The palace
Marie-Antoinette's Estate
Your visit
Visitor informations
Buy tickets
Events calendar

HistoryCourt characters




The Sun King's musician (1632-1687)

Jean-Baptiste Lully was discovered in Italy and introduced to the Court of Louis XIV at a very early age. Trained as a musician, he stood out and in 1661 became the Surintendant de la Musique de la Chambre du Roi (Superintendent of Music of the King's Chamber). Lully became friends with Molière but they had a falling out and he obtained complete control of theatre music. He directed the Académie de Musique du Roi-Soleil and is considered the creator of French opera.

The Duke of Guise was visiting Florence when he noticed an 11-year-old boy named Giovanni Battista Lulli and brought him back to Paris to help Mademoiselle de Montpensier, called "la Grande Mademoiselle", perfect her Italian. He learned music with Michel Lambert, the director of Mademoiselle's violins.

In 1652 Lully danced with young King Louis XIV in the Ballet Royal de la Nuit. Dancing solidified their friendship, which never ended. Ten years later Lully became Surintendant de la Musique de la Chambre du Roi (Superintendent of Music of the King's Chamber). From 1664 to 1671 he collaborated with Molière, composing the music for Le Mariage forcé (The Forced Marriage), Monsieur de Pourceaugnac and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (The Bourgeois Gentleman). But in 1662, after the success of the tragicomedy Psyché, they had a falling out and Lully obtained a virtual monopoly on theatre music. He became director of the Académie de Musique, which Louis XIV had created three years earlier. Lully also composed ballet music, court airs and music for the Royal Chapel.

Despite his Italian birth, Lully was the fiercest defender of the French style in music and the creator of French opera. His most famous works are Armide, Isis and Atys, the King's favourite opera. While rehearsing a Te Deum, he accidentally struck his foot with his cane. The wound became gangrenous and he died on 22 March 1687. Lully had a strong influence on his peers, such as François Couperin and Michel-Richard de Lalande.

This website uses cookies for statistical purposes. By continuing to browse the site without changing your parameters, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Find out more. Close