Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Jean-Baptiste Lully

Music History Monday: The Gnarly Demise of a Nasty Man

On November 28, 1632 – 284 years ago today – Giovanni Battista Lulli was born to a working class family in a working class neighborhood in Florence. As “Jean-Baptiste Lully”, his rags-to-riches life would see him climb to the very pinnacle Euro-music, becoming the first important composer of French-language opera, the all-powerful director of the Paris Opera, and confident to King Louis XIV of France, the great “Sun King” himself. Yet for all his fame and power, Lully would be almost entirely unknown today except for the way he died. Here’s what happened. Giovanni Battista was a very talented kid: early on he learned to play the guitar, the violin, to compose and to dance; he was said to excel at pretty much everything. At the age of fourteen he caught the first of his lucky breaks. It was Mardi Gras in Florence; he was dressed as Harlequin and was clowning around with his violin on the street, amusing bystanders and picking up a few coins. He was noticed by a Frenchman named Roger de Lorraine, Chevalier de Guise who, as you might expect from all his names, was a very important person. The Chevalier de Guise was on his […]

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Scandalous Overtures — Jean-Baptiste Lully: The Gnarly Demise of a Nasty Man

Lists, lists, lists: top tens; the greatest this, the most insignificant that; the best dressed, the worst hair, whatever — we love ‘em all. And thanks to the internet – that great purveyor of useless, bite-sized bits of info — lists have become an omnipresent cultural fetish. Among the most interesting such lists — for me — are the “most hated person” lists, not because I, myself, am a hater but because of what such lists tell us about contemporary values and culture. “Most hated.”That’s a powerful combination of words, one loaded with NEGATIVITY AND HOSTILITY, MAN. Personally, my motto has always been (at least for the last few minutes) “don’t hate: masticate ’n refrigerate” (chew it over and chill out). Nevertheless, it behooves us to consider what someone actually has to do in order to be included on such a list. At the top of pretty much all “most hated” lists are those individuals whose deeds and actions — perpetrated across their lives — smack of irredeemable evil, “lifetime evil-doers” as Bush 43 might call them: leaders of rogue states like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Caligula, Attila the Hun, and Vlad the Impaler; mass murderers like Ted Bundy, John […]

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