Lived: 1632 – 1687
Mostly In: Versailles and Paris
Best Known For: Ballet de la Nuit, Atys, Phaëton, Te Deum
Similar To: Charpentier, Rameau, Purcell, Marais, Campra

LullyLully by Mignard

Lully is one of the great conundrums of musical history. Textbooks do duty to his key role as the founder of French opera, while waxing less than enthusiastic about his music. There is no doubt that his musical reach was long – he not only dominated French music during his lifetime, but set the agenda for it in the century after his death. And here is one of the great ironies of Lully’s extraordinary career. While he was the unchallenged champion of French musical style, vigorously supported by Louis XIV, as a bastion against the advance of Italian music, he was himself an Italian.

The son of a Florentine miller, the 14-year-old Giovanni Battista Lulli was sent to Paris as a garçon de chambre to Anne Marie Louise d’Orléans, a cousin...