Francesco Cavalli (born Pietro Francesco Caletti-Bruni 14 February 1602 – 14 January 1676) was an Italian composer of the early Baroque period. He was known as Cavalli, the name of his patron, venetian nobleman Federico Cavalli.
Cavalli was born at Crema, Lombardy. He became a singer (soprano) at St Mark’s Basilica in Venice in 1616, where he had the opportunity to work under the tutorship of Claudio Monteverdi. He became second organist in 1639, first organist in 1665, and in 1668 maestro di cappella. He is chiefly remembered for his operas. He began to write for the stage in 1639 (Le nozze di Teti e di Peleo) soon after the first public opera house opened in Venice, the Teatro San Cassiano. He established so great a reputation that he was summoned to Paris from 1660 (he revived his opera Xerse) until 1662, producing his Ercole amante. He died in Venice at the age of 73.
Music and influence
Cavalli was the most influential composer in the rising genre of public opera in mid-17th-century Venice. Unlike Monteverdi’s early operas, scored for the extravagant court orchestra of Mantua, Cavalli’s operas make use of a small orchestra of strings and basso continuo to meet the limitations of public opera houses.
Cavalli introduced melodious arias into his music and popular types into his libretti. His operas have a remarkably strong sense of dramatic effect as well as a great musical facility, and a grotesque humour which was characteristic of Italian grand opera down to the death of Alessandro Scarlatti. Cavalli’s operas provide the only example of a continuous musical development of a single composer in a single genre from the early to the late 17th century in Venice — only a few operas by others (e.g., Monteverdi and Antonio Cesti) survive. The development is particularly interesting to scholars because opera was still quite a new medium when Cavalli began working, and had matured into a popular public spectacle by the end of his career.
Cavalli wrote forty-one operas, twenty-seven of which are still extant, being preserved in the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (Library of St Mark) in Venice. Copies of some of the operas also exist in other locations. In addition, two last operas (Coriolano and Masenzio), which are clearly attributed to him, are lost, as well as twelve other operas that have been attributed to him, though the music is lost and attribution impossible to prove.
In addition to operas, Cavalli wrote settings of the Magnificat in the grand Venetian polychoral style, settings of the Marian antiphons, other sacred music in a more conservative manner – notably a Requiem Mass in eight parts (SSAATTBB), probably intended for his own funeral – and some instrumental music.
|Title||Libretto||Première date||Place, theatre||Notes|
|Le nozze di Teti e di Peleo||Orazio Persiani||24 January 1639||Venice, Teatro San Cassiano|
|Gli amori d’Apollo e di Dafne||Giovanni Francesco Busenello||1640||Venice, Teatro San Cassiano|
|La Didone||Giovanni Francesco Busenello||1641||Venice, Teatro San Cassiano|
|L’amore innamorato||Giovanni Battista Fusconi||1 January 1642||Venice, Teatro San Moisè|
|Narciso et Ecco immortalati||Orazio Persiani||30 January 1642||Venice, Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo||lost|
|La virtù dei strali d’Amore||Giovanni Faustini||1642||Venice, Teatro San Cassiano|
|L’Egisto||Giovanni Faustini||autumn 1643||Venice, Teatro San Cassiano|
|La Deidamia||Scipione Herrico||5 January 1644||Venice, Teatro Novissimo||lost|
|L’Ormindo||Giovanni Faustini||1644||Venice, Teatro San Cassiano|
|Il Romolo e ‘l Remo||Giulio Strozzi||1645||Venice, Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo||lost|
|La Doriclea||Giovanni Faustini||1645||Venice, Teatro San Cassiano|
|Il Titone||Giovanni Faustini||1645||Venice, Teatro San Cassiano||lost|
|La prosperità infelice di Giulio Cesare dittatore||Giovanni Francesco Busenello||1646||Venice, Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo||lost|
|La Torilda||Pietro Paolo Bissari||1648||Venice, Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo or Teatro San Cassiano||lost|
|Il Giasone||Giacinto Andrea Cicognini||5 January 1649||Venice, Teatro San Cassiano|
|L’Euripo||Giovanni Faustini||1649||Venice, Teatro San Moise||lost|
|L’Orimonte||Nicolò Minato||23 February 1650||Venice, Teatro San Cassiano|
|La Bradamante||Pietro Paolo Bissari||1650||Venice, Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo||lost|
|L’Armidoro||Bortolo Castoreo||20 January 1651||Venice, Teatro Sant ‘Apollinare||lost|
|L’Oristeo||Giovanni Faustini||9 February 1651||Venice, Teatro Sant’Apollinare|
|La Rosinda||Giovanni Faustini||1651||Venice, Teatro Sant’Apollinare||also known as Le magie amorose|
|La Calisto||Giovanni Faustini||28 November 1651||Venice, Teatro Sant’Apollinare|
|L’Eritrea||Giovanni Faustini||17 January 1652||Venice, Teatro Sant’Apollinare|
|La Veremonda, l’amazzone di Aragona||Giacinto Andrea Cicognini and Giulio Strozzi||21 December 1652||Naples, Nuovo Teatro del Palazzo Reale||also known as Il Delio|
|L’Orione||Francesco Melosio||June 1653||Milan, Teatro Real|
|Il Xerse||Nicolò Minato||12 January 1654||Venice, Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo|
|Il Ciro||Giulio Cesare Sorrentino||30 January 1654||Venice, Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo||in collaboration with Andrea Mattioli|
|L’Erismena||Aurelio Aureli||30 December 1655||Venice, Teatro Sant’Apollinare|
|Statira principessa di Persia||Giovanni Francesco Busenello||18 January 1656||Venice, Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo|
|L’Artemisia||Nicolò Minato||10 January 1657||Venice, Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo|
|L’Hipermestra||Giovanni Andrea Moniglia||12 June 1658||Florence, Teatro degli Immobili|
|L’Antioco||Nicolò Minato||12 January 1659||Venice, Teatro San Cassiano||lost|
|Il rapimento d’Helena||Giovanni Faustini and Nicolò Minato||26 December 1659||Venice, Teatro San Cassiano||also known as Elena|
|La pazzia in trono, ossia il Caligola delirante||Domenico Gisberti||1660||Venice, Teatro Sant’Apollinare||lost|
|Ercole amante||Francesco Buti||7 February 1662||Paris, at the Salles des Machines in the Tuileries Palace||Ballet music by Jean-Baptiste Lully|
|Scipione affricano||Nicolò Minato||9 February 1664||Venice, Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo|
|Muzio Scevola||Giovanni Faustini and Nicolò Minato||26 January 1665||Venice, Teatro San Samuele|
|Pompeo Magno||Nicolò Minato||20 February 1666||Venice, Teatro San Salvatore|
|Eliogabalo||Aurelio Aureli||composed 1667, premiered 2004||Venice, Teatro San Salvatore||It was never staged and was replaced by another opera of the same name by Giovanni Antonio Boretti.|
|Coriolano||Cristoforo Ivanovich||27 May 1669||Piacenza, Teatro Ducale||lost|
|Masenzio||Giacomo Francesco Bussani||composed 1673||unperformed and lost|
Cavalli’s music was revived in the twentieth century. The Glyndebourne production of La Calisto is an example. More recently, Hipermestra was performed at Glyndebourne in 2017. The discography is extensive and Cavalli has featured in BBC Radio 3’s Composer of the Week series.