Requiem(s) for Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette
France wrote its history with the conquests of its kings, emperors and presidents, but it was also quick to transform their decline into legends, whether they were repudiated, imprisoned, beheaded or exiled. Louis XVI and Napoleon, particularly, are considered in French history as cruel examples of changes of fortune. It is less well known that later governments would pay proper tribute to them, making them into martyrs and reviving their memory for posterity. This ambiguous image, between tyrants and national heroes, endures until today.
Louis XVIII restored monarchy in 1815, and multiple ceremonies were organized in honor of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Their bodies were brought back to the French Kings’ burial place, the Basilique de Saint-Denis, which was renovated on this occasion. In 1817, the Court attended Cherubini’s Requiem in C minor, in memoriam the defunct king, and for the 30th anniversary of Marie-Antoinette’s death (1823) Charles-Henri Plantade’s Requiem in D minor was performed in memoriam. Berlioz had just arrived in Paris, and the entire romantic generation considered the last fires of the old monarchy with disdain or nostalgia. At the same time, Napoleon died exiled on the island of Saint Helen. His body, which remained “property “ of the British for a long time, was finally repatriated in 1840, under the pressure of the July monarchy and its “King of the French”, Louis-Philippe. The body was transported through Paris to the Invalides, on a funeral convoy, which went up the Seine. The deceased Emperor arrived in the Invalides cathedral to the sound of funeral or heroic marches composed by Auber, Adam and Halévy. He now rests in a monumental tomb, proportionate to his dreams of posterity.
These funeral compositions have almost all been archived as unpublished scores in the French national Library. Even if they were composed for very specific circumstances and often within a short time, their ambition was to strike crowds and to magnify the commemorations during which they were played, in order to take part in the writing of an essential page of the country’s history, with the historical rehabilitation of men and regimes. It is their turn now to be revived and honored.
Alexandre Dratwicki, scientific director of Palazzetto Bru-Zane
Charles-Henri Plantade (1764-1849)
Mass for the dead (1823)
Performed at the Tuileries Chapel for the 30th anniversary of the death of Marie-Antoinette (beheaded on 16 October 1793)
Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)
Religious meditation for choir and orchestra (1823)
Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842)
Requiem in C minor for choir and orchestra (1817)
In memoriam Louis XVI (beheaded on 21st January 1793)
Production Palazzetto Bru Zane - French Romantic Music Centre.
Co-production of Royal Opera / Château de Versailles Spectacles - Palazzetto Bru Zane - French Romantic Music Centre.