Favorite Harmonia Episodes: ‘Music for the Infantas’



After five seasons as writer for Harmonia and with over one-hundred and fifty programs produced, there are several episodes that stand out in my mind as having been unusually rewarding to put together. This is one in a series of my favorite Harmonia episodes.

Had it not been for the DVD of Molière’s comédie-ballet Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (performed by Le Poème Harmonique), I don’t think I would have discovered that 17th-century French composers working at the courts of Louis XIII and XIV wrote Spanish vocal music.

It dawned on me only towards the end of Molière’s work.

Jean-Baptiste Lully, who composed all of the music, wrote a concluding Ballet des Nations, which included the Entree des Espagnols—an intermezzo made up of songs and dances intended to represent the Spanish from a decidedly French perspective. The intermezzo inspired me to look and see if there was other Spanish vocal music in Lully’s catalog of works. As it turns, there’s quite a bit of it.

So, why is Lully writing vocal music in Spanish?

It has to do with Louis XVI’s wife, Maria Theresa of Spain, who was a Spanish princess and subsequently Queen of France. Lully’s Spanish-texted compositions, and that of his French contemporaries, were probably written as a gesture in honor of and a reference to the connection France had with Spain.

However, this was nothing new during the time of Louis XIV. He was, of course, the child of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria, Queen consort, who was Spanish. Naturally, Spanish songs were also composed during their reign.

As I discovered more detail about the Spanish connection at the French court during the 17th Century, a Harmonia show was born.

Listen (click through): Music for the Infantas

(Image: Infanta María Teresa by Diego Velázquez, 1653; Wikimedia Commons)

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