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Dafne

Dafne

Dafne is the earliest known work that, by modern standards, could be considered an opera. Composed by Jacopo Peri, with a libretto by Ottavio Rinuccini. Dafne is scored for a much smaller ensemble than Claudio Monteverdi's slightly later operas, namely, a harpsichord, a lute, a viol, an archlute, and a triple flute. Drawing on a new development at the time, Peri established recitatives, melodic speech set to music, as a central part of opera.

The story of Apollo falling in love with the eponymous nymph, Daphne, Jacopo Peri wrote Dafne for an elite circle of humanists in Florence, the Florentine Camerata, between 1594 and 1597, with the support, and possibly the collaboration, of the composer and patron Jacopo Corsi. It was probably first performed in either 1597 or 1598 at the Palazzo Corsi. An attempt to revive Greek drama, according to modern scholarship, it was a long way off from what the ancient Greeks 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 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, to be performed as part of Marie de' Medici and Henry IV's wedding celebrations in 1600.

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