Jean-Baptiste Lully @ RISM
Jean-Baptiste Lully was born Giovanni Battista Lulli on 28 November 1632 in Florence but spent most of his life in the service of King Louis XIV. He became a French citizen in 1661. Lully began his career at the French court as a dancer until his compositional breakthrough in 1657 with the Ballet de l'amour malade. His fruitful collaboration with Molière began in 1664. For the court and large court festivals at Versailles, Molière and Lully created comédie-ballets, which became more and more musically sophisticated, until 1671. Lully had at times 54 instrumentalists and 16 singers at his disposal. Later, he bought the royal opera privilege from the Académie royale de musique and Lully’s most successful years followed. Each year until 1686 saw the performance of a new tragédie en musique. Lully’s tragic end is well known: He injured himself during a performance of his Te Deum by hitting his foot with his directing staff, dying in Paris from the subsequent infection. March 22 is the 325th anniversary of his death.
The forms that Lully gave ballet, opera and secular music were left untouched after his death. Even a text that Lully had already set to music was not used again for the stage. It was only about 100 years after his death that traditions were broken by a new generation of composers.
Hardy any of Lully’s works composed between 1657 and 1687 are preserved in autograph copies. The state of the source materials is one of the most complicated in all of music history. For the early operas, ballets, and comédies ballets, almost no performance materials and copies from the composer’s lifetime have been preserved. It was not until the operas were published (Isis 1677, Bellérophon 1679) that the state of the sources became clearer. All of the works that were performed in the Académie, with the only exception of Alceste, were published in score form, some posthumously. Most of them also appeared as partition réduite beginning in 1708. RISM series A/I lists 145 prints with compositions by Lully. There are nearly 2,400 entries in the RISM online catalog. Most of the French sources are not included there. These can be found in part on www.gallica.bnf.fr.
This very extensive and informative French website offers a good overview of Lully as a person and his works: http://sitelully.free.fr/
< Previous article