Opera Scotland

Calisto La Calisto

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Pier Francesco Cavalli (born Crema, 14 February 1602; died Venice, 14 January 1676)


Giovanni Faustini


Original adaptation of Greek mythology



First Performance: Venice (Teatro San Apollinare), 28 November 1651.

First Performance in UK: Glyndebourne, 25 May 1970.

First Performance in Scotland: Glasgow (New Athenaeum Theatre), 1 May 2002.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



Cavalli's real name was Pier Francesco Caletti, and he took his professional name of Cavalli in honour of the patron in whose Venetian home he lived as a teenager, while undergoing his musical education. Following the death of Monteverdi, Cavalli became the most commercially successful composer in Venice, producing a series of delightful entertainments, nine of them setting libretti by Giovanni Faustini, whose sudden death during the run of La Calisto brought the partnership to an end.

The first Cavalli opera to be seen in Britain was an earlier collaboration with Faustini, L' Ormindo, of 1644, which Raymond Leppard edited for performance at Glyndebourne in 1967. His version of La Calisto was even more successful, in a production by Peter Hall, beautifully designed by John Bury. It was both recorded and televised, though no DVD has ever appeared. That cast included Ileana Cotrubas as Calisto, Janet Baker as Diana, James Bowman as Endimione, Owen Brannigan as Pan, and the ageless Swiss tenor Hugues Cuénod (who eventually died in 2010, aged 105) as Linfea.  It has since been performed by Opera Factory, and in 2002 was the first Cavalli opera to be given a period instrument production in Scotland, when the RSAMD put it on.


Main Characters

Calisto, a nymph (soprano)

Diana (soprano)

Giove (bass)

Endimione, a shepherd (alto)

Mercurio (tenor)

Linfea, Diana's old nurse (tenor)

Pane (bass)

Giunone (soprano)


Plot Summary

Diana is, among other things, the goddess of chastity, and her followers, including the nymph Calisto, share that view. Jove, having taken a fancy to Calisto, makes no progress until he follows Mercury's advice, and changes himself into a creature the image of Diana, whereupon his seduction may proceed. Calisto's reaction to being seduced apparently by her own mistress is one of delighted confusion. Diana is also in danger of breaking her vows, having fallen in love with the shepherd Endymion. Her old nurse, Linfea, no longer receives the attentions of men, and rather misses it. Juno, always suspicious of Jove's wandering eye, and naturally jealous, works out what is going on and plots her revenge. Pan, who has always loved Diana, is jealous of Endymion, and arranges with his fellow woodland creatures, the satyrs Silvano and Satirino, for him to be mugged. He is eventually rescued from his attackers by Diana. Juno's revenge on Calisto takes the form of changing her into a bear. Jove cannot undo that, but translates her into the heavens as the constellation known as the Great Bear.

The Cast

 a shepherd
First Fury
 Diana's old nurse
 a young satyr
Second Fury

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