Recently added to our collection of Digital Scores and Libretti is this first edition of André Campra’s Hésione:

Hesione: tragédie mise en musique par Monsieur Campra: representée par l’Academie Royale de Musique le vingt-uniéme jour de Decembre 1700. Paris: Ballard, 1700.
Merritt Room Mus 635.582.625

André Campra. Hésione. Merritt Room Mus 635.582.625

André Campra. Hésione. Merritt Room Mus 635.582.625

Le Cerf de la Viéville ranked Campra first among the post-Lully composers of French opera and held up his Tancrède (1702) as deserving of particularly high praise. Campra was second only to Lully in the number of tragédies en musique he composed, with ten such works in his oeuvre. His first tragédie en musique, Hesione, was performed at the Opéra on 21 December 1700. The libretto was by Antoine Danchet.

Viéville cited Hesione as being “full of new and brilliant things” and that it offers proof that “since the death of Lulli there has still been something beautiful in France.”1 Though his tragédies retained the general outlines of the genre as established by Lully, he departed from Lullian convention by employing more contrapuntal textures and vocal coloraturas. To the critics most faithful to Lully this was sign of the encroachment of Italian music in France. Campra acknowledged his tendencies when he set out his personal musical credo in the preface to his first book of cantatas (1708): “to the best of my abilities I have endeavoured to temper the delicacy of French music with the liveliness of Italian music.”2

(With thanks to Dr. Sarah Adams, Acting Richard F. French Librarian, for text slightly modified from her exhibition of French Baroque opera, in which this score appeared.)

1. “Hésione…qui est plein de choses neuves & brillantes[.] Il me suffit de cela pour montrer à Mr. l’Abbé que, depuis la mort de Lulli, on a encore fait quelque chose de beau en France.” Comparaison de la musique italienne et de la musique françoise, 2nd ed. (Bruxelles: F. Foppens, 1705-1706), 1:98.

2. “J’ay taché autant que j’ay pû de méler avec la delicatesse de la Musique Françoise, la vivacité de la Musique Italienne…”. Cantates françoises, melées de symphonies… Livre premier (Paris: C. Ballard, 1708).