Jean-Baptiste Lully

(1632 - 1687)

Italian-born composer (French nationality from 1681). Self-taught violinist. At 14 went to France and worked as page to cousin of Louis XIV until prowess as dancer and mime was noted. Entered service of Louis XIV 1653, composed instrumental music for the court ballets. Some time before 1656 he became leader of 'les petits violons du Roi', a band of 21 players (an offshoot of the '24 violons du roi'), 'Instrumental composer to the King' 1653-61, 'Superintendent of Music and chamber music composer' 1661-2; 'music master to Royal Family' from 1662. From 1664 collaborated with Moliere in series of comedy-ballets which were forerunners of French opera, the last and most famous being Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, in which Lully danced role of the Mufti. Having assimilated both Italian and French styles and tastes, from 1673 he turned to opera composition and obtained from the King exclusive rights to arrange operatic performances in Paris. For the next 14 years, working with the poet Quinault, he not only wrote about 20 operas and ballets, but produced and conducted them and trained singers with firm discipline. He developed the formal 'French Overture', and replaced Italian recitativo secco with accompanied recitative, placing special emphasis on a style of declamation suited to French language. He introduced professional female dancers into the ballet. A supreme courtier and intriguer, he nevertheless made French opera a popular art. His death was caused by a gangrenous abscess which formed in his foot after he struck it with the long staff he used for beating time on the floor while conducting a Te Deum to celebrate Louis XIV's recovery from illness.

Operas: Les Fetes de l'Amour et de Bacchus (1672); Cadmus et Hermione (1673); Alceste (1674); Thesee (1675); Atys (1676); Isis (1677); Psyche (1678); Belerophon (1679); Proserpine (1680); Persee (1682); Phaeton (1683); Amadis de Gaule (1684); Roland (1685); Armide et Renaud (1686); Acis et Galathee (1686); Achille et Polixene (with Colasse, 1687, produced posthumously).

Comedy-ballets with Moliere: Le mariage force (1664); L'amour medecin (1665); La Princesse d'Elide (1664); Le Sicilien (1667); Georges Dandin (1668); Monsieur de Pourceaugnac (1669); Les amants magnifiques (1670); Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (1670).

Choral: Motets for two choirs (1684); Miserere (1664); Te Deum (1677); De Profundis (1683); five Grands Motets (1685). Read more on Wikipedia.