André Campra (December 4, 1660 – 29 June 1744) was one of the leading French opera composers in the period between Jean-Baptiste Lully and Jean-Philippe Rameau, one of the most important French composers of operas and sacred music of the early 18th century, and a conductor, wrote several tragédies en musique, but his chief claim to fame is as the promoter of a new genre, opéra-ballet. Campra was born on December 4, 1660, at Aix-en-Provence, France, the son of Jean-François Campra, a surgeon and violinist from Graglia, Italy, and of Louise Fabry, from Aix-en-Provence. Campra’s father was his first music teacher. Campra became a choirboy at Saint-Sauveur in Aix in 1674, and commenced ecclesiastical studies four years later. He was reprimanded by his superiors in 1681 for having taken part in theatrical performances without permission, but was nevertheless made a chaplain on May 27 of that year. Educated at Aix, Campra apparently became, at age 19, music master at Toulon Cathedral. He held similar posts at Arles in 1681 and Toulouse in 1683.
From 1694 to 1700, Campra was maître de musique (music director) at the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, after having served in a similar capacity in Toulon, Arles, and Toulouse. He controversially brought violins into the making of sacred music at Notre-Dame de Paris which at the time was seen as very avant-garde due to their reputation as “street instruments.” He began to turn toward the theatre in 1697 and published some theatrical compositions under his brother’s name to protect his reputation within the church. With his composition of L’Europe galante he became the true genius of the opéra-ballet, a musical genre originated by Pascal Colasse in his Ballet des saisons. Already well known for his motets, in 1700 Campra gave up his post at Notre-Dame and concentrated on his theatrical music to critical success. One of his most famous tragédies en musique, Tancrède, was written in 1702.
By 1705 Campra was a musical celebrity and for 40 years enjoyed a wide reputation for his stage works, but this resulted in his becoming a target for negative articles in the press. He wrote Idoménée, another tragédie en musique, in 1712, which includes his well-known Rigaudon. From 1720 onwards, he returned to the composition of sacred music. He wrote three books of cantatas as well as other religious music, including a requiem, psalm settings, and a mass. Although Campra had obtained critical success he did not have financial security and hence in 1722 he was engaged by the Prince of Conti as maître de musique although this appointment was short lived. After the death of the regent, Campra became sous-maître at the Royal Chapel in Versailles in 1723. In 1730 he became the Inspecteur Général at the Opéra (Royal Academy of Music). He died at the age of 83 on June 29, 1744, in Versailles.
My collection includes the following works by Campra:
Rigaudon, from the opera Idomeneo (1712).
Tancrede: Triumphal March.