Dafne is the earliest known work that, by modern standards, could be considered an opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...
. It was composed by Jacopo Peri
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...
in 1597, with a libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...
by Ottavio Rinuccini
Ottavio Rinuccini was an Italian poet, courtier, and opera librettist at the end of the Renaissance and beginning of the Baroque eras...
HistoryDafne is scored for a much smaller ensemble than Claudio Monteverdi
Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi – 29 November 1643) was an Italian composer, gambist, and singer.Monteverdi's work, often regarded as revolutionary, marked the transition from the Renaissance style of music to that of the Baroque period. He developed two individual styles of composition – the...
's slightly later operas, namely, a harpsichord
A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It produces sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed.In the narrow sense, "harpsichord" designates only the large wing-shaped instruments in which the strings are perpendicular to the keyboard...
, a lute
Lute can refer generally to any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back, or more specifically to an instrument from the family of European lutes....
, a viol
The viol is any one of a family of bowed, fretted and stringed musical instruments developed in the mid-late 15th century and used primarily in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. The family is related to and descends primarily from the Renaissance vihuela, a plucked instrument that preceded the...
, an archlute
The archlute is a European plucked string instrument developed around 1600 as a compromise between the very large theorbo, the size and re-entrant tuning of which made for difficulties in the performance of solo music, and the Renaissance tenor lute, which lacked the bass range of the theorbo...
, and a triple flute. Drawing on a new development at the time, Peri established recitative
Recitative , also known by its Italian name "recitativo" , is a style of delivery in which a singer is allowed to adopt the rhythms of ordinary speech...
s, melodic speech set to music, as a central part of opera.
The story of Apollo
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...
falling in love with the eponymous nymph
A nymph in Greek mythology is a female minor nature deity typically associated with a particular location or landform. Different from gods, nymphs are generally regarded as divine spirits who animate nature, and are usually depicted as beautiful, young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing;...
Daphne was a female minor nature deity. Pursued by Apollo, she fled and was chased. Daphne begged the gods for help, who then transformed her into Laurel.-Overview:...
, Jacopo Peri wrote Dafne for an elite circle of humanists
Renaissance humanism was an activity of cultural and educational reform engaged by scholars, writers, and civic leaders who are today known as Renaissance humanists. It developed during the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries, and was a response to the challenge of Mediæval...
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....
, the Florentine Camerata
The Florentine Camerata was a group of humanists, musicians, poets and intellectuals in late Renaissance Florence who gathered under the patronage of Count Giovanni de' Bardi to discuss and guide trends in the arts, especially music and drama...
, between 1594 and 1597, with the support, and possibly the collaboration, of the composer and patron Jacopo Corsi
Jacopo Corsi was an Italian composer of the late Renaissance and early Baroque and patron of the arts....
. It was probably first performed in either 1597 or 1598 at the Palazzo Corsi. An attempt to revive Greek drama
Theatre of Ancient Greece
The theatre of Ancient Greece, or ancient Greek drama, is a theatrical culture that flourished in ancient Greece between c. 550 and c. 220 BC. The city-state of Athens, which became a significant cultural, political and military power during this period, was its centre, where it was...
, according to modern scholarship, it was a long way off from what the ancient Greeks
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...
would have recognized, but instead it spawned a whole new form that would last for the next 400 years.
Most of Peri's music has been lost, despite its popularity and fame in Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...
at the time of its publishing, but the 455 line verse libretto was published and survives. Florence's ruling Medici family was sufficiently taken with Dafne to allow Peri's next work, Euridice
Euridice is an opera by Jacopo Peri, with additional music by Giulio Caccini. The libretto by Ottavio Rinuccini is based on books X and XI of Ovid's...
, to be performed as part of Marie de' Medici
Marie de' Medici
Marie de Médicis , Italian Maria de' Medici, was queen consort of France, as the second wife of King Henry IV of France, of the House of Bourbon. She herself was a member of the wealthy and powerful House of Medici...
and Henry IV
Henry IV of France
Henry IV , Henri-Quatre, was King of France from 1589 to 1610 and King of Navarre from 1572 to 1610. He was the first monarch of the Bourbon branch of the Capetian dynasty in France....
's wedding celebrations in 1600.
- The Starry Messenger by Justin Fleming A play about the first production of Dafne