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The Fatal Blow

Today, Lully falls out of favour with the king and stabs himself in the foot.

Jean-Baptiste Lully is one of those figures who loom large in histories of music; much less so in concert and on disc. All this week, Donald Macleod explores the life and work of this ambitious, arrogant, difficult, ruthless but remarkable man who came from the backstreets of Florence to be the preeminent composer of the French court in the late 17th century, the founding father of French opera and one of the leading figures in the music of his era.

In today's programme, Lully goes too far - with his page-boy, a young lad called Brunet. The composer's rock-solid supporter to date, Louis XIV was scandalized, or at least had to appear so, and Lully was warned to 'amend his conduct' in future. Perhaps as a public sign of the king's disapproval, Lully's opera Armide, considered by many to be his masterpiece, did not, as usual, receive its premiere at Versailles, but in Paris. Lully had another rather more pressing problem to contend with around this time - an anal fistula, which was operated on in January 1686. When a few months later the king suffered the same affliction, the royal surgeon developed a special type of sheathed lancet to treat it. The operation, which was extensively trialled on citizens at the bottom end of the societal food chain, was a success, and celebrations broke out all over France. Lully's contribution to the frenzy of thanksgiving was a special performance of his Te Deum in Paris - during the course of which the famous self-inflicted accident took place.

Release date:

1 hour

Last on

Fri 25 Oct 2013 18:30

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