Giovanni Battista Lulli was born on November 28, 1632. His father, Lorenzo di Mal do, was a miller and his mother, Caterina del Sera, was a miller’s daughter. Lully was born in Florence, Italy and lived there until age 11. While in Italy he studied dance and music; he played violin and guitar. In March of 1646 he moved to France to tutor Mlle de Montpensier in Italian.
There he studied composition and harpsichord. Lully was able to hear the King’s grande band perform, witness balls where the best French dance music was played. When Mlle de Montpensier was exiled from Paris, Lully was released from her service and gained the attention of King Louis XIV. In February 1653 he danced in “Ballet de la nuit” with the King and less than a month later was appointed the King’s ” de la musique instrumental e de Roi.” Over the next ten years Lully gained control over all the royal family’s court music. This is when he began experimenting with performance practices and changing the basic stylistic features of orchestral music.
Lully’s “petit’s violins” brought him international fame. At this point Lully focused his career on ballets. They brought together Lully’s two favorite expressions of art: dance and music. The dances he composed shaped what is now known as “French music.” Between 1658 and 1671 Lully wrote thirty ballets. During this ballet frenzy he received his French citizenship and changed his name from Lulli to Lully.
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He also elevated his father’s status to ” Florent in.” Also in 1661 Lully was appointed the composer of chamber music for the King. In 1664 Lully collaborated with Jean-Baptiste Moli ” ere and started composing com ” edges-ballets. He didn’t thing the French language was appropriate for large works but was good for ballets. Perrin, a French composer, introduced opera around this time and Lully thought it was absurd.
However, when Perrin’s “Promote” succeeded, Lully changed his mind. Perrin ended up in prison over a money dispute and Lully bought the opera patent from him. This gave him complete control of French operatic performances. Then in 1673 Moli ” ere died and the King granted the patent for the Royal Theater to Lully also. Lully’s new operatic style grew out of his popular ballets. He kept the overture, entry music for the dancers, atmosphere and action symphonies, and some of the dances themselves.
He also worked parts around vocal recitatives and airs that followed a specific plot. This form became known as trag ” edges ly riques. In 1673 Lully began composing and performing one opera each year for fourteen years, except 1681. The most famous work from this period was “Le Triomphe de l’Amour.” It was the first to use a recitative with orchestral accompaniment.
It was also the first performance to include professional female dancers. (Newman, 1979) Lully’s monopoly stunted the natural progression of music. He once had the King personally stop the production of an opera that had not received Lully’s permission to be performed. Lully’s career never slowed down.
In 1687, while conducting his Te Deum in celebration of the King’s recovery from illness, he got excited and hit his toe with the tip of the cane he used to beat time. The wound developed gangrene but he refused to let doctors remove the toe. Three months later, on March 22, 1687, Lully died. The musical monopoly lived for decades after Lully’s death. People criticized and rejected others for writing music in different and progressive styles. His exclusive hold on opera writing led to one hundred years of French opera in his style.
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Music in England was also highly influenced by Lully’s work. Charles I sent his musicians to France to learn how to emulate Lully’s style. Some of the advancements he made with orchestra and the development of the ballet and tragedies ly riques as respectable genres drastically influenced western music for centuries following his career. Lully established a distinct French style for ballet and opera. In his operas he increased the role of music. It still had characteristics of his native Italian style: bel canto, recitative secco, etc.
, but the ornamentation was distinctly French. Lully also added more solos and choruses and created new dances. A sort of precursor to the full opera was the com ” edges-ballets. Moli ” ere was the author of the text. These were often based on pastoral themes and used a more French style recitative than earlier ballets. This new recitative style better fit the French language.
The advent of the trag ” edie ly rique finally broke Lully from his Italian style. They were different from the com ” edges-ballets in that they were completely set to music. The key element of the trag ” edie ly rique was the unity of action. Each act centered on a single incident that fit into the whole, and all the scenes within an act were linked so closely that sometimes scene changes occurred between syllables of a word. Unity of time and place were not as important. The passage of time was usually not demonstrated, and the action usually covered the period of more than one day.
(Newman 1979) Trag ” edges ly riques were modeled after Greek tragedies both in theme and in the use of the chorus as a commentary on the action. Most dealt with either Greek mythology or French chivalric heroes. They all had two basic themes: glory and love. All the plots were well known by the audience. It was the duty of the composer to entertain the audiences by casting a different perspective on a familiar subject.
One of the main differences between trag ” edges ly riques and Italian opera is the importance of text versus the importance of music. Music was far more important in the Italian style where text was supreme in the French style. The French recitative was modeled to fit the language and the arias were simpler and reserved for moments of strong emotion or reflection. The recitative was basically a singing declamation but became more melodic at times. They were accompanied by a basso continuo plus a couple of treble instruments and sometimes the whole orchestra. The French scorned the elaborate virtuosic style of the Italian opera as well as the use of the castrate.
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Finally, the purpose of the trag ” edie ly rique was to glorify the King. Plots contained conventional themes with allegories comparing the King to noble protagonists and with wit and relief, much in the traditions of Louis XIV’s court. (Newman 1979) Some of the characteristics of Italian opera are that the arias are virtuosic and hold significant importance, the recitative secco was only accompanied by a basso continuo, and the purpose of the opera was to entertain. Instruments played a lesser role and the thematic material was more driven by passionate emotions, violence, and comic relief.
(H armen and Milner 1959) Lully’s operatic style began a new wave of national music in France. He composed music in opposition to the long-adopted Italian style. He realized that the music needed to adhere to the structure of the language to truly give it a national flavor. Since culture and thought are tied to language, his style better reflected the mind of the French people. Lully’s orchestral innovations and style had the greatest impact on his fellow Frenchmen and composers throughout Europe. Musicians from across Europe came to Paris to learn from Lully’s orchestra.
Even his critics praised his orchestra, remarking on its brilliance and precise technique. New orchestras formed across Europe emulating Lully’s standards and creating new positions for instrumentalists. (Buelow 1993) In 1656 Lully directed the “petit violins.” This is where he changed the orchestral techniques that had been used to this point. Lully enforced strict disciplines; old habits were not tolerated. He required precision in all things, especially rhythm. Musicians were restricted in the use of embellishments and improvisation.
This new style was clean and powerfully expressive. Many modern concepts in orchestra playing have roots in Lully’s “petit violins.” Sections bow in the same direction and play as a whole rather than a group of individuals. Lully also called for the use of mutes to change the instruments’ tone color. Everyone praised these changes and Lully gained international fame. Louis XIV rewarded Lully by giving him control of all the chamber music in the court and placing him at the head of the “grands violins.” Lully took the usi of instrumental color in his operas to a new level. Contrast of color and timbre was especially important.
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Oboes and other woodwinds were used to evoke a pastoral setting. Brass and percussion were used for war or march-like scenes. Lully exploited these characteristics to set up a mood for an upcoming scene and to look back or remind the audience of previous ones. The orchestra was not just filler; it was an integral part of the performance.
It also heightened the expressive capabilities of the opera as a whole. The next step Lully took was to divide the orchestra for timbre changes. The whole orchestra was split into the “grand coeur” and the “petit coeur.” The large group played overtures, symphonies, and large choruses. The smaller group accompanied solo recitatives. This division allowed for mood changes as well as avoided drowning out the vocal parts. Lully also began using on-stage musicians.
Many operas and ballets called for instrumentalists to be in full view of the audience. These parts included costumes and costume changes. The instrumental color would decide who would go on stage. If it were a pastoral scene a member of the oboe family would be used. If it were a war scene a member of the brass family would be used.
Instrumentalists would only be used in scenes where an instrumentalist would normally be found in life: weddings, festivals, etc. Lully’s influence on the orchestra cannot be overstressed. He dramatically affected its style and importance. His orchestra was emulated all over Europe. Many of the characteristics that Lully developed are still in use today. Bibliography Anthony, James R.
, “Lully.” The New Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 1980 ed. , vol. 14, p. 315-326. Anthony, James R.
, H. Wiley Hitchcock, Edward Higginbottom, Graham Sadler, Albert Cohen. “French Baroque Masters.” The New Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians. W. W.
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Norton and Company, 1986. p. 1-63 Buelow, George J. , “Music and Society in the Late Baroque Era.” Music and Society in the Late Baroque Era. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1994. p.
1-38 Harman, Alec and Anthony Milner. Late Renaissance and Baroque Music. Fairlawn: Essential Books, 1957. Heyer, John Had ju. Lully Studies. Cambridge Universal Press, 2000.
Lewis, W. H. , The Splendid Century: Life in the France of Louis XIV. Waveland Press, 1997 Newman, Joyce.
Jean-Baptiste de Lully and His Trag ” edges Ly rique. UMI Research Press, 1979.