Lea Desandre und Thomas Dunford (photo: Julien Benhamou)

Chamber Music

Baroque Festival

Lea Desandre, Thomas Dunford and the Ensemble Jupiter

He is considered the “Eric Clapton of the lute”: Thomas Dunford is only 32 years old, but he is already one of the stars of early music. Born in Paris, he studied with such prominent artists as William Christie, Philippe Herreweghe and Jordi Savall. To carry on their legacy, he founded the Ensemble Jupiter in 2018, whose members also include the young mezzo-soprano Lea Desandre. During our Baroque weekend, the enthusiastic newcomers explore the wide spectrum of European music from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Ensemble Jupiter

Thomas Dunford lute

Lea Desandre mezzo-soprano

Works by Francesco Provenzale, Giovanni Buonaventura Viviani, François-André Philidor, André-Cardinal Destouches, François Couperin, Marin Marais, Antonio Vivaldi, Giuseppe de Bottis, Georg Caspar Schürmann and other composers

Dates and Tickets

Sun, 27 Feb 2022, 16:00

Chamber Music Hall


What do Amazons sound like? In the 19th century, composers would have drawn on a palette of instrumental colours that could depict the unfamiliar with no difficulty, albeit perhaps somewhat clichéd. Italian and French Baroque music were only beginning to show the first signs of such onomatopoeia. For example, what Marin Marais, gambist and composer at the court of Louis XIV, notated in the work L’Ameriquaine from his Suite d’un goût étranger, sounds neither American nor otherwise foreign.

But back to the Amazons. To this day, it is still not clear whether these female warriors, about whom Homer, Herodotus and others wrote, actually existed. Further research is necessary before this question can be answered conclusively. Research was also required to unearth the Amazon operas from which arias and instrumental works will be heard this afternoon. The Amazons, like strong women on Baroque opera stages in general, are complex figures whose character consists of attributes that are considered typically female and typically male till today. The ambivalence of their gender is the decisive factor in many opera plots and provides an inexhaustible source of dramatic and musical inspiration for great lyrical scenes, laments, war songs, rage arias, tender melodies and instrumental pieces.

That is precisely why we find a female character like Marthésie, the first queen of the Amazons, in André Cardinal Destouches’s opera. In the closing scene, during the aria “Quel coup”, she stands at the edge of an abyss, sees her dead lover there and descends into the shadows to him – with more dignity than Orpheus. Giuseppe de Bottis presents another Amazon queen, Mitilene, in his opera of the same title – a woman who wants to be free from the bonds of love and yet suffers because of her unhappy love. The Amazons, then as now – more relevant than ever.


Historically informed performance practice 2.0: Ensemble Jupiter was founded in 2018 by French lutenist Thomas Dunford, who has made a name for himself on the scene with his spontaneity and joy of improvisation. “Early music has had a great period of rediscovery thanks to pioneers like William Christie, Philippe Herreweghe and Jordi Savall, who I have been lucky enough to work with,” says Dunford. “As a generation that grew up with it, it’s now our responsibility to keep this music alive, to make it more modern and to show how accessible and moving it can be.” In the Jupiter Ensemble, Dunford gathers a collective of young musicians who freely and undogmatically dedicate themselves to the respective repertoire – full of enthusiasm, passion and emotion. With flexible technique and lively ornamentation, the members of the formation succeed in shedding new light on Early music. The lutenist, who graduated from the Conservatoire de Paris at the age of 21 and today works with greats of the original sound scene as well as with contemporary composers and jazz musicians, was introduced to the lute when he was nine years old: “The beauty is that the fingers have direct contact with the instrument, unlike with the harpsichord. As a child, you experience this magic playfully, and it never let me go.”

Lea Desandre does not allow herself to be pigeonholed musically. For the French-Italian mezzo-soprano, who wants to give every note a colour that “always remains equally full and warm, regardless of the register”, chooses her own repertoire as a freelance singer. A tip she received from Joyce DiDonato as a young voice student at the age of 16: “I don’t have to commit to a certain type of role as in fixed contracts, because I am freelance. I look for the challenges that are right for me and roles whose dimensions resonate with me.” Lea Desandre has the necessary virtuosity for Rossini roles or musical farces like Cimarosa’s L'impresario in angustie, which she has already sung at the Conservatoire de Paris. At the same time, she devotes herself to the Baroque repertoire and is a regular guest at the great international houses – not surprisingly, at the age of 20, she received one of the coveted places in William Christie’s talent factory Le Jardin des Voix. Desandre completed twelve years of ballet training, studied singing in Paris and Venice and was named a “singing discovery” at the Victoires de la Musique Classique in 2017. A year later she made her debut at the Salzburg Festival in Offenbach’s La Périchole, where in 2020 – after Orphée aux enfers and Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppeashe enjoyed great success in the acclaimed production of Mozart's Così fan tutte at the Großes Festspielhaus.

Lea Desandre und Thomas Dunford (photo: Julien Benhamou)

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