Lully, Jean-Baptiste (originally, Giovanni Battista Lulli)

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Lully, Jean-Baptiste (originally, Giovanni Battista Lulli)

Lully, Jean-Baptiste (originally, Giovanni Battista Lulli), celebrated Italian-born French composer; b. Florence, Nov. 28, 1632; d. Paris, March 22, 1687. The son of a poor Florentine miller, he learned to play the guitar at an early age. His talent for singing brought him to the attention of Roger de Lorraine, Chevalier de Guise, and he was taken to Paris in 1646 as a page to Mlle. d’Orléans, a young cousin of Louis XIV. He quickly adapted to the manner of the French court; although he mastered the language, he never lost his Italian accent. There is no truth in the report that he worked in the kitchens, but he did keep company with the domestic servants, and it was while he was serving in Mlle. d’Orléans’s court in the Tuileries that he perfected his violin technique. He also had the opportunity to hear the grande bande (the 24 Violons du Roi) and was present at performances of Luigi Rossi’s Orfeo at the Louvre in 1647. When Mlle. d’Orléans suffered political disgrace in 1652 and was forced to leave Paris, Lully was released from her service, and early in 1653 he danced with the young Louis XIV in the ballet La Nuit. Shortly thereafter, he was made Compositeur de la musique instrumentale du Roi, with joint responsibility for the instrumental music in court ballets. At some time before 1656 he became conductor of Les Petits Violons du Roi, a smaller offshoot of the grand bande. This ensemble was heard for the first time in 1656 in La Galanterie du temps. Thanks to Lully’s strict discipline with regard to organization and interpretation, Les Petits Violons soon came to rival the parent ensemble. The 2 groups were combined in 1664. Lully became a naturalized French citizen in 1661, the same year in which he was appointed surintendant de la musique et compositeur de la musique de la chambre; he also became maître de la musique de la famille royale in 1662. His association with Molière commenced in 1664; he provided Molière with the music for a series of comédies-ballets, culminating with Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme in 1670. Lully acquired the sole right to form an Académie Royale de Musique in 1672, and thus gained the power to forbid performances of stage works by any other composer. From then until his death he produced a series of tragédies lyriques, most of which were composed to texts by the librettist Philippe Quinault. The subject matter for several of these works was suggested by the King, who was extravagantly praised and idealized in their prologues. Lully took great pains in perfecting these texts, but was often content to leave the writing of the inner voices of the music to his pupils. His monopoly of French musical life created much enmity. In 1674 Henri Guichard attempted to establish an Académie Royale des Spectacles, and their ensuing rivalry resulted in Lully accusing Guichard of trying to murder him by mixing arsenic with his snuff. Lully won the court case that followed, but the decision was reversed on appeal. A further setback occurred when Quinault was thought to have slandered the King’s mistress in his text of Isis (1677) and was compelled to end his partnership with Lully in disgrace for some time. The King continued to support Lully, however, in spite of the fact that the composer’s homosexuality had become a public scandal (homosexuality at the time was a capital offense). Lully’s acquisition of titles culminated in 1681, when noble rank was conferred upon him with the title Secrétaire du Roi. In his last years, he turned increasingly to sacred music. It was while he was conducting his Te Deum on Jan. 8,1687, that he suffered a symbolic accident, striking his foot with a pointed cane used to pound out the beat. Gangrene set in, and he died of blood poisoning 2 months later.

Lully’s historical importance rests primarily upon his music for the theater. He developed what became known as the French overture, with its 3 contrasting slow-fast-slow movements. He further replaced the Italian recitativo secco style with accompanied French recitative. Thus, through the Italian-born Lully, French opera came of age. A complete catalog of his works was ed. by H. Schneider (Tutzing, 1981). B. Gustafson and M. Leschinskie publ, a thematic catalog for Lully’s works (N.Y., 1989).


dramatic: opera(all are tragédies lyriques unless otherwise given): Les Fêtes de l’Amour et de Bacchus, pastorale-pastiche (Opéra, Paris, Nov. 15, 1672); Cadmus et Hermione (Opéra, Paris, April 27, 1673); Alceste, ou Le Triomphe d’Alcide (Opéra, Paris, Jan. 19,1674); Thésée (Saint-Germain, Jan. 12, 1675); Atys (Saint-Germain, Jan. 10, 1676); Isis (Saint-Germain, Jan. 5, 1677); Psyché (Opéra, Paris, April 19, 1678); Bellérophon (Opéra, Paris, Jan. 31, 1679); Proserpine (Saint-Germain, Feb. 3, 1680); Persée (Opéra, Paris, April 18, 1682); Phaëton (Versailles, Jan. 9, 1683); Amadis (Opéra, Paris, Jan. 18, 1684); Roland (Versailles, Jan. 8,1685); Armide (Opéra, Paris, Feb. 15, 1686); Acis et Galatée, pastorale héroïque (Anet, Sept. 6, 1686); Achille et Polyxène (Opéra, Paris, Nov. 7, 1687; Overture and Act 1 by Lully; Prologue and Acts 2 to 5 by Collasse). ballet(all or most music by Lully): Alcidiane (Feb. 14,1658); La Raillerie (Louvre, Paris, Feb. 19, 1659); Xerxes (Louvre, Paris, Nov. 22, 1660); Ballet de Toulouze “au manage du Roy” (1660); L’Impatience (Tuileries, Paris, Feb. 14, 1661); Les Saisons (Fontainebleau, July 23, 1661); Hercule amoureux (Tuileries, Paris, Feb. 7,1662); Les Arts (Palais Royal, Paris, Jan. 8,1663); Les Noces de village (Vincennes, Oct. 3, 1663); Les Amours déguisés (Palais Royal, Paris, Feb. 13,1664); 5 entrées for Œdipe (Fontainebleau, July 21,1664); La Naissance de Vénus (Palais Royal, Paris, Jan. 26, 1665); Les Gardes (June 1665); Ballet de Créquy ou Le Triomphe de Bacchus dans les Indes (Hôtel de Créqui, Paris, Jan. 9, 1666); Les Muses (Saint-Germain, Dec. 2,1666); Le Carnaval ou Mascarade de Versailles (Tuileries, Paris, Jan. 18, 1668); Flore (Tuileries, Paris, Feb. 13, 1669); La Jeunesse (1669); Les Jeux pythiens (Saint Germain, Feb. 7, 1670); Ballet des ballets (Saint-Germain, Dec. 2, 1671); Le Carnaval (Opéra, Paris, Oct. 17, 1675); Le Triomphe de l’amour (Saint-Germain, Jan. 21, 1681); Le Temple de la paix (Fontainebleau, Oct. 20, 1685). ballet(music by Lully and others): La Nuit (Petit Bourbon, Paris, Feb. 23, 1653); Les Proverbes (Louvre, Paris, Feb. 17, 1654; music not extant); Les Noces de Pelée et de Thétis (Petit Bourbon, Paris, April 14, 1654); Le Temps (Louvre, Paris, Dec. 3,1654); Les Plaisirs (Louvre, Paris, Feb. 4, 1655); Les Bienvenus (Compiègne, May 30, 1655; music not extant); La Révente des habits de ballet (1655?); Psyché et la puissance de l’amour (Louvre, Paris, Jan. 16, 1656; music not extant); La Galanterie du temps (Paris, Feb. 19, 1656); L’Amour malade (Louvre, Paris, Jan. 17,1657); Les Plaisirs troublés (Louvre, Paris, Feb. 11 or 12, 1657; music not extant); Mascarade du capitaine (Palais Royal, Paris, 1664; music not extant). other:L’Impromptu de Versailles, comedy (Versailles, Oct. 14, 1663); Le Manage forcé, comedy (Louvre, Paris, Jan. 29, 1664); Les Plaisirs de l’île enchantée, comédie-ballet (Versailles, May 7, 1664); La Princesse d’Elide, comédie-ballet (Versailles, May 8, 1664); L’Amour médecin, comedy (Versailles, Sept. 16, 1665); La Pastorale comique, pastorale (Saint-Germain, Jan. 5,1667); Le Sicilien, ou L’Amour peintre, comedy (Saint-Germain, Feb. 10, 1667); Intermèdes for Georges Dandin’s Grande divertissement royal de Versailles, comedy (Versailles, July 18, 1668); La Grotte de Versailles, divertissement (Versailles, Aug. 1668); Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, comedy (Chambord, Oct. 6, 1669); Les Amants magnifiques, comédie-ballet (Saint-Germain, Feb. 7, 1670); Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, comédie-ballet (Chambord, Oct. 14, 1670); Psyché, tragédie-ballet (Tuileries, Paris, Jan. 17, 1671); Idylle sur la paix, divertissement (Sceaux, July 16, 1685). instrumental: Overtures; suites; dances; organ pieces; etc. choral:Te Deum (1677); De profundis (1683); Motets à deux pour la chapelle du Roi (Paris, 1684); 6 grands motets for 2 Choirs and Orch. (1685); 14 petits motets.


H. Guichard, Requête servant de factums contre B. L.(Paris, 1673); T. Lajarte, L. (Paris, 1878); E. Radet, L.: Homme d’affaires, propriétaire et musicien (Paris, 1891); J. Écorcheville, De L. à Rameau, 1690–1730 (Paris, 1906); H. Prunières, L. (Paris, 1909; second ed., 1927); L. de La Laurencie, L. (Paris, 1911; second ed., 1919); H. Prunières, La Vie illustre et libertine de J.-B.L. (Paris, 1929); E. Borrei, J.-B. L.(Paris, 1949); T. Valensi, Louis XIV et L.(Nice, 1952); J. Eppelscheim, Das Orchester in den Werken J.-B. L.s (Tutzing, 1961); M.-F. Christout, Le Ballet de cour de Louis XIV, 1643–1672 (Paris, 1967); W. Cole, The Motets of J.B. L.(diss., Univ. of Mich., 1967); H. Ellis, The Dances of J.B. L. (1632–1687) (diss., Stanford Univ., 1967); L. Auld, The Unity of Molière’s Comedy-ballets (diss., Bryn Mawr Coll., 1968); M. Benoit, Musiques de cour: Chapelle, chambre, écurie, 1661–1733 (Paris, 1971); idem, Verailles et les musiciens du Roi, 1661–1733 (Paris, 1971); P. Howard, The Operas off. (diss., Univ. of Surrey, 1974); H. Schneider, Der Rezeption der L.-Oper im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert in Frankreich (diss., Univ. of Mainz, 1976); J. Newman, J.-B. de L. and His Tragédies lyriques (Ann Arbor, 1979); C. Wood, J.-B. L. and His Successors: Music and Drama in the “Tragédie en musique,” 1673–1715 (diss., Univ. of Hull, 1981); H. Schneider, Die Rezeption der Opern L.s im Frankreich des Anden Regime (Tutzing, 1982); J. Heyer, ed., J.-B. L. and the Music of the French Baroque: Essays in Honour of James R. Anthony (Cambridge, 1988); J. de La Gorce and H. Schneider, eds., J.-B. L.: Actes du colloque Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Heidelberg 1987 (Laaber, 1990); E. Haymann, L. (Paris, 1991); P. Beaussant, L., ou, Le musicien du soleil (Paris, 1992); M. Couvreur, J.-B. L.: Musique et dramaturgie au service du Prince (Brussels, 1992); C. Schmidt, The livrets of J.-B. L.’s tragédies lyriques: A catalogue raisonné (N.Y., 1995).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire