Couperin’s Leçons de Ténèbres

Candelight Concert
Royal Chapel of Versailles

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Royal Chapel of Versailles
1 Place Léon Gambetta, 78000 Versailles
Capacity 800 seats


1h 15m

No intermission


Classical concert

For all audiences

In Latin


Highlights: Couperin’s Leçons de Ténèbres

A concert by candlelight... Could there be a more intense and atmospheric way to enjoy François Couperin’s Leçons de ténèbres ? This is the opportunity the Royal Chapel of Versailles is offering audiences this season. Conductor and organist Gaétan Jarry leads the Royal Opera of Versailles Orchestra, with two superb sopranos, Adèle Carlier and Ana Quintans. Together, the musicians will delight you with their performance of a magnificent piece. François Couperin (1668-1733) was one of the most important French composers of the Baroque period. He is one of the masters who earned the Leçons de ténèbres, a liturgical music genre born in France in the 17th century, universal renown. His own Leçons de ténèbres sparkle with dazzling subtlety. Hear it played in the glorious Royal Chapel of Versailles to catch every nuance of Couperin’s scintillating score.



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Story: Couperin’s Leçons de Ténèbres

To help you get the most out of liturgical music, and the Leçon de ténèbres genre in particular, let’s break down a few key terms. Here are three that you need to know: matins, lauds and Tenebrae. The Office of Matins is the first prayer of the day, intended to sanctify the nighttime. The Office of Lauds is the Christian prayer for the sunrise. Last but not least, Tenebrae is the name given to matins and lauds on the last three days of Holy Week (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday). Leçons de ténèbres is music composed to accompany the first of the three nocturnes of each Tenebrae.

Don't let these three definitions scare you! The grandeur, power, and beauty of these songs will delight Baroque music experts and newbies alike in the ornate interior of the Royal Chapel of Versailles. François Couperin's Leçons de ténèbres are unlike any other in that they were written for the nuns of the Royal Abbey of Longchamp, who were considered excellent musicians. The pieces themselves have come to be known as one of the pinnacles of the vocal art of the baroque period. We invite you to discover the soaring vocals of two talented sopranos, which intermingle in an atmosphere of meditation by candlelight.



Premium experience & option

Looking for more than a standard ticket to the show? To make your experience an unforgettable one, you will be able to choose this exclusive offer at the time of booking:


Champagne + Programme + Show

This offer includes a glass of champagne and a printed programme, as well as exclusive access to the best two seating categories.


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Royal Chapel of Versailles

1 Place Léon Gambetta, 78000 Versailles

The Royal Chapel of Versailles

If buildings could talk, what would they say? Certainly, the Royal Chapel of Versailles could tell a tale or two! After all, it was the venue for the marriage between the last king and queen of France: Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The chapel’s construction was completed in 1710 during the reign of Louis XVI’s great-great-great-grandfather, Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King. It was the fifth and final chapel to be built at the Palace of Versailles, and it was consecrated to Saint Louis, the patron saint of the king, as well as one of the king’s ancestors.

The architecture itself references this lineage, through several similarities with the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, which Saint Louis had founded, as well as in the emblazoned double-L motif on the altar symbolizing the saint, and the Sun King together. The vaulted ceiling of the Royal Chapel of Versailles was constructed by Hardouin-Mansart, without the use of transvers ribs, in order to create a vast, uninterrupted depiction of the Holy Trinity, above the heads of the congregation. For decades, this painting would look down on the French Royal Family as they took their daily mass, an event which became renowned across Europe for its use of music, played on a huge organ designed by Cliquot.

The Royal Chapel of Versailles also incorporates classical-inspired designs in its impressive colonnades, which we have come to associate with the Neoclassical boom of the 18th century, however, the chapel’s construction was completed long before the movement really came to prominence, showing that its architects were truly ahead of their time. Since the chapel’s deconsecration in the 19th century, it has become a go-to venue for classical concerts, and so it should be, having been the epicenter of European music in centuries gone by. What better place to experience the history of music!

Fast facts
Capacity: 800
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Air conditioning: No
Heating: Yes
Coat Check: Yes (free service)


How do I get to the Royal Chapel of Versailles ?

The Royal Opera of Versailles is accessible by:
Metro lines: You can take the RER C to Versailles Château Rive Gauche, lines N and U of the Transilien to Versailles Chantiers, and line L to Versailles Rive Droite. Bus lines: You can take bus line 171 The Royal Opera is located on the grounds of the Castle. Access is via Door B (on the right in the Cour d'honneur, near the Royal Chapel).

Our customer service can be reached in case of difficulty from 10 am to 7 pm, Monday to Friday. For more information, please consult the map above.

What do I do when I get to the theater?

We recommend that you arrive at least 20 minutes before the start of François Couperin’s Leçons de ténèbres. Show your ticket at reception and the staff will take care of you.

Can I take photos during the show?

In order not to disturb the artists and for the comfort of other spectators, it is forbidden to take pictures during François Couperin’s Leçons de ténèbres. However, you can take photos of the Royal Chapel before and after the performance to remember your gorgeous Parisian evening!

How long does the show last?

François Couperin’s Leçons de ténèbres lasts 1 hour and 15 minutes, with intermission.

Is the show for travelers or French people?

François Couperin’s Leçons de ténèbres is performed in Latin but the beauty of Couperin’s music makes it a universal work which makes it easy to understand for everyone.

Is tipping customary?

Each spectator is greeted in the hall by an usher who will lead them to the seat. According to custom at the Royal Chapel of Versailles, ushers may request a tip which you may grant if you wish. It is by no means mandatory.