Lully, Jean-Baptiste (1632–1687)
LULLY, JEAN-BAPTISTE (1632–1687)
LULLY, JEAN-BAPTISTE (1632–1687), French composer and founder of the French operatic tradition. Lully was born Giovanni Battista Lulli in Florence, the son of a miller. Despite his humble origins, he was selected at the age of thirteen to teach Italian in Paris to Louis XIV's cousin Anne-Marie-Louise d'Orléans, known as the "Grande Mademoiselle," and he completed his education while serving in her household, mastering harpsichord, violin, and dancing. Lully became familiar with the ballet style of the royal court and by 1652 had so risen in musical status that he composed some of the music for a ballet that was given in the Grande Mademoiselle's palace. She became a partisan of the Fronde (a rebellion against the authority of the monarchy) later in the same year and was banished from Paris, freeing Lully to accept a post in 1653 as composer of instrumental music at the court of Louis XIV, functioning at first as both dancer and composer. The king, six years younger than Lully, befriended the composer, and the stage was set for Lully's extraordinary rise to musical power in France. By 1656 he had his own royal orchestra (the "petits violons") and began to compose all of the music for ballets, rather than collaborating with other composers. In the early 1660s he was understood to be the principal composer of ballets at court.
At this time, opera was understood to be exclusively an Italian phenomenon, and the considerable Italian presence at the court of Louis XIV (his first minister, Cardinal Jules Mazarin, was Italian) resulted in the importation of much opera. In 1664, Lully began to move in the direction of dramatic music in French, first by collaborating with Molière (1622–1673) in comédies-ballets (plays with much dance music). Louis XIV was in the process of extending his power in all aspects of French life, and in 1669 he added an Académie Royale de Musique to the "academies" he had established to control the artistic and intellectual life of the country; the new academy's stated purpose was to promote operas in French. Lully soon saw his opportunity and became its director in 1672, a position he held and aggrandized until his death, at the age of fifty-four. According to one contemporary source (Jean-Laurant Le Cerf de La Viéville), he died of gangrene after banging his foot while conducting with a cane.
Lully and librettist Philippe Quinault (1635–1688) created a noble new genre that signaled the beginning of a French style of opera. It was first termed simply tragédie, then tragédie en musique; later, the genre was labeled tragédie lyrique. Lully completed thirteen of these, approximately one a year, eleven to librettos by Quinault and two to librettos by Pierre Corneille (1606–1684): Cadmus et Hermione (1673), Alceste (1674), Thésée (1675), Atys (1676), Isis (1677), Psyché (1678, libretto by Corneille), Bellérophon (1679, Corneille), Prosperpine (1680), Persée (1682), Phaëton (1683), Amadis (1684), Roland (1685), and Armide (1686). Because Lully held royal privileges that gave him a complete monopoly on musical stage works, his operas dominated the musical life of the court and of Paris, and they held the stage well into the eighteenth century. Stylistically, they eschewed the rapid speechlike declamation typical of Italian recitatives. Rather, Lully created a fluid and expressive style of melodic line based on the declamation used in spoken French drama. Airs are usually dance-songs, and there are many dances interspersed with the vocal music, including full-fledged divertissements (entertainments that interrupt the plot). The five-act structure of the tragédie en musique was adopted from the spoken dramas of Corneille, and the prologue that either directly or allegorically praises Louis XIV came from the ballet tradition. Lully established a form for his overtures that was widely imitated elsewhere in Europe, and came to be known as the "French overture," consisting of a stately chordal section characterized by dotted-note rhythms, followed by a lively contrapuntal section.
Lully also composed a small but influential body of church music, particularly grands motets and petits motets. While he did not compose much independent instrumental music, the large amount of dance music in his stage works circulated separately, was gathered into suites, and was transcribed for other instruments. There is, for example, more harpsichord music derived from Lully's operatic dances than original music by any seventeenth-century French harpsichordist. Outside France, his influence was particularly strong in the Netherlands and Germany, and also in England. After the middle of the eighteenth century, his music was regarded for the most part as historical artifact until a revival of Atys in 1987 generated a new wave of appreciation for his operas.
See also Corneille, Pierre ; Dance ; Louis XIV (France) ; Mazarin, Jules ; Molière ; Music ; Opera .
Heyer, John Hajdu, ed. Jean-Baptiste Lully and the Music of the French Baroque: Essays in Honor of James R. Anthony. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1989.
Isherwood, Robert. Music in the Service of the King: France in the Seventeenth Century. Ithaca, N.Y., 1973.
La Gorce, Jérôme de, and Herbert Schneider, eds. Jean-Baptiste Lully: Actes du colloque = Kongressbericht: Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Heidelberg, 1987. Laaber, 1990.
"Lully, Jean-Baptiste (1632–1687)." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lully-jean-baptiste-1632-1687
"Lully, Jean-Baptiste (1632–1687)." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lully-jean-baptiste-1632-1687
"Lully, Jean-Baptiste." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/lully-jean-baptiste
"Lully, Jean-Baptiste." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/lully-jean-baptiste