La Calisto

La Calisto is an opera by Francesco Cavalli from a libretto by Giovanni Faustini based on the mythological story of Callisto.

The opera received its first performance on 28 November 1651 at the Teatro Sant 'Apollinare, Venice, where it drew limited audiences for its run of eleven performances. In the twentieth century it was successfully revived.


The libretto was published in 1651 by Giuliani and Batti. The story combines two myths: Jupiter's seduction of Calisto, and Diana's adventure with Endymion. The plot is somewhat formulaic: Jane Glover has commented on how the librettist had to invent complications to meet audience expectations in the context of Venetian opera.[1]

Performance historyEdit

Faustini, who was an impresario as well as a librettist, rented the Sant 'Apollinare Theatre in 1650. He and Cavalli put on three operas there before his death in December 1651 during the run of La Calisto. The theatre was equipped with complex stage machinery intended to impress the opera audiences with spectacle. However, the eleven performances of La Calisto from 28 November to 31 December 1651 attracted only about 1,200 patrons to a theatre that housed 400.[2]

The original Venetian production suffered from many incidents, including the death of the primo uomo Bonifatio Ceretti shortly after the premiere. This forced major changes in the original cast: the role of Endimione was changed from alto to soprano and probably assigned to one of the Caresana brothers; the two soprano Furie were replaced by a single bass Furia and a new character was added, a drunken peasant called Bifolco, probably performed by a new singer, Lorenzo Ferri, whose part has not survived in the score.

The manuscript score was preserved in the Biblioteca Marciana, Venice, allowing La Calisto to be revived in modern times. The first person to publish the score was the British conductor Raymond Leppard in 1975.[3] Leppard had arranged the opera for performance at Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 1970. This production included a number of then-prominent singers including Janet Baker as Diana. It was significant for creating new audiences for baroque opera and the recorded version is still listened to (it has been released on compact disc). However, the way that Leppard had "realised" (as he termed his orchestrations) the opera was removed from the original work.

The United States premiere of the opera was presented in April 1972 for the dedication of the Patricia Corbett Pavilion at the University of Cincinnati – College-Conservatory of Music. The cast included Barbara Daniels as Diana and Tom Fox as Jove.[4]

The opera continues to be performed in new venues. For example, it received its premiere at Madrid's Teatro Real in 2019, while in the season 19-20 it will be performed in Nürnberg and Achen.



Raymond Leppard´s edition of 1975 was the first publication of the score. It includes translations of the libretto.


In 2008, Jennifer Williams Brown's edition of the score (A-R Editions, 2007) won the American Musicological Society's Claude V. Palisca award (recognizing outstanding scholarly editions or translations).[5]

Torrente and BadolatoEdit

The German music publisher Bärenreiter Verlag initiated the publication of The Operas of Francesco Cavalli in 2012 with the publication of a new critical edition prepared by Álvaro Torrente and Nicola Badolato[6] that was used in the new productions of the opera in the Bayerische Staatsoper (2005), the Royal Opera House (2008), Theater Basel (2010) and Teatro Real (2019).


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, November 28, 1651
(Conductor: Francesco Cavalli)
La Natura alto castrato Tomaso Bovi
L'Eternità soprano Margarita da Costa
Il Destino boy soprano Cristoforo Caresana
Calisto soprano Margarita da Costa
Giove bass Giulio Cesare Donati
Giove in Diana soprano Catterina Giani
Diana soprano Catterina Giani
Endimione alto castrato Bonifatio Ceretti
Giunone soprano Nina dal Pavon
Linfea soprano castrato Andrea Caresana
Satirino boy soprano Cristoforo Caresana
Mercurio tenor Tenor di Carrara [sic]
Pane alto castrato Tomaso Bovi
Silvano bass Pellegrino Canner
Furia 1 soprano castrato Andrea Caresana
Furia 2 boy soprano Cristoforo Caresana


The story is based on the myth of Callisto from Ovid's Metamorphoses.



  1. ^ Glover, Jane, "The Peak Period of Venetian Public Opera: The 1650s" (1975-1976). Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, 102: pp. 67-82.
  2. ^ Glixon, Beth L. and Glixon, Jonathan E., "Marco Faustini and Venetian Opera Production in the 1650s: Recent Archival Discoveries", The Journal of Musicology,(Winter 1992),10 (1): pp. 48-73.
  3. ^ Cavalli, F., Leppard, R., Faustini, G., Marz, K. R., & Dunn, G. (1975). La Calisto: An Opera in Two Acts With a Prologue. London: Faber Music.
  4. ^ Janelle Gelfand (July 13, 2014). "The love of 'La Calisto'". The Cincinnati Enquirer.
  5. ^ American Musicological Society. Claude V. Palisca Award Winners.
  6. ^ Torrente, Álvaro & Nicola Badolato (eds.), Francesco Cavalli. La Calisto, The operas of Francesco Cavalli, Vol. I, Kassel, Bärenreiter Verlag, 2012. ISMN 979-0-006-55660-1
  • Holden, Amanda (Ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam, 2001. ISBN 0-14-029312-4

External linksEdit