Panat in postcardThe Ranums'

Panat Times

Volume 1, redone Dec. 2014


Volume 1


Orest's Pages

Patricia's Musings



Musical Rhetoric

Transcribed Sources


Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Paolo Lorenzani,
and the Theatines of Saint-Anne-la-Royale

The existence of a payment to Paolo Lorenzani in 1694, preserved in the financial records of the Jesuits of Paris  (see the Fugitive Piece about Lorenzani), set me to musing about something I have noted in the Mélanges — that is to say, there not only do some of Marc-Antoine Charpentier's histoires sacrées appear be linked to Madame de Guise and her chapel at the Theatines, but the virtual cessation of these histoires after late 1684 would seem to cast light on Lorenzani's appointment by the Theatines a few months later.

Elsewhere ("Un foyer d'italianisme chez les Guises, Bulletin Charpentier, Jan. 1995, since republished in Marc-Antoine Charpentier, un musicien retrouvé, ed. C. Cessac, 2005) I have pointed out that the creation of the first of Marc-Antoine Charpentier's histoires sacréesJudith, which uses a liturgical text appropriate for the week of Sept. 22-28 — dates from late 1675, a year when Mme de Guise not only was granted a chapel at the Theatine church of Sainte-Anne-la-Royale, but when her sister, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, returned to Paris and henceforth resided at the abbey of Montmartre. [For Judith and the devotional program created by Mme de Guise after 1675, see my Musing on the libretto of Judith.]

This marked the beginning of a corpus of histoires that paint femmes fortes. That is not to suggest that all the histoires sacrées in the French series of notebooks were written for performance at the Theatines. Indeed, Charpentier's first histoire sacrée in honor of Saint Cecilia almost certainly was written for the Jesuit church of Saint-Louis. On the other hand, it is almost certain that Pestis Mediolanensis (H. 398) was written for the confraternity of Saint Charles Borromeo, of which Mme de Guise was one of the superiors and which had a branch at the Theatines.  In short, like the Jesuit church of Saint-Louis, the Theatine church of Sainte-Anne-la-Royale appears to have been one of the venues preferred by one, or both, of the Guise women.

On the other hand, I have not yet found a time or a place to point out that the virtual disappearance of these histoires sacrées in late 1684 appears related to another decision by Mme de Guise, and that this decision doubtlessly had repercussions for the services at the Theatine church.

In late 1683 or early 1684, Isabelle d'Orléans (Mme de Guise) decided to withdraw from the world: "ayant renoncé au monde, à ses pompes...," reads a will dated March 1,1684 (BN., Morel de Thoisy, 420, fol. 17). As a result, she began to spend much less time in Paris than before: instead she spent the winter months at court and the rest of the year in her duchy of Alençon. And, judging from Charpentier's "French" series of notebooks, by the end of 1684 Mme de Guise had ceased sponsoring performances of histoires sacrées; and as for Mlle de Guise, she was in declining health by 1685 or so.

If my hypothesis is correct, and Mme de Guise had, for almost a decade, been providing musical events for the Theatines at her own expense, then the Theatine fathers must have felt stranded as 1685 dawned. Does this explain why they turned to Lorenzani that summer? And should we view the music they commissioned from him less as an innovation than as evidence of their desire not only to fill the gap created by Mme de Guise's defection, but to fill it more sumptuously and more regularly, even if they had to pay for it themselves?

Here is what the Theatines' register says for June 20, 1685:

"Le R. P. Superieur [Caffaro] a proposé d'establir dans notre Eglise une devotion pour les morts à la manière des oratoires de Rome en musique deux jours la semaine, dont le maistre de chapelle sera M.r Laurenzani, qui fournira les musiciens necessaires selon les conventions que nous faisons avec luy, et l'on a conclu affirmativement" (AN, LL 1587, fol. 57).

Within four months, the new services at the Theatines were the talk of Paris. I am citing here a paragraph about them from the Mercure galant, not only because it sheds light on the Lorenzani's music, but because it suggests also the type of service that Mme de Guise may have sponsored at the Theatines prior to her withdrawal from the pomp of the world:

"Les Théatins continuent tous les mercredis leurs prières pour les morts, selon leur usage en Italie. Elle commencent par un De Profundis que ces pères chantent, ensuite on chante un psaume ou un motet qui convient à cette pieuse institution. Un prédicateur monte après en chaire, et fait une petite exhortation d'un peu plus d'un quart d'heure. Elle est suivie d'un autre motet, après quoi l'on donne la bénédiction du saint sacrement. Il y a de grandes indulgences accordées par le Saint-Siège à ceux et à celles qui y assistent. Les prédicateurs sont tous des gens choisis, et celui qui fait la musique et qui a pris ce qu'il y a de plus excellents musiciens dans Paris, est ce fameux Romain M. Lorenzani, qui était maître de musique de la feue reine.... le grand monde qui se trouve à ces prières marque mieux que toutes sortes d'éloges combien on est satisfait de cette musique" (Oct. 1685, p. 272).

Complaints about the services soon reached Louis XIV's ears: "On s'est plaint au Roi," wrote Colbert de Seignelay in November 1685, "que les Théatins, sous prétexte d'une dévotion aux âmes du Purgatoire, faisaient chanter un véritable Opéra dans leur Église, où le monde se rend à dessein d'entre la musique; que la porte en est gardée par deux Suisses, qu'on y loue les chaises dix sous, qu'à tous les changements qui se font ... on fait des affiches comme à une nouvelle représentation" (cited by Evelyne Picard, "Liturgie et Musique à Sainte-Anne-la-Royale...," Recherches, 1981, pp. 252- 53).

Why such a storm? Were Mme de Guise's friends at court trying to shoot down Lorenzani? I don't think that is the explanation. Rather, I see Seignelay's letter as an echo of the revulsion experienced by Mme de Guise's friends-in-devotion, at how worldly these services had become, in contrast to the modesty, the discretion (for 17 years neither Guise allowed herself to be publically associated with a musical event in which Charpentier's name was mentioned), and the sincere devotion that had been the order of the day when Mme de Guise sponsored an event at the Theatines. Indeed, I have not yet found any evidence to suggest that Charpentier and Lorenzani were rivals — although a rivalry, and even jealousy, post 1684, would be understandable and certainly cannot be excluded.

I did, however, come upon some very interesting materials about Lorenzani, while I was working my way through the Mediceo del Principato files in the Archivio di Stato of Florence. As the New Groves points out, Lorenzani had come to Paris during the spring of 1678 and had immediately become the center of an italianate movement. By August of that year, one of his motets was performed before Louis XIV — who was so pleased that, in mid-1679, he appointed Lorenzani to be surintendant de la musique de la reine and, soon after, sent him off to Italy to find some castrati.

It is during those first years in Paris that news of Lorenzani was being sent back to Florence by the Tuscan resident in Paris. This information rounds out our knowledge of the early years of Lorenzani's Parisian experience, and it contributes some interesting new evidence.

On Nov. 18, 1678 — that is, only a few months after Lorenzani's motet had been performed for the king — the Florentines noted that "the king has a taste for Italian music, and in particular is animated by the compositions of Signor Lorenzani," whom the agent describes as "one of the best composers in Rome." One day when Lorenzani had come to visit him, the Florentine therefore got the idea that one of them should write some Italian lyrics that Lorenzani would then set to music for performance before Louis XIV during Mardi Gras of 1679. The words, the Florentine observes, would have to be "dolci, chiare, et intelligibili," — and also "brief and beautiful" — and the poet should give "preference to the Florentine muse." A letter dated Dec. 31, 1678, informs us "il nostre Signor Moniglia" had been given the honor of writing the words, because "la sua forza consiste nel concetto, et nella eloquenza mai nella fluidezze et grazia del metro interciso et succinto convarietà grande di strofeggiamento..." which is required for "le Fantasie del musico." Lorenzani was very pleased with Moniglia's words and, by March 1679 had finished setting them to music, although "tante voci femmine li donna pena" (!) Two months later, Louis XIV sent Lorenzani off to Tuscany to bring back "eight, ten, or twelve castrati." The emphasis was on youth, so that the singers could form a fine group in France. The Florentines also talk of the inroads that the Italian language would consequently make at the French court, and they inform us that, with the help of the Grand Duke, the search would take place primarily at Pistoia and in Florence.

The discussions of poetry in these letters are wonderful! I hope someone who can appreciate the nuances of Italian poetics and perhaps even relate them to a work by Lorenzani, will delve into the busta with the call number "4820 CAB," especially the letters dated Nov. 18, Dec. 16 and Dec. 31, 1678, and Jan. 20, Mar. 10, June 9, and July 1, 1679.

[In this re-formatted version of this Musing, 2015, I am omitting the table because it more or less duplicates the table in my Musing on St. Cecilia. But I am retaining my old summary of the pattern shown in the French notebooks of the Mélanges]

Several things can be discerned here, and in their totality they reveal the important role that Mme de Guise (abetted, surely by Mlle de Guise!) played in shaping Charpentier's artistic production:

— Prior to 1674, no histoires sacrées are to be found in either set of notebooks.

— Once Mme de Guise obtained a chapel at the Theatins (completed for the fall of 1675), histoires sacrées flow from Charpentier's pen, and year after year he copies the bulk of them out into a "French" notebook.

— Once Mme de Guise decided to turn her back on the world (which she did late in 1683 or early in 1684, after the death of her dear friend the Queen), a few histoires sacrées about Saint Cecilia (or modifications of existing ones) appear, for Mme de Guise (and Mlle de Guise) was celebrating the victory of the Catholic Church over the Huguenots.

— After 1685, histoires sacrées almost disappear from the notebooks, although Charpentier did compose a few for the Jesuits and one for the Parlement.