While musing about the context within which the "new" portrait of Marc-Antoine Charpentier was painted, I revisited the later editions of Titon du Tillet's Parnasse Françoise ― specifically, the facsimile of the post-1732 versions published by Slatkine in 1971. There I came upon an article devoted to a certain Antoine Ferrand, "poet."
In my Portraits around Marc-Antoine Charpentier (pp. 110-12) I presented a very simplified sketch of the Ferrand clan, who were the friends and protectors of Étiennette Charpentier, the composer's eldest sister. Although I was intrigued by the fact that a Mlle Bellinzani who was both a letter-writer and novelist, had married into the clan in 1676, I did not mention her in my book, nor did I discuss her father and her brother. Her son Antoine Ferrand, born circa 1677, was, I assumed, too young to reveal much about Charpentier's career.
But in late December 2005, I discovered that ― like Marc-Antoine Charpentier ― Antoine Ferrand had been granted a place on Titon du Tillet's "French Parnassus." Although we have no proof that Charpentier was in contact with young Antoine, we do know that Antoine and his Bellinzani grandfather were devoted to song.
Étiennette Charpentier's closest friend in the clan was François Ferrand (Mme de la Falluère), the sister of Michel Ferrand, lieutenant particulier at the Châtelet of Paris and then president in the Requêtes. In 1676 Michel Ferrand wed Anne Bellinzani, the daughter of François Bellinzani, whom Lachesnaye des Bois calls an "intendant du commerce de France" but whom the Dictionnaire de biographie française describes as a "trafficant" and a "creature of Cardinal Mazarin's."
Bellinzani permanently left his native Mantua in about 1657. He soon became a "naturalized" Frenchman (Archivi, Mantua, E XV 3 686, July 22, 1660). Prior to that, he had been in Paris as "resident du duc de Mantoue." In that role he attended a lavish fête organized at Compiègne for Queen Christina of Sweden in September 1656 (Gazette de France, 1656, p. 1051). We know that a cantata by Carissimi was part of the entertainment at Compiègne (letter from an Italian named "Breti" [Buti?] to Carissimi, Culley, The Jesuits and Music, 1970, pp. 337-38). In short, by the mid-1650s Bellinzani was at the heart of the italianate circle around Mazarin, and he presumably was very familiar with the Italian music being performed at the French court. Correspondence preserved in the archives of Mantua reveals that Bellinzani remained in contact with the ducal court there well into the 1660s, and perhaps beyond.
Subsequently named by J.-B. Colbert to positions of responsibility in French commerce, after Colbert's death in 1683, Bellinzani was arrested for peculation and imprisoned in the Bastille. There he died in 1684. Two years later Michel Ferrand, whose family had forced him to marry Anne Bellinzani for her father's money and who was exasperated by his wife's extra-marital affair, obtained a legal separation and let her go her scandalous way.
In addition to Anne Bellinzani-Ferrand, François Bellinzani had a son who was a "fort mauvais sujet" and who was in and out of prison.
There is very strong evidence that Francesco ("François") Bellinzani, Colbert's powerful protégé, was playing an important role in the development of French opera during the early- to mid-1670s. Indeed, Bellinzani clearly was at the heart of an early anti-Lully clique. For example, he was one of the friends present at a general rehearsal of Perrin and Cambert's Pomone in June 1670 (Nuitter and Thoinon, pp. 134, 137). A few months later, he served as arbiter in a dispute between Perrin and Champeron and Sourdéac (N and T, pp. 190-92). Bellinzani the son -- and doubtlessly the father as well, whose influence with Colbert would have sufficed to fend off any objections by Lully ― performed in a "tragedy" at Sieur Filz's academy in the Faubourg Saint-Germain in 1673. Nuitter and Thoinan recount how:
le sieur Filz, qui tenait une institution pour les jeunes gens de bonne famille, tels que le marquis de Marigny, le comte de Fiennes, le fils Bellinzani, etc., faisait jouer à ses élèves des tragédies avec intermèdes de danse et de musique. Le Seur, le maître de danse de la maison, réglait les danses, assisté de Beauchamps, qui de plus composait la musique de ses intermèdes. On joua, au mois de septembre ... 1673, les deux tragédies de Sédécias et de Zénobie, dont les rôles chantants furent remplis par MM. Beaupuits et Prunier, et par mesdemoiselles Cartilly [a Perrin singer] et Turpin (p. 164).
This of course brings us close to Marc-Antoine Charpentier, who that very spring had been working closely with Pierre Beauchamps on Molière's Malade imaginaire. It also brings us close to young Pierre Beaupuis, a bass would shortly be incorporated in the Guise Music. By 1672 Beaupuis, not yet twenty, was sufficiently respected to have crossed the Channel in order to perform for King Charles II (A. Tessier, "Robert Cambert à Londres," La Revue musicale, Dec. 1927, p. 115n, who surmises that Beaupuis had previously sung for Perrin).
The Bellinzani thread begins in Mantua and leads to Carissimi's music performed at the French court; to Perrin and Cambert; and on to Filz and his musical tragedies. It sheds a glimmer of light on how early French opera was prized by a Parisian circle that did not include Jean-Baptiste Lully and that in all probability was hostile to the monopoly being forged by the Florentine.
I have found nothing more about the Bellinzanis and their passion for opera and cantatas, whatever the language. But their name merits being retained by scholars who are digging in the various European archives.
The Dictionnaire de biographie nationale notes that Antoine (born in 1678), became an epicurian and was part of the libertine circle around the Grand Prieur de Vendôme. Titon du Tillet sheds light on Antoine Ferrand's early years (Le Parnasse François, Paris: Coignard, 1732, Slatkine Reprint, Geneva 1971, p. 566):
Antoine Ferrand, Parisien, Conseiller de la Cour des Aydes, mort à Paris le 6 novembre 1719, âgé de 42 ans. (Poëte François)
Monsieur son pere [Michel Ferrand], President de la Chambre des Requêtes du Palais, étoit un homme de beaucoup d'esprit, & qui avoit la reputation d'un excellent Juge.
Antoine Ferrand dès la sortie du College, donna des marques de la beauté de son genie & de ses talens pour la Poësie: il charmoit les ennuis de l'étude du Droit Canon & Civil par de très-jolies Chansons qu'il composoit: il avoit un caractere aimable, qui lui donna bien-tôt des entrées agreables dans le beau monde, qu'il sçavoit amuser par sa conversation badine & spirituelle, & par les petits morceaux de Poësie qu'il produisoit, où la fine galanterie regne ordinairement. Il a fait plusieurs Chansons sur les airs de Clavecin, de la composition du celebre François Couperin Organiste du Roi. On voit aussi quelques Vers de sa façon au second tome du Recueil de Pieces de Poësie, imprimé à la Haye 1715. & dans celui imprimé à Amsterdam 1724.
Il étoit en commerce d'esprit & de belles Lettres avec Madame de Fontenay, dont on a deux out trois Romans; entr'autres celui intitulé, La Duchesse de Savoye.
In sum, during the early 1690s, Antoine Ferrand attended one of the Parisian collèges (among these establishments was the Jesuit Collège de Louis-le-Grand with which Marc-Antoine Charpentier was so closely associated during the late-1680s and the 1690s.) When Antoine left the unidentified collège at the age of eighteen or nineteen ― that is, circa 1696 ― he was already known for his poems/songs. Had this passion for song been nourished by Music Master Charpentier, perhaps at the Collège de Louis-le-Grand, perhaps at the Ferrand residence? No answer is, of course, possible at this time, but it is a distinct possibility.
Evidence suggests that the Bellinzanis were at the heart of a musical circle to which Marc-Antoine Charpentier was scarcely a stranger during the early 1670s: Pierre Perrin, a protégé of Mme de Guise and one of the "creators" of French opera; Francesco Bellinzani and Sieur Filz, who prepared a "tragedy" with music and dance at an academy for young nobles; and Pierre Beauchamps, the dancer-composer who was Charpentier's co-worked at Molière's theater. It is difficult to imagine that all these people followed paths that never intersected. These links, these intersections, may well have continued on until the mid-1690s, when a Ferrand son wrote poem upon poem, to be set to music.
In short, do hitherto unrecognized musical links connect two of Titon's Parnassiens: Marc-Antoine Charpentier and Antoine Ferrand?