Les Arts Florissants | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Les Arts Florissants


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The musical interludes between acts in Moliere's comedie-ballets, in which ballet is incorporated into spoken comedy, are meant to augment and comment on the main plot. An exemplar of this 17th-century genre is his last play, Le malade imaginaire, a farce satirizing bourgeois pretensions and the medical profession. For the music Moliere turned to Parisian composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier, a student of the liturgical master Giacomo Carissimi and an imaginative formulator of church music. Surprisingly, Charpentier's scores for Moliere are exceptional--varied and hilarious. He was a meticulous craftsman with an ear for coloristic effects, and this is perhaps his most vivid secular music. The prologue is a melange of solo recitatives, vocal ensembles, and choruses, all praising Louis XIV, whose favors Moliere eagerly sought. The first entr'acte is a playlet in the commedia dell'arte style, the second an exotic carnival spectacle. And the climactic "Ceremony of the Doctors" is a raucous, witty affair, with apothecaries' mortars substituting for drums. This revival of the music from Le malade imaginaire by the Paris-based early-music group Les Arts Florissants promises to be a rare treat. Conductor and musicologist William Christie, a transplanted New Yorker, understands that in the French Baroque style music is at the service of words, whether spoken or sung, and that the nuances lie in the phrasing and ornamentation. The cast of singers includes Monique Zanetti, Bruno Boterf, and Dominique Visse. Tuesday, 7:30 PM, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 1977 South Campus Dr., Evanston; 722-5463 or 663-1628.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Luc Chogeur-Metis.

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