season is titled Era of Madame de Maintenon and will explore the life of the last mistress and secret wife of Louis XIV. This year marks the conclusion of three consecutive Opera Lafayette seasons highlighting the relation of historical women in 18th century France to the musical life of their time. Madame de Maintenon’s time at Versailles was characterized by private concerts and music of a religious nature. However, in the years on both sides of Louis XIV’s death in 1715, comedy and dance spectacle became popular as a reaction to the dour mood of the King’s final years. The various musical influences of this period would be felt for years to come and, as this season will reveal, still carry relevance today.”
This year’s DC-based performances will be presented throughout the year, while the New York City performances will be presented in October and in May as part of Opera Lafayette’s third annual New York Baroque Music Festival. In addition to the three opera performances in both cities, Opera Lafayette will host its annual gala in New York City and a benefit dinner at the residence of the Ambassador of France to the United States in Washington, D.C.
The season begins with Couperin le Grand on Wednesday, October 25, 2023, 7:30pm at The Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater (DC) with a subsequent New York City performance on Thursday, October 26, 7:00pm at the Kosciuszko Foundation. This chamber music concert is devoted to the work of François Couperin (1668-1773) and his contemporaries who were influential in the time of Madame de Maintenon. The concert will feature the acclaimed harpsichordist and conductor Christophe Rousset (founder and director of one of France’s most distinguished early music ensembles, Les Talens Lyriques) making his Opera Lafayette harpsichord debut in a concert including Opera Lafayette Artistic Associates violinist Jacob Ashworth and bass baritone Jonathan Woody. The repertoire will include Ariane consolée par Bacchus, a Couperin cantata recently discovered by Rousset, in addition to works by Mouret, Montêclair, and Clérambault.
Next, Opera Lafayette will present From Saint-Cyr to Cannons: Moreau and Handel’s Esther, an orchestral concert with vocalists. This performance will take place on Thursday, February 8, 2024 at 7:30pm at The Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater (DC) and again on Thursday, May 9 at 7:00pm at St. Peter’s Church in New York City (619 Lexington Ave). The repertoire includes works by Jean-Baptiste Moreau (1656-1733) and George Frederic Handel (1685-1759), both connected to French dramatist Jean Racine’s play Esther, based on the Old Testament story. Moreau wrote the incidental music for Racine’s Esther, which was first performed at Maintenon’s school for girls in 1689, while Handel’s version is known to be his first English oratorio. The concert will be co-directed by harpsichordist Justin Taylor and Opera Lafayette Artistic Associate Jonathan Woody (returning after his performance in Couperin le Grand).
For their final production of the year, Opera Lafayette will present Mouret’s Les Fêtes de Thalie at 7:30pm on Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4 at The Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater (DC) and again at 6:00pm on Tuesday, May 7 at El Museo del Barrio (NYC). This opéra-ballet was originally performed at the end of Louis XIV’s life, and, though not patronized by the King and Madame de Maintenon, became an enormously popular spectacle which set the stage for future works such as Rameau’s celebrated Platée.
This fully staged production will be the modern premiere of Mouret’s Les Fêtes de Thalie, an opéra-ballet which broke with serious French operas by putting contemporary characters on stage. Thalia, the muse of comedy, guides the spirit of the work, which looks at love through the eyes of three women — La Fille (the girl), La Veuve Coquette (the coquettish widow) and La Femme (the wife), along with their companions.
Christophe Rousset will conduct. Claire van Kampen, artistic associate of the Globe theater in London and the creator of the Tony and Olivier-nominated play Farinelli and the King, will direct. Frequent van Kampen collaborator, Antonia Franceschi, will serve as choreographer, with students and alumni from New York’s Joffrey Ballet School Jazz & Contemporary Trainee Program. The young and diverse cast of American singers includes Opera Lafayette Artistic Associate Jonathan Woody, Angel Azzara, Pascale Beaudin, Jean Bernard Cerin, Ah Young Hong, Patrick Kilbride, Matthew Newlin, Margot Rood and John Taylor Ward. Korneel Bernolet, harpsichordist and founder of Apotheosis Orchestra, will edit Opera Lafayette’s modern edition of Les Fêtes de Thalie and play continuo for the production.
Opera Lafayette’s educational team for this season includes Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Philip Kennicott (Art and Architecture Critic of The Washington Post), author Rebecca Harris Warrick (Cornell University, author of Dance and Drama in French Baroque Opera), and Benjamin Bernard (University of Virginia, author of Administering Morals in the French Enlightenment: Education, Sexuality, and Authority at the Parisian Collège, 1645-1763).
Tickets for the season and more information can be found at operalafayette.org.