Francesco Cavalli Composer


Born on February 14, 1602, Francesco Cavalli (real name Pier Francesco Caletti) was the most popular Italian composer of his lifetime. With a beautiful voice, he joined the choir of the duomo of Crema, where his father was maestro di cappella. Noticed by a Venetian nobleman, Federico Cavalli (whose patronymic he would later take), the young Francesco entered the choir of the Basilica of San Marco in 1616, where he rubbed shoulders with Monteverdi, and was then hired as organist at the Basilica of Santi Giovanni e Paolo. He made many friendships in the circle of Venetian society. In 1630 he married Maria Sosmeno, a wealthy Venetian widow. He acquired sufficient financial independence to be able to detach himself from his duties as a church musician and embarked on the adventure of opera, which was then booming in the City of the Doges. His first opera, Le Nozze di Teti e di Peleo, was premiered in 1639 at the Teatro San Cassiano, the first public theater in Venice. In his second opera, Gli Amori di Apollo e di Dafne, Cavalli laid the groundwork for what was to become the Venetian aesthetic as opposed to the court opera then in force. In La Didone (1641), mythology gave way to history for the first time. The protagonists are no longer deities but humans. La Didone was the first opera performed in Naples for a paying audience. The death of Claudio Monteverdi in 1643 made Cavalli the first Venetian composer. He composed thirty-three operas, eleven of which were written in collaboration with the same librettist, Giovanni Faustini, among which La Calisto (1651) remains one of the models of Venetian opera. Giasone (1649) was the most performed opera of its time in the West. In 1660, Cavalli went to France at the invitation of Cardinal Mazarin for the festivities of the marriage of Louis XIV and the Spanish infanta Maria Theresa. Ercole amante is created in the new hall of the Tuileries, built for the occasion. Louis XIV demanded that ballets composed by Lully, to which the king and queen danced in person, be inserted between acts. Cavalli's music was not successful. Cavalli returned to Venice, where he composed his last six operas, on historical Roman subjects, including Eliogabalo (1667), the last work whose score has survived, which was never performed during his lifetime. He died on January 14, 1676.

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