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Francesco Cavalli


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Francesco Cavalli (February 14, 1602 – January 14, 1676) was an Italian composer. His real name was Pietro Francesco Caletti-Bruni, but he is better known by that of Cavalli, the name of his patron, a Venetian nobleman.

Cavalli was born at Crema, Lombardy. He became a singer at St Mark’s in Venice in 1616, second organist in 1639, first organist in 1665, and in 1668 maestro di cappella. He is, however, chiefly remembered for his operas.

He began to write for the stage in 1639 (Le nozze di Teti e di Peleo), and soon established so great a reputation that he was summoned to Paris in 1660 to produce an opera (Xerse). He visited Paris again in 1662, producing his Ercole amante at the Louvre, which was written in honour of the marriage of Louis XIV. He died in Venice at the age of 73.

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, 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.


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  • def_toned

    Francesco Cavalli's Eliogabalo will be premiering in the UK at Grange Park Opera this June. If you're unfamiliar with the opera, here's a short description: Conducted by Christian Curnyn, and performed on early instruments, Cavalli’s engaging opera features as its main protagonist Eliogabalo, the hedonistic 18 year old Roman Emperor. Eliogabalo is a bizarre character, and his colourful and entertaining antics include him replacing the governing senate with his mistresses, and then dressing himself as a woman to fit in. Understandably, the people of Rome finally see sense, and turn against their Emperor - a bloodbath ensues. When Cavalli wrote Eliogabalo, it was intended as a direct dig at the prevalent corruption in Venice at the time, and this theme is just as likely to resonate with audiences today. There's more info here:

    31 Mar 2009 Reply

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