André Campra (1660-1744), perhaps, is not as famous as Jean-Baptiste Lully or Jean-Phillipe Rameau, a genius of Louis XV’s time. However, he made much for the French opera to be in blossom, and he played a very significant role in the music of that time.
A son of an Italian surgeon and a music teacher, born in Aix-en-Provence, André Campra got his first music lessons from his father. In May 1678, thanks to a promotion of Cardinal Grimaldi, Campra becomes a priest. He composes a set of brilliant spiritual compositions and becomes a maître de musique in leading cathederals of Arles and Toulouse. From 1694 to 1700 he occupied the same post in the Notre-Dame-de-Paris. He brought a little innovation into the sacred music by adding violins to performance. It caused a wave of criticism in the Church cirles, but added some particular charm and a new vivid air to music compositions.
Since 1700 he began to write for theater and his main merit is that he managed to keep, rennovate and consolidate the French Opera to pass it to J.-P. Rameau, a music spirit of a new time. We should notice his operas to be bright, curious and light for perception. They have a mythological background, rather spread for that epoch, but the interpretations are amusing.
After Louis XIV’s death in 1715 André Compra, supported by Phillip d’Orléans, the Regent of France, occupied a number of important music posts in the Royal Music Academy. He died Juin 29, 1744 in Versailles, left a great opera heritage.
Vive le Roy!