Jun 11 2009
Jean-Baptiste de Lully was a famous 17th century French composer of Italian birth. He spent most of his life working at the court of Louis XIV of France. When we speak about French opera and its founders, Lully is probably our best choice. In fact, he can be considered the founder of French opera and an inventor of the special form tragédie en musique (also known as tragédie lyrique).
First famous opera composition of Lully was named Cadmus and Hermione. This French opera had a prologue and five acts. Philippe Quinault created its libretto, based upon eternal Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Cadmus et Hermione was a big success at its time – it opened in Paris on April 27, 1673 .
Today, probably, this opera will cause us to smile not once. It lavishly praises King Louis XIV, and presents him as a Greek god Apollo slaying the Python of Delphi, even though the opera concerns the love story of Cadmus, legendary king of Thebes, and Hermione, daughter of Venus and Mars.
Nevertheless, Cadmus and Hermione represents a turning point in the development of French opera. Lully managed to assimilate both Italian and French styles which made him wildly popular. His mixture of opera and ballet compositions essentially gave Lully complete control of all music performed in France until the end of his days.