Jacopo Peri: Notes and Commentary

Jacopo Peri was an Italian composer and singer of the transitional period between the Renaissance and Baroque styles, and is often called the inventor of opera. He wrote the first work to be called an opera today, Dafne (around 1597), and also the first opera to have survived to the present day, Euridice (1600). In the 1590s, Peri became associated with Jacopo Corsi, the leading patron of music in Florence. The two of them believed contemporary art was inferior to classical Greek and Roman works, and attempted to recreate Greek tragedy, as they understood it. Their work added to that of the Florentine Camerata of the previous decade, which produced the first experiments in monody, the solo song style over continuo bass which eventually developed into recitative and aria.

Peri and Corsi brought in the poet Ottavio Rinuccini to write a text, and the result, Dafne, though nowadays thought to be a long way from anything the Greeks would have recognised, is seen as the first work in a new form, opera. Rinuccini and Peri next collaborated on Euridice. This was first performed on October 6, 1600, at the Palazzo Pitti. Unlike Dafne, it has survived to the present day (though it is hardly ever staged, and then only as an historical curio). The work made use of recitatives, a new development which went between the arias and choruses and served to move the action along.

Peri produced a number of other operas, often in collaboration with other composers, and also wrote a number of other pieces for various court entertainments. Few of his pieces are performed today, and even by the time of his death his operatic style was looking old-fashioned when compared to the work of relatively younger reformist composers such as Claudio Monteverdi. Peri’s influence on those later composers, however, was large. He lived from August 20, 1561, to August 12, 1633.—Excerpted from Wikipedia

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