Music Jean-Baptiste Lully
Bruce Gustafson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0041


Jean-Baptiste Lully (b. 1632–d. 1687) is justifiably considered the founder of French opera, creating a style of musical declamation that suited the French language (in spite of the fact that he was Italian by birth), and incorporating elements of the French ballet. He was close to Louis XIV, with whom he danced in court ballets when both were young men, and the king granted Lully what amounted to a monopoly on stage music. Lully’s stage works are usually divided into three genres (with variations within each): ballet, a court entertainment in which dance was the primary element; comédie-ballet, in which a spoken play was surrounded by music both sung and danced before and after each act and sometimes during the acts; and tragédie en musique, in which a drama is sung throughout (the French equivalent of Italian opera) and dance is a prominent element. He also composed some sacred motets, but virtually all of the known instrumental music is derived from his stage music. He had two primary collaborators as librettists: in the early period, Jean-Baptiste Molière, and then Philippe Quinault, both of whom had distinguished literary careers. Lully’s operas held the stage in Paris far into the 18th century, but were then neglected and thought unsuitable for modern audiences until the 1980s, when a revival proved them still stage-worthy. This in turn sparked a greatly renewed scholarly interest in the composer, and the literature about Lully is much richer in this period than in the previous two hundred years. Nevertheless, there are still very few book-length studies devoted to Lully, and no substantive one has yet appeared in English. The present bibliography emphasizes scholarship since 1980, which in turn leads to earlier works.

Catalogues and Indexes

The central work for all Lully studies is Schneider 1981. Gustafson 1989 provides access to the Schneider catalogue via themes, and Gustafson 1987 lists the re-uses of the same musical material within Lully’s works, also keyed to Schneider’s catalogue. Schmidt 1995 is an exhaustive bibliographic study of the surviving librettos for Lully’s tragédies en musique.

  • Gustafson, Bruce. “Cross References and Misattributions in the Lully-Werke-Verzeichnis.” Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 44.1 (September 1987): 33–39.

    DOI: 10.2307/940976

    An aid to using Schneider 1981 more effectively. It is a list of re-uses of melodic material in Lully’s works, using the LWV numbering system from Schneider 1981. It also points out some works in that catalogue that are attributed elsewhere to other composers.

  • Gustafson, Bruce, with Matthew Leshinskie. A Thematic Locator for the Works of Jean-Baptiste Lully: Coordinated with Herbert Schneider’s Chronologisch-thematisches Verzeichnis sämtlicher Werke von Jean-Baptiste Lully (LWV). New York: Performers’ Editions, 1989.

    Provides access to the works of Lully catalogued in Schneider 1981 via melodies, encoded in a simple numeric system. It is useful for checking to see if an unidentified melody is in fact by Lully.

  • Schmidt, Carl B. The Livrets of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Tragédies Lyriques: A Catalogue Raisonné. New York: Performers’ Editions, 1995.

    An attempt to catalogue all of the published librettos of Lully’s tragédies en musique. It also includes the pastorale Acis et Galatée. Locations of exemplars are given, and personnel for each work are cited. Includes a useful index of about 2,000 performers, along with several other indexes.

  • Schneider, Herbert. Chronologisch-thematisches Verzeichnis sämtlicher Werke von Jean-Baptiste Lully (LWV). Mainzer Studien zur Musikwissenschaft 14. Tutzing, Germany: Hans Schneider, 1981.

    The standard catalogue of Lully’s music. Each work is assigned a number, 1–80, with individual sections within the work appended. For example, “LWV 42/12” is the sleep scene from Les Amants magnifiques (work number 42, musical number 12 within it). The catalogue provides a wealth of ancillary information.

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