Jean-baptiste Lully (1632-1687)

show more detailshow less detail

Episodes

EpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
Comments
01An Italian In Paris20131021

Donald Macleod explores how Lully came to be Louis XIV's favourite composer.

01An Italian In Paris20131021

How a Florentine peasant's son came to be the Sun King's favourite composer.

Jean-Baptiste Lully is one of those figures who loom large in histories of music; much less so in concert and on disc. In fact he's probably best known as the victim of the worst conducting accident in history, whacking himself on the toe with the weighty staff he used, in those pre-baton days, to beat time. Tragically, time was up for Lully, and he died of a gangrenous infection, at the peak of his powers, a little over two months later. All this week, Donald Macleod explores the life and work of this arrogant, ambitious, difficult, ruthless but remarkable man who came from the backstreets of Florence to be the preeminent composer of the French court in the late 17th century, the founding father of French opera and one of the leading figures in the music of his era.

In today's programme, the teenage Lully bumps into a French aristocrat in the Tuscan capital and in an incredible lucky break is whisked off to Paris to teach Italian to Anne-Marie-Louise d'Orléans, a cousin of the king. Lully's talent for dancing provided him with his next lucky break, when he was chosen to take part in a court ballet. The young Louis XIV - six years younger than Lully and himself a skilful dancer - was so impressed by the Italian's moves that he poached him from his cousin's household. Lully now proved that he could write the tunes as well as dance to them, and a court appointment followed, as 'composer of instrumental music' to the king. By the time of Louis's dynastic marriage to Maria Theresa of Spain, Lully had become an indispensable part of the French court's well-oiled musical machine, and in 1661 he was created Superintendent of the King's Chamber Music. Around the same time, he became a naturalized Frenchman, and got married - perhaps partly to dispel the rumours that were beginning to circulate about his sexuality.

01An Italian In Paris20131021

Donald Macleod explores how Lully came to be Louis XIV's favourite composer.

How a Florentine peasant's son came to be the Sun King's favourite composer.

Jean-Baptiste Lully is one of those figures who loom large in histories of music; much less so in concert and on disc. In fact he's probably best known as the victim of the worst conducting accident in history, whacking himself on the toe with the weighty staff he used, in those pre-baton days, to beat time. Tragically, time was up for Lully, and he died of a gangrenous infection, at the peak of his powers, a little over two months later. All this week, Donald Macleod explores the life and work of this arrogant, ambitious, difficult, ruthless but remarkable man who came from the backstreets of Florence to be the preeminent composer of the French court in the late 17th century, the founding father of French opera and one of the leading figures in the music of his era.

In today's programme, the teenage Lully bumps into a French aristocrat in the Tuscan capital and in an incredible lucky break is whisked off to Paris to teach Italian to Anne-Marie-Louise d'Orléans, a cousin of the king. Lully's talent for dancing provided him with his next lucky break, when he was chosen to take part in a court ballet. The young Louis XIV - six years younger than Lully and himself a skilful dancer - was so impressed by the Italian's moves that he poached him from his cousin's household. Lully now proved that he could write the tunes as well as dance to them, and a court appointment followed, as 'composer of instrumental music' to the king. By the time of Louis's dynastic marriage to Maria Theresa of Spain, Lully had become an indispensable part of the French court's well-oiled musical machine, and in 1661 he was created Superintendent of the King's Chamber Music. Around the same time, he became a naturalized Frenchman, and got married - perhaps partly to dispel the rumours that were beginning to circulate about his sexuality.

02Les Deux Baptistes20131022

Donald Macleod focuses on Lully's collaboration with Moliere.

02Les Deux Baptistes20131022

Today, Jean-Baptiste Lully collaborates with a second Jean-Baptiste: Poquelin, a.k.a. Molière.

Jean-Baptiste Lully is one of those figures who loom large in histories of music; much less so in concert and on disc. In fact he's probably best known as the victim of the worst conducting accident in history, whacking himself on the toe with the weighty staff he used, in those pre-baton days, to beat time. Tragically, time was up for Lully, and he died of a gangrenous infection, at the peak of his powers, a little over two months later. All this week, Donald Macleod explores the life and work of this ambitious, arrogant, difficult, ruthless but remarkable man who came from the backstreets of Florence to be the preeminent composer of the French court in the late 17th century, the founding father of French opera and one of the leading figures in the music of his era.

In today's programme, a royal dictat throws Lully together with the greatest comic actor and playwright of his age: Molière. For seven years they enjoyed a close collaboration, producing a series of brilliant comédies-ballets culminating in Le bourgeois gentilhomme, which almost 250 years later inspired Richard Strauss to create his own music for Molière's play. Perhaps a creative relationship of such intensity was too hot not to cool down; for whatever reason - it was probably over money - the two men eventually had an acrimonious bust-up. There's an architectural side-plot; as Lully's success and wealth increased, so did the grandeur of his residential designs. That other McCloud - Kevin - would have loved him.

02Les Deux Baptistes20131022

Donald Macleod focuses on Lully's collaboration with Moliere.

Today, Jean-Baptiste Lully collaborates with a second Jean-Baptiste: Poquelin, a.k.a. Molière.

Jean-Baptiste Lully is one of those figures who loom large in histories of music; much less so in concert and on disc. In fact he's probably best known as the victim of the worst conducting accident in history, whacking himself on the toe with the weighty staff he used, in those pre-baton days, to beat time. Tragically, time was up for Lully, and he died of a gangrenous infection, at the peak of his powers, a little over two months later. All this week, Donald Macleod explores the life and work of this ambitious, arrogant, difficult, ruthless but remarkable man who came from the backstreets of Florence to be the preeminent composer of the French court in the late 17th century, the founding father of French opera and one of the leading figures in the music of his era.

In today's programme, a royal dictat throws Lully together with the greatest comic actor and playwright of his age: Molière. For seven years they enjoyed a close collaboration, producing a series of brilliant comédies-ballets culminating in Le bourgeois gentilhomme, which almost 250 years later inspired Richard Strauss to create his own music for Molière's play. Perhaps a creative relationship of such intensity was too hot not to cool down; for whatever reason - it was probably over money - the two men eventually had an acrimonious bust-up. There's an architectural side-plot; as Lully's success and wealth increased, so did the grandeur of his residential designs. That other McCloud - Kevin - would have loved him.

03Lully Takes Over20131023

Donald Macleod explores how Lully took over the French operatic stage.

03Lully Takes Over20131023

Today, Lully takes over the French operatic stage - literally.

Jean-Baptiste Lully is one of those figures who loom large in histories of music; much less so in concert and on disc. In fact he's probably best known as the victim of the worst conducting accident in history, whacking himself on the toe with the weighty staff he used, in those pre-baton days, to beat time. Tragically, time was up for Lully, and he died of a gangrenous infection, at the peak of his powers, a little over two months later. All this week, Donald Macleod explores the life and work of this ambitious, arrogant, difficult, ruthless but remarkable man who came from the backstreets of Florence to be the preeminent composer of the French court in the late 17th century, the founding father of French opera and one of the leading figures in the music of his era.

In today's programme, Lully belatedly goes into the opera business - as both poacher and gamekeeper. Not only does he write the first fully-fledged tragédies lyriques, but in a characteristically brazen move he buys the operatic 'privilege', giving him an absolute monopoly on the production of musical stage-works throughout France. Since he had fallen out with his erstwhile collaborator Molière, he was now in need of a librettist; he chose Philippe Quinault, like Lully, a man of humble origins. By this stage Lully had made a lot of enemies, and his early productions with Quinault faced a formidable cabal. At first they had the support of King Louis XIV, but that changed with their sixth collaboration, Isis - the tale of a beautiful nymph who was lusted over by Jupiter, much to the chagrin of his shrewish wife Juno. The fable was generally taken to be an allegory of court life, with Jupiter representing Louis; Isis corresponding to Marie-Elizabeth de Ludres, the latest young beauty at the court of Versailles to catch the king's eye; and Juno being an deeply unflattering portrait of Louis's chief mistress, Mme de Montespan. When the time of reckoning came, it was Quinault who took the hit; he was temporarily 'disgraced', while Lully continued to go about his business with impunity.

03Lully Takes Over20131023

Donald Macleod explores how Lully took over the French operatic stage.

Today, Lully takes over the French operatic stage - literally.

Jean-Baptiste Lully is one of those figures who loom large in histories of music; much less so in concert and on disc. In fact he's probably best known as the victim of the worst conducting accident in history, whacking himself on the toe with the weighty staff he used, in those pre-baton days, to beat time. Tragically, time was up for Lully, and he died of a gangrenous infection, at the peak of his powers, a little over two months later. All this week, Donald Macleod explores the life and work of this ambitious, arrogant, difficult, ruthless but remarkable man who came from the backstreets of Florence to be the preeminent composer of the French court in the late 17th century, the founding father of French opera and one of the leading figures in the music of his era.

In today's programme, Lully belatedly goes into the opera business - as both poacher and gamekeeper. Not only does he write the first fully-fledged tragédies lyriques, but in a characteristically brazen move he buys the operatic 'privilege', giving him an absolute monopoly on the production of musical stage-works throughout France. Since he had fallen out with his erstwhile collaborator Molière, he was now in need of a librettist; he chose Philippe Quinault, like Lully, a man of humble origins. By this stage Lully had made a lot of enemies, and his early productions with Quinault faced a formidable cabal. At first they had the support of King Louis XIV, but that changed with their sixth collaboration, Isis - the tale of a beautiful nymph who was lusted over by Jupiter, much to the chagrin of his shrewish wife Juno. The fable was generally taken to be an allegory of court life, with Jupiter representing Louis; Isis corresponding to Marie-Elizabeth de Ludres, the latest young beauty at the court of Versailles to catch the king's eye; and Juno being an deeply unflattering portrait of Louis's chief mistress, Mme de Montespan. When the time of reckoning came, it was Quinault who took the hit; he was temporarily 'disgraced', while Lully continued to go about his business with impunity.

04Sons Of The Sun20131024

Donald Macleod explores Lully's collaboration with a new librettist: Thomas Corneille.

04Sons Of The Sun20131024

Today, the Sun's son gets burnt, and the son of the Sun King gets hitched.

Jean-Baptiste Lully is one of those figures who loom large in histories of music; much less so in concert and on disc. In fact he's probably best known as the victim of the worst conducting accident in history, whacking himself on the toe with the weighty staff he used, in those pre-baton days, to beat time. Tragically, time was up for Lully, and he died of a gangrenous infection, at the peak of his powers, a little over two months later. All this week, Donald Macleod explores the life and work of this ambitious, arrogant, difficult, ruthless but remarkable man who came from the backstreets of Florence to be the preeminent composer of the French court in the late 17th century, the founding father of French opera and one of the leading figures in the music of his era.

In today's programme, with his regular librettist Philippe Quinault temporarily out of favour with the king, Lully has to find a new one; he plumps for Thomas Corneille, brother of the famous tragedian. Lully and Corneille collaborated on two operas: Psyché, the story of the mortal woman so beautiful that the god Cupid fell in love with her; and Bellérophon, a yarn about the mythical Corinthian horseman who, with the aid of the winged horse Pegasus, defeated the terrible Chimaera. Bellerophon may have been mythical but his purpose was very real; to flatter Louis XIV, who would easily have seen his own magnificence reflected in the hero's glorious deeds. Louis's son, the Dauphin, was of a less energetic nature; the Duchesse d'Orléans described him as "a man who could spend a whole day lying on a sofa tapping his shoes with a cane". For his wedding to the unfortunate Marie-Anne-Christine-Victoire of Bavaria, Lully, collaborating once again with Quinault, devised an opéra-ballet - Le triomphe de l'Amour. The son of the Sun King's indolence served him well; the son of the Sun, Phaëton, had poorer judgement, insisting that his father let him drive his chariot across the sky. That didn't go well; he lost control of his vehicle and Jupiter struck him down with a thunderbolt - an absolute gift to Lully's talented set designer, Jean Berain, who created an unforgettable spectacle for Parisian audiences.

04Sons Of The Sun20131024

Donald Macleod explores Lully's collaboration with a new librettist: Thomas Corneille.

Today, the Sun's son gets burnt, and the son of the Sun King gets hitched.

Jean-Baptiste Lully is one of those figures who loom large in histories of music; much less so in concert and on disc. In fact he's probably best known as the victim of the worst conducting accident in history, whacking himself on the toe with the weighty staff he used, in those pre-baton days, to beat time. Tragically, time was up for Lully, and he died of a gangrenous infection, at the peak of his powers, a little over two months later. All this week, Donald Macleod explores the life and work of this ambitious, arrogant, difficult, ruthless but remarkable man who came from the backstreets of Florence to be the preeminent composer of the French court in the late 17th century, the founding father of French opera and one of the leading figures in the music of his era.

In today's programme, with his regular librettist Philippe Quinault temporarily out of favour with the king, Lully has to find a new one; he plumps for Thomas Corneille, brother of the famous tragedian. Lully and Corneille collaborated on two operas: Psyché, the story of the mortal woman so beautiful that the god Cupid fell in love with her; and Bellérophon, a yarn about the mythical Corinthian horseman who, with the aid of the winged horse Pegasus, defeated the terrible Chimaera. Bellerophon may have been mythical but his purpose was very real; to flatter Louis XIV, who would easily have seen his own magnificence reflected in the hero's glorious deeds. Louis's son, the Dauphin, was of a less energetic nature; the Duchesse d'Orléans described him as "a man who could spend a whole day lying on a sofa tapping his shoes with a cane". For his wedding to the unfortunate Marie-Anne-Christine-Victoire of Bavaria, Lully, collaborating once again with Quinault, devised an opéra-ballet - Le triomphe de l'Amour. The son of the Sun King's indolence served him well; the son of the Sun, Phaëton, had poorer judgement, insisting that his father let him drive his chariot across the sky. That didn't go well; he lost control of his vehicle and Jupiter struck him down with a thunderbolt - an absolute gift to Lully's talented set designer, Jean Berain, who created an unforgettable spectacle for Parisian audiences.

05 LASTThe Fatal Blow20131025

Donald Macleod on how Lully fell out of favour with the King and then stabbed himself.

05 LASTThe Fatal Blow20131025

Today, Lully falls out of favour with the king and stabs himself in the foot.

Jean-Baptiste Lully is one of those figures who loom large in histories of music; much less so in concert and on disc. All this week, Donald Macleod explores the life and work of this ambitious, arrogant, difficult, ruthless but remarkable man who came from the backstreets of Florence to be the preeminent composer of the French court in the late 17th century, the founding father of French opera and one of the leading figures in the music of his era.

In today's programme, Lully goes too far - with his page-boy, a young lad called Brunet. The composer's rock-solid supporter to date, Louis XIV was scandalized, or at least had to appear so, and Lully was warned to 'amend his conduct' in future. Perhaps as a public sign of the king's disapproval, Lully's opera Armide, considered by many to be his masterpiece, did not, as usual, receive its premiere at Versailles, but in Paris. Lully had another rather more pressing problem to contend with around this time - an anal fistula, which was operated on in January 1686. When a few months later the king suffered the same affliction, the royal surgeon developed a special type of sheathed lancet to treat it. The operation, which was extensively trialled on citizens at the bottom end of the societal food chain, was a success, and celebrations broke out all over France. Lully's contribution to the frenzy of thanksgiving was a special performance of his Te Deum in Paris - during the course of which the famous self-inflicted accident took place.

05 LASTThe Fatal Blow20131025

Donald Macleod on how Lully fell out of favour with the King and then stabbed himself.

Today, Lully falls out of favour with the king and stabs himself in the foot.

Jean-Baptiste Lully is one of those figures who loom large in histories of music; much less so in concert and on disc. All this week, Donald Macleod explores the life and work of this ambitious, arrogant, difficult, ruthless but remarkable man who came from the backstreets of Florence to be the preeminent composer of the French court in the late 17th century, the founding father of French opera and one of the leading figures in the music of his era.

In today's programme, Lully goes too far - with his page-boy, a young lad called Brunet. The composer's rock-solid supporter to date, Louis XIV was scandalized, or at least had to appear so, and Lully was warned to 'amend his conduct' in future. Perhaps as a public sign of the king's disapproval, Lully's opera Armide, considered by many to be his masterpiece, did not, as usual, receive its premiere at Versailles, but in Paris. Lully had another rather more pressing problem to contend with around this time - an anal fistula, which was operated on in January 1686. When a few months later the king suffered the same affliction, the royal surgeon developed a special type of sheathed lancet to treat it. The operation, which was extensively trialled on citizens at the bottom end of the societal food chain, was a success, and celebrations broke out all over France. Lully's contribution to the frenzy of thanksgiving was a special performance of his Te Deum in Paris - during the course of which the famous self-inflicted accident took place.