Bozar, Palais des Beaux-Arts (Brussel, Belgium)
June 8, 2022
23 February 1653. Louis XIV was still only fifteen years old when he danced, covered in gold and jewels, in the Royal Ballet of the Night. The Sun King was born! This founding moment of the Grand Siècle is as well known to historians and musicologists as it was unheard of until then, remaining only in the memory of the public of the time and on the very incomplete scores of the king's librarian. Sébastien Daucé spent three years working on this exceptional musical reconstruction from the preserved musical fragments.
As the kingdom of France emerged from the troubles of the Fronde des Princes against the royal power, Mazarin returned to Paris accompanied by the young Louis XIV, then 15 years old. The powerful minister had been forced to leave the capital at the height of the conflict. This shrewd politician decided to organise one of these great entertainments, which he supervised the entire creation. Behind this seemingly festive and magnificent project, the minister envisaged above all a political object whose aim was to consolidate the power of the young king.
Mazarin required the talent of the kingdom's greatest artists for the composition of this great Night Ballet; it was also the first time that a court ballet was performed in front of an audience on the stage. In the course of four vigils, entries (episodes danced by masked and costumed characters) follow one another, in which thieves, shepherds, rogues, beggars, princes, allegories of games and pleasures, the Fates, Sadness and the Graces appear successively.
This totally whimsical litany finds its unity in the main subject of the ballet: all illustrate in their own way this wonderful and sometimes unreal world of the Night. As dawn approaches, Dawn appears and announces a new brightness whose brilliance has no equal: it is the Sun, danced by Louis XIV. Thus, victorious over the darkness, the young king dances, surrounded by the princes who have rallied to his cause.
The Royal Concert of the Night combines entire scenes from this ballet with scenes from the first Italian operas performed in France and commissioned by Mazarin. Through allegories, entertainments and dreams, this original programme, which saw Louis XIV appear as the Sun King for the first time, is brought to life again by the Correspondances ensemble.