William Christie: “Playing without an audience is cruel” | Culture


When it was announced last fall that harpsichordist and conductor William Christie (Buffalo, USA, 76) and his group The Flourishing Arts They were going to offer two concerts in the Teatros del Canal in Madrid in March, the tickets were sold out in a few hours. We are talking about baroque music and a stage that is not specifically dedicated to classical music. But Christie has long been greeted like a rock star wherever he goes, having spent five decades working to broaden the audience for early music, get it out of elite halls, and revitalize it into viewers of today.

Now they await him with the same desire in Oviedo, where this Tuesday will conduct at the Prince Felipe Auditorium a French baroque song program of the genre called court air, very popular in the first decades of the seventeenth century, especially in the halls of the court of Louis XIII. Once again at the helm of Les Arts Florissants and with himself sitting at the harpsichord, the program rescues compositions by Étienne Moulinié, Pierre Guedrón, Antoine Boesset, Claude Le Jeune and Pierre Verdier, authors who are unusual nowadays in concert hall programming international, performed by soloists Emmanuelle de Negri (soprano), Anna Reinhold (mezzo soprano), Cyril Auvity (tenor), Marc Mauillon (baritone) and Lisandro Abadie (bass).

Christie is equally happy for this new visit to Spain, the fourth this season, after his time at the National Auditorium in October to conduct the National Orchestra of Spain, for him Liceu de Barcelona in February with opera Platée, by Rameu, in concert version and finally by the Teatros del Canal last month.

During this last stay, the director confessed in an interview with this newspaper that this country is being a lifeline this season for him and his musicians, since in the rest of Europe all theaters and concert halls are closed: “ Since last year we are essentially doing virtual concerts. We broadcast online and social networks that are very successful and that makes us happy, because they also allow us to continue playing and stay active. But obviously it is not ideal, it is just a consolation. Making music for ourselves is making music for others. Playing when there is no audience is cruel, very difficult. That is why in recent months we have had wonderful moments in Spain ”.

William Christie and Les Arts Florissants in the Dans les Jardins festival of 2020.
William Christie and Les Arts Florissants in the Dans les Jardins festival of 2020.JULIEN GAZEAU

Without going to judge the political decisions due to the pandemic, the director avoids, however, expressing his astonishment that in other countries an effort has not been made to keep the rooms open as has been done in Spain. “I take the political decisions and I understand that each country faces the situation according to its circumstances, but I don’t understand it. I find it hypocritical that you can go to a church with 500 people in France and that the theater next door is closed, ”he says.

The one in Oviedo will be a semi-staged and jubilant concert, as was the one he offered in Madrid, Mess, a program that establishes a dialogue between baroque music, jazz, the American musical and pop. Rameau, Monteverdi and Haendel talking with Cole Porter, Frederick Loewe and The Beatles, with moments also for improvisation, combining jazz practices and concerts from the baroque period. “This dialogue allows us to transfer the baroque force and sound to the current public through music that is very popular all over the world. Although I have lived in France for many years, I am American and have internalized that music since my childhood, so the transfer for me has been easier, it is only a matter of finding the communicating vessels ”, explains the director.

Meanwhile, Christie eagerly awaits the reopening of the gardens of her house in Thiré, in the heart of the French countryside, where every August since 2012 she has held an open-air festival that has become an essential meeting point for music lovers Baroque, both professionals and public, as it not only programs concerts, but also workshops, talks and training sessions for young singers. Last summer was very special for Christie, as it was the reunion with friends, colleagues and viewers after several months of confinement, something that he hopes will happen again next August. “We have many projects waiting for the closed areas to reopen. Until then, we have all our illusion on it ”.

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