Louis 14th, Lully, Moliere

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Great Impact of a King on music and theatre

Sinan Erk Mutafoğlu
11149

HUM 204
Prof. Filiz Ali

December 2nd, 2011

In the 17th century, France witnessed political, social and artistic facts which were triggered by the relationships between Louis the Fourteenth, Jean-Baptiste Lully and Moliere. This relationship between these important figures of 17th century can also be delineated as the connection between the political power, music and theatre. Before emphasizing the interaction among them, it might be illuminating to specify their backgrounds in order to gain an insight about their relations. Following, I am going to specify on their relationships and their influences on French music and theatre.

Louis the 14th, who is named as France’s Sun King, had the longest reign in European history beginning from 1643 until he dies in 1715. He had only five years old when he became the king of France, therefore the reign was almost dominated by the Cardinal until he died in 1661 ( Louis XIV, David J. Sturdy, pg 23 ). Following the cardinal’s death, Louis brought the absolute monarchy at the risk of taking both his mother’s and the council’s reactions (Louis XIV, David J.Sturdy, pg 34). Afterward, these reactions were also gravitated to the relation between Louis, Lully and Moliere. He established Versailles palace which was a symbol of the absolute monarchy, aiming to extract more domination of government from nobility and being distant from the population of Paris. Louis the 14th was a very important figure for the contemporary artists who were mainly supported and protected by their king. He tried to impose the thought of glorifying the monarch and monarchy through the arts and also he used art as a tool for political gain. For this purpose he created the Royal Academy of Dance in 1661 and the Academy of Music in 1671. He supported the artists in order to establish a unique French style both in literature and music, thus these artists were able to try to create new forms, feeling the king’s protection and support. Following the glorious years, his personal rule was affected by problems from 1685 until he died in 1715.

During the Louis 14th era, Jean- Baptiste Lully ( 1632- 1687 ) was the major composer of the French Baroque style. He was originally Italian born, a Florentine, who moved to France at the age of eleven in order to tutor Mlle de Montpensier in Italian. He was studying dance and music in Italy and then he continued to study composition and harpsichord in France. His landmark in his career was the ‘’Ballet de la nuit’’. The relationship between Louis the Fourteenth and Jean-Baptiste Lully began in this ballet which they danced together for the first time. One of the most interesting aspects of Louis XIV’s interaction with the arts was his involvement as a skilful performing dancer. Generally he played the most attractive roles and displayed as a a god-like figure like the ‘rising sun’. In this ballet, Louis XIV gained his nickname the "Sun King" from the role of the same name that he played so successfully (Harman and Milner 1959, 171). After this ballet, King Louis took Lully as a compositeur de la musique instrumantale de Roi. Thereby, their relationship began to grow strongly and powerfully day by day.

The passionate Lully gained the whole control of the royal family’s court music almost in ten years. Both of them are related to the music insanely. For Louis XIV, the ballet had a special place, and also the music. He attended all the ballets and all the theatres despite the risk of facing opposition of his mother and all the council. He danced passionately. He was so interested in dancing, music, and theatre. He gave a permission to Lully to conduct the petits violons, a small company of extremely gifted string players in 1656. Lully...
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