No one understood the ennui of lockdown better than Louis XIV and his courtiers

A few years ago I interviewed an eminent baroque conductor. Prickly and professorial, tired after a day of rehearsals, he batted question after question away until we landed on the subject of French baroque opera. No longer disinterested, now he was furious. He’d recently had a conversation with a major UK opera house, who had decided never again to stage anything by Lully, Rameau or Charpentier. Why? ‘It doesn’t sell.’ Since then we’ve had precisely one professional production of this repertoire in this country. It’s not the first time that English audiences have been suspicious of foreign imports. Back in the 18th century, when the cultural invasion came from Italy,