Although not the first of the Jean-Baptiste Lully's tragédies lyriques, Bellérophon was the first of Lully's opera scores to appear in print. The Ballard first edition was printed in 1679 to accompany the premiere, on January 31 of that year, at the Palais Royale. Bellérophon was the second of two operas (the first was Psyché) created by Lully without librettist Philippe Quinault after the scandal associated with Isis that led to Quinault's temporary dismissal as royal librettist. After an extended illness during which he did not compose, Lully collaborated with Thomas Corneille and Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle for the second time to create one of his most unqualified successes. Following the first performance in January 1679, Bellérophon played for nine months at the Palais Royale.
Creator: Lully, Jean Baptiste, 1632-1687; Corneille, Pierre, 1606-1684; Fontenelle, M. de (Bernard Le Bovier), 1657-1757 & Boileau Despréaux, Nicolas, 1636-1711
Isis, which premiered January 5, 1677, at St. Germain-en-Laye, was the fifth of Jean-Baptiste Lully's tragédies lyriques written with librettist Philippe Quinault. The plot is loosely adapted from one of the episodes in Ovid's Metamorphoses. In many of its essentials, the plot of Isis resembles that of Lully's previous opera, Atys. In Isis, the nymph Io, daughter of the river Inachus, is promised in marriage to Hierax, just as the nymph Sangaride, daughter of the river Sangar, was promised to Celoenus. Like Sangaride, Io is pursued by another love and yields to this love in spite of her feelings of guilt. Like Sangaride, Io has a goddess as a rival and is vulnerable to her jealousy. Lully's contemporaries interpreted this story as representing the volatile situation between two of the King's mistresses. The subsequent scandale of the premiere ended the collaboration between Lully and Quinault for a time, and led to the dismissal of a number of members of Lully's artistic circle.
Thesée, which premiered at the court theater at St. Germain-en-laye on January 11, 1675, was Jean-Baptiste Lully's third tragédie lyrique created in collaboration with librettist Philippe Quinault. As in most of his libretti for Lully, Quinault combines a plot based on a classical source (an episode from Ovid's Metamorphoses) with references to contemporary events. The Prologue alludes to Louis XIV's personal leadership in the military engagements in the Alsace (along the French/German border). The juxtaposition of Venus' entreaties for pleasure with Mars' call to arms reflects a period of unease during which the French armies were in retreat from the armies of the Elector of Brandenburg. This resulted in the unique joining of songs of love with songs of war and victory.
Creator: Lully, Jean Baptiste, 1632-1687 & Quinault, Philippe, 1635-1688
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