Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687), Louis XIV’s first composer of the Court, the superintendent of the Royal music & a master of the French Baroque, was born in Florence, Toscana. He belonged to a simple family, so his youth until 14th years old remained covered with mysteries. The Carnival of 1646 changed his life dramatically: amusing the crowd dressed as Harlequin he was noticed by Roger de Lorraine, Duc de Guise (one of the most powerful French noble kin), who hired him as a chamber boy & brought to France where he served to Mademoiselle de Montpensier (La Grande rebellious Mademoiselle who shot a canon during la Fronde). He served her until 1652, developing his musical talents as a guitarist, violinist & a dancer. (I’m not aware if Tom Jobim danced well, while the guitar, the flue & the piano were essential for his music spirit).
Young Jean-Baptiste was very ambitious & his main goal was, certainly, to obtain the Royal protection & to entertain Louis XIV in person. The fate provided him this opportunity: in a fabulous performance of “Le Ballet de La Nuit” in 1653 he already danced at the same stage with His Majesty. Since that day he obtained quick promotion: the same year he was made the Royal composer for musical instruments; in 1661 he was named the superintendent of the Royal music & was granted letters of naturalization. (This is a particular case in Louis XIV’s reign, moreover if we take into account the fact that Lully was born Italian).
1661-1672 was a period of his bright collaboration with Molière. This wonderful creative duet invented plenty of great comedies-ballets, established as a new theatre genre. In 1672 Jean-Baptiste broke with Molière & all his vigour was moved to creation of the French Opera presented as tragédie en musique. At the same time Lully’s arrogant nature & misbehaviour unappropriate at Louis XIV’s Court exhausted even His Majesty’s patience, so since 1686 Lully was not invited to perform in front of the King.
He died from gangrene caused by an infection he had got after having struck his foot with his long conducting staff during a performance of his famous Te Deum.
I’m not a musical specialist to present details of his rich heritage, Esteemed Readers, so I will simply guide you around his wonderful music. Jean-Baptiste Lully is a true genius of the French Baroque style. Besides comedies-ballets & operas he composed chamber music, established the basis of the Orchestra system, invented the French Overture. He is an example of a musician, who was tearing apart by great passions, but was able to create the Divine music.
Vive le Roy! 🙂