Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Location of death: Florence, Italy
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Executive summary: Dafne, the first opera
Italian musical composer, born at Rome on the 20th of August 1561, of a noble family. After studying under Cristoforo Malvezzi of Lucca, he became maestro di cappella. first to Ferdinand, Duke of Tuscany, and later to Cosmo II. He was an important member of the literary and artistic circle which frequented the house of Giovanni Bardi, conte de Vernio, where the revival of Greek tragedy with its appropriate musical declamation was a favorite subject of discussion. With this end in view the poet Ottavio Rinuccini supplied a drama with the title of Dafne, to which Peri composed music, and this first attempt at opera was performed privately in 1597 in the Palazzo Corsi at Florence. This work was so much admired that in 1600 Rinuccini and Peri were commissioned to produce an opera on the occasion of the marriage of Henri IV of France with Marie de Medici. This work, L'Euridice, attracted a great deal of attention, and the type once publicly established, the musical drama was set on the road to success by the efforts of other composers and the patronage of other courts. Peri himself seems never to have followed up his success with other operas; he became maestro di cappella to the Duke of Ferrara in 1601, but after the publication of his Varie musiche a urns, due e tre voci at Florence in 1609, nothing more is known of him.
Peri's Dafne (which has entirely disappeared) and Euridice (printed at Florence 1600; reprinted Venice 1608 and Florence 1863) are of the greatest importance not only as being the earliest attempts at opera, but as representing the new monodic and declamatory style which is the basis of modern music as opposed to the contrapuntal methods of Palestrina and his contemporaries. Peri's work is of course primitive in the extreme, but it is by no means without beauty, and there are many scenes in Euridice which show a considerable dramatic power.
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