Jean-Baptiste Lully's original name was Giovanni Battista Lulli; born in Florence in 1632 he lived in France until his death in 1687 (in Paris).
Although Italian by birth, his whole career was French, more precisely in the French royal court: in 1652 he joined the court band as a violinist, in 1658 he began to compose music for the court ballets, and by 1662 he was royal composer and music master to the royal family.

In 1674 he bought certain royal letters of privilege: this meant no opera could be performed in the whole of France without Lully's permission !

A men desirous of power, and not afraid to do what was necessary to obtain it, he died in a strangely fitting manner: to direct the royal band, Lully used a big heavy stick that he banged against the floor to mark the rhythm.
In one occasion he hit himself on the foot, the wound got infected and he died, to be succeed by Marin Marais and, much later, Francois Couperin.

He wrote music for some of Moliere's works, like Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. His court music includes the ballets Atys, Isis, Roland, various suites . He also wrote sacred music.

Lully figures prominently at the beginning of the 1991 movie Tous les matins du monde.
Some of his work has been recorded by Jordi Savall for the Astrea, Audivis and Altavox labels.

His early life was quite as romantic as his end. Born on 28 November 1632 to a miller, he had no formal education in music but learnt guitar and violin almost by himself, then joined a band of travelling players.

The Chevalier de Guise found him in 1646 and took him to France. He was placed as a scullion in the household of the king's cousin, Mlle de Montpensier, who promoted him to her personal servant and leader of her band of musicians.

After becoming court composer, he was naturalized as French in 1661. His first opera, Cadmus et Hermione, was performed in 1673. The monopoly he was granted cancelled a previous patent issued to Robert Cambert (who went off to London to die) and his librettist Pierre Perrin (who also died a couple of years later, suspicious or what?). The Paris Opéra was at this time called the Académie Royale de Musique; it was this body that Lully took over.

His end was also romantically tragic. What he was conducting when he injured his foot was a Te Deum to celebrate the recovery of the King (Louis XIV).

As far as I can work out he composed fifteen operas, one being incomplete at his death (22 March 1687), and with the usual classical mythology and Amadis de Gaul titles; nine comic ballets in collaboration with Molière; and eighteen other ballets, including one called Ballet des ballets, you know how it gets after you've done a few.

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