Cavalli, Pietro Francesco

1599 or 1600-1676

One of the most famous of Monteverde's pupils and followers and among the first to employ airs and recitative in opera in a dramatic manner. He is an important figure in the history of music and was born at Crema, near Venice. His real name was Caletti-Bruni, but he took that of his patron, a Venetian gentleman, named Cavalli. He began his musical career by singing in the choir of St. Mark's, Venice, under Monteyerde, about 1617. He became organist of the second organ at that church, in 1639, and organist of the first organ in 1665. Three years later he was chapelmaster there. Of his church music nothing was published except a mass, psalms and antiphons for two to twelve voices and vespers for eight voices. He went to Paris by invitation of Cardinal Mazarine, in 1660, and there he produced his opera of Xerse, in the grand gallery of the Louvre. Returning to Paris, in 1662, after a sojourn in Venice, he wrote Ercole Amante. Cavalli began to write for the theatre in 1639, and his operas were very numerous and achieved  a certain amount of popularity. His first work was Le Nozze di Teti, produced in 1639, and Eitner gives a list of twenty-seven operas still extant in manuscript. An air by Cavalli and some fragments of his music are to be found in Burney's History. "He had," says Streatfield, " the true Venetian love of color and he tried to make his orchestra give musical significance to the sights and sounds of   nature, such as the murmuring of rivers and the sighing of the winds and in his works, as in those of Monteyerde, over whom he showed a decided advance in the matter of form, we begin to pass from the merely experimental stage to opera proper." One biographer goes so far as to say, " He was certainly the greatest dramatic composer of his day and one of the greatest of all time." Cavalli grew very rich and was highly esteemed both as a man and musician. He died in Venice.