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3.9.13

William Christie's Enchanted Forest

On my list of Americans who represent the United States well abroad, conductor William Christie is near the top. Yes, technically speaking, he is now a citoyen français, but he grew up here. We have already taken note of Christie's love of gardens, when he opened up his house and garden in the Vendée for the annual Rendez-vous aux jardins in 2004. Marie-Aude Roux visited Christie's home, in Thiré, for an article (William Christie convie la musique en son jardin, August 30) in Le Monde (my translation):
In 2009, William Christie's garden in Thiré was still only an earthly paradise for private usage, lost in the woods of the Vendée between Nantes and La Rochelle. The conductor, harpsichordist, and founder of the Baroque music ensemble Les Arts Florissants had every reason to be proud of it: he created it starting from almost nothing -- a desolate farm and two hectares of fallow land acquired in 1985 -- which was going to become fifteen hectares and almost twenty years later a remarkable garden before the 2006 classification of it and the buildings on it as a Historical Monument. William Christie could not then have foreseen the the future of his Arts Florissants, but he had a dream of something permanent and Arcadian: "Here I am building something that is going to last longer than my lifetime, a place of peace and repose that could one day became a foundation for artists."

Art of peace, and peace of the arts: "Bill" the humanist always understood that it was necessary to fight in this "battle of taste" for Baroque music. He took this idea as far as his own residence, creating in 2012, with support from the Conseil général de Vendée, a festival called Dans les jardins de William Christie. "I hate that France, whose culture I love and admire, is today falling into a cruel and sad race to the bottom. We have an obligation to resist the trend," he says forcefully. On this August 28, William Christie is everywhere, at the oven, at the mill, but also at the Miroir d'eau, where at nightfall he will rehearse Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, given to close the festival on August 30 and 31. The two swans, named Alice and Gertrude, have been placed into a shelter along the river. Then he will go to the church of Thiré, where at 10:30 pm he will give one of the "Méditations à l'aube de la nuit" with tenor Paul Agnew and the young theorbist Thomas Dunford.
Roux describes other concerts that were staged in parts of the garden: a megalithic wall that was backdrop to a "savage improvisation" on the Folia theme by flutist Sébastien Marq and lutenist Thomas Dunford, Monteverdi's Zefiro torna with tenor Zachary Wilder and baritone Victor Sicard on the Chinese bridge, and other performances featuring the young artists from Les Arts Florissants and students from the Juilliard early music program Christie leads in New York. More information on the festival here.

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