The lyric company Les Épopées (The Epics) takes its name from the ancient poetic sagas that still inspire our imaginations today. Led by conductor Stéphane Fuget, the ensemble weaves a rich and emotive musical journey that goes far beyond the notes on the page.
Indeed, the score is merely a frame to work from, a kind of optical illusion. Its interpretation is brought to life through more than the notes themselves: the melodic line of baroque singing, although adorned with profuse ornamentation, is fundamentally declamatory.
In terms of ornamentation, the music should be a reflection of the baroque world. At this time, architecture, sculpture, painting, fashion, food culture - every element of life - was filled with ornament. Music was no exception, but for practical notation reasons, most of these ornaments were left out of the written scores. It is the artist's task, using the sources as a guide, to restore this extraordinary profusion. Thus embellished, the music sparkles through interpretation, just as the sun enhances the shimmering of the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles.
In terms of declamation, the voice rings out the text by enriching the musical line with a multitude of micro-intervals, infinite inflections. No longer note pitches, but declamatory intonation. Rhetoric is given free reign, and the text, suddenly comprehensible, takes centre stage. More accessible and freely conveyed by the emotion of song, it pierces straight to the heart of the listener.
The resulting sound is at once intensely modern, unexpected, arresting and charged with an irresistible emotion.
Recognising the artistic potential in combining renowned international performers with emerging artists, the ensemble welcomes and nourishes the most brilliant young musicians in the field of ancient music.
Since July 2020 Les Épopées are in residency at the Château de Versailles, for both religious music (the complete cycle of Lully's Grands Motets before 2024) and opera (the entirety of Monteverdi's opera). His recordings for the Château de Versailles Spectacles label have all been highly acclaimed by French and international critics.A video recording of the first volume of the great motets was made for Arte.
Les Épopées are also in residency in Arques-la-Bataille performing airs de cour, and at the International Opera Festival of Beaune for Monteverdi's operatic trilogy. A video recording of the Orfeo given in July 2022 was made by France.TV.
Stéphane Fuget is a harpsichordist, pianist and conductor.
He studied piano with Catherine Collard and Jean-Claude Pennetier, harpsichord with Christophe Rousset and Pierre Hantaï.
He was awarded a first prize for harpsichord and continuo at the Paris CNSM. He is a graduate of the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, and laureate of the 2001 International Harpsichord Competition in Bruges.
Stéphane Fuget spent his early professional years devoted to his career as a vocal coach in the world's greatest opera houses. Alongside conductors such as Christophe Rousset, Jean-Christophe Spinosi and Marc Minkovski, he worked on the greatest international stages: Staatsoper and Theater an der Wien (Vienna), DNO (Amsterdam), Liceu (Barcelona), La Monnaie (Brussels), Leipzig Opera, Royal Theatre of Drottningholm (Sweden), Lotte Concert Hall (Seoul), Palais Garnier, Opéra Bastille, Châtelet, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées (Paris), Capitole (Toulouse), Strasbourg Opera, Bordeaux, Rennes, Lille, Nancy, Montpellier, etc. Over the years this led to close ties with some of the world's most prestigious artists: Anne-Sophie von Otter, Jennifer Larmore, Véronique Gens, Sandrine Piau, Gaële Arquez, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Kurt Streit, Julian Prégardien, Jeremy Ovenden, Nathan Berg, Max Emanuel Cencic, Philippe Jaroussky…
Sophie Von Otter requested his presence as a specialist of French Baroque music for a production of Charpentier's Médée at Frankfurt Opera.
At the same time, he developed his career as a guest conductor. In this capacity he directed Emmanuelle Haïm's Le Concert d'Astrée at Lille Opera, The Magic Flute with Opelescences ensemble, Rameau's Les Paladins with the Joy Ballet Orchestra in Tokyo, Couperin's Leçons de Ténèbres with Versailles Opera Royal orchestra...
Inspired by his desire to work with young artists, he developed and transformed the vocal coaching and baroque opera classes at the CRR conservatoire in Paris, the only classes of their kind in France. In this way he was able to hone and develop his vision of baroque declamation and ornamentation in several productions: The Coronation of Poppea and Ulysses by Monteverdi, Semele and Rodelinda by Handel, La Calisto by Cavalli, Titus by Cesti, Psyché by Lully, Orfeo by Rossi, Le Jugement de Midas by Gretry, Euridice by Peri and the European revival of Ariane et Bacchus by Marais....
After many years researching repertoire and treatises, Stéphane Fuget, ever inquisitive and convinced that a new era of historical interpretation was dawning, decided to create his own ensemble, Les Epopées. He and his company offer a decidedly new vision of baroque interpretation.
Accompanying emerging young talent by providing opportunities to be heard in large-scale projects alongside internationally renowned artists is what makes Les Epopées an extraordinary human and artistic enterprise. As training and passing on experience are at the heart of Stéphane Fuget's project, a large proportion of the ensemble's artists used to be his students (47% of the singers and 40% of the instrumentalists), amongst the most talented of their generation. Les Epopées therefore help open the door to the professional world for young musicians and singers.
Les Epopées singers:
Caroline Arnaud*, Lili Aymonino*, Gwendoline Blondeel*, Jeanne Lefort*, Claire Lefilliâtre, Ileana Ortiz*, Lucy Page*, Marie Perbost, Kumi Sakamoto*, Marie Zaccarini*(sopranos) ; Ambroisine Bré*, Océane Deweirder*, Juliette Mars*, Anthea Pichanick, Lucile Richardot, Ayako Yukawa*, (mezzos) ; Paul-Antoine Benos*, Filippo Mineccia (counter tenors) ; Marco Angioloni*, Cyril Auvity, Pierre-Antoine Chaumien, Valerio Contaldo, Clément Debieuvre*, Serge Goubioud, Fabien Hyon, Marc Mauillon, Sébastien Obrecht, Lisandro Pelegrina*, Jörg Schneider, Mathias Vidal, (tenors) ; Benoit Arnould, Luc Bertin-Hugault*, Renaud Bres*, Geoffroy Buffière, Thierry Cartier, Frédéric Caton, Vlad Crosman*, Luigi De Donato, Renaud Delaigue, Olivier Gourdy*, Imanol Iraola (baritones and basses)
Les Epopées instrumentalists:
Josef Zak*, Yuna Lee*, Maud Sinda*, Louise Ayrton*, Youn-young Kim*, Koji Yoda*, Charlotte Grattard, Hélène Decoin, Sabine Cormier, Benjamin Chénier, Jasmine Eudeline (violin) ; Maialen Loth*, Satryo Yudomartono*, Leïla Pradel*, Delphine Grimbert, Céline Cavagnac, Laurence Martinaud, Diane Omer* (viola) ; Marjolaine Cambon, Alice Coquart, Francois Gallon, Albéric Boullenois, Julien Hainsworth, Marc Alomar* (bass violin and cello) ; Claire Gautrot, Mathias Ferré*, Lucile Boulanger, Agnès Boissonnot-Guilbault*, Marie-Suzanne de Loye (viola de gamba) ; Ludovic Coutineau, Gautier Blondel (double bass), Laura Duthuillé, Luc Marchal (oboe and recorder) ; Adrien Mabire, Benoit Tainturier (cornett) ; Marie Hervé, Bertrand Blondet, Frédéric Naël (flute) ; Anaïs Ramage, Arnaud Condé*, Mélanie Flahaut (bassoon); Volny Hostiou (serpent) ; Claire Antonini, Pierre Rindeknecht*, Nicolas Wattinne* (theorbo) ; Caroline Lieby* (harp) ; Marie Van Rhijn*, Loris Barrucand* (harpsichord and organ).
* Singers and instrumentalists who studied in Stéphane Fuget's class at the Paris CRR (interpretation classes, baroque opera and vocal coaching) or who sang under his direction in joint projects (Paris CRR/CNSM or CRR/CMBV), or students he met in courses or academies (Royaumont/La Réole).