WILLIAM CHRISTIE, harpsichordist, conductor, musicologist, and teacher, is the inspiration behind one of the most exciting musical adventures of the last 30 years. A pioneer in the rediscovery of Baroque music, he has introduced the repertoire of 17th- and 18th-century France to a very wide audience across the globe. Born in Buffalo, and educated at Harvard and Yale, William Christie has lived in France since 1971. The turning point in his career came in 1979, when he founded Les Arts Florissants.
As Director of this vocal and instrumental ensemble, William Christie soon made his mark as both a musician and man of the theater, in the concert hall and the opera house, with new interpretations of largely neglected or forgotten works. Major public recognition came in 1987 with the production of Lully’s Atys at the Opéra Comique in Paris, which then went on to tour internationally to huge success.
From Charpentier to Rameau, through Couperin, Mondonville, Campra, or Montéclair, William Christie is the uncontested master of tragédie-lyrique as well as opéra-ballet, and is just as comfortable with the French motet as with music of the court. But his affection for French music does not preclude him from exploring other European repertoires and, as well as his many acclaimed performances of Italian works (Monteverdi, Rossi, Scarlatti, Landi), he broaches Purcell and Handel with as much success as Mozart or Haydn.
William Christie’s particularly busy operatic career has been marked by numerous collaborations with renowned theater and opera directors (including Jean-Marie Villégier, Robert Carsen, Alfredo Arias, Jorge Lavelli, Graham Vick, Adrian Noble, Andrei Serban, Luc Bondy and Deborah Warner), which are always major events in the musical calendar. His most recent were both new productions at Paris’s Opéra Comique: Rameau’s Platée, in 2014, and Campra’s Les Fêtes vénitiennes in 2015.
As a guest conductor, William Christie often appears at opera festivals such as Glyndebourne (notably Hippolyte et Aricie in the summer of 2013) or at opera houses such as the Metropolitan Opera of New York, the Zurich Opernhaus, or the Opéra National de Lyon. Between 2002 and 2007, he regularly appeared as a guest conductor with the Berlin Philharmonic.
His extensive discography (more than 100 recordings, many of which have won awards and distinctions in France and abroad) with Harmonia Mundi, Warner Classics/Erato and Virgin Classics reflects the richness of his artistic ventures. His most recent recordings: Belshazzar, Le Jardin de Monsieur Rameau – featuring the finalists in Le Jardin des Voix 2013 – Music for Queen Caroline, a program of religious works by Handel, Bien que l’amour, an anthology of serious airs and drinking songs, and La Harpe Reine, a program evoking music at the court of Marie-Antoinette with harpist Xavier de Maistre. These two last opuses were released by harmonia mundi in Les Arts Florissants new collection, as part of a collaboration including the re-release of recordings that were no longer available.
In a career of over 40 years, William Christie has brought to the limelight several generations of singers and instrumentalists. Indeed, most of the conductors of today’s French Baroque ensembles began their careers with Les Arts Florissants. A professor at the Paris Conservatoire from 1982 to 1995, he was in charge of the early-music class, and is now often invited to give master classes or lead academies such as those at Aix-en-Provence and Ambronay. Since 2007 he has been artist in residence at the Juilliard School in New York, where he gives master classes twice a year accompanied by the musicians of Les Arts Florissants.
Wishing to develop further his work as a teacher, in 2002 William Christie created, with Les Arts Florissants, a biennial academy for young singers, Le Jardin des Voix, whose finalists take part in an international tour with Les Arts Florissants that acts as a launchpad for their careers. Among the talents discovered by William Christie through Le Jardin des Voix are Sonya Yoncheva, Christophe Dumaux, Emmanuelle de Negri, Marc Mauillon and Amel Brahim-Djelloul.
A true garden enthusiast, William Christie launched Dans les Jardins de William Christie in 2012, a music festival that takes place every August in his gardens in the Vendée. It brings together Les Arts Florissants, William Christie’s pupils from the Juilliard School and the finalists in Le Jardin des Voix for concerts and promenades musicales in the gardens he created at Thiré, which have been labeled a “Jardin Remarquable” and listed on the French Supplementary Inventory of Historic Monuments.
William Christie acquired French nationality in 1995. He is a Grand Officier in the Ordre de la Légion d’Honneur, the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the Ordre National du Mérite. He is Docteur Honoris Causa of the State University of New York in Buffalo, of the Juilliard School of Music in New York and of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. In November 2008, William Christie was elected to France’s Académie des Beaux-Arts, and gave his official inaugural speech under the dome of the Institut de France in January 2010. He is also an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music in London.