Composer Jacopo Peri in his
performance costume of Arion in
the 5. intermedio ofLa
Jacopo Peri (20 August 1561 –
12 August 1633) was an Italian composer and singer of the
transitional period between the Renaissance and Baroque
styles, and is often called the inventor of opera. He wrote
the first work to be called an opera today, Dafne (around
1597), and also the first opera to have survived to the
present day, Euridice (1600).
Peri was born in Rome, but studied in Florence with
Cristofano Malvezzi, and went on to work in a number of
churches there, both as an organist and as a singer. He
subsequently began to work in the Medici court, first as a
tenor singer and keyboard player, and later as a composer.
His earliest works were incidental music for plays,
intermedi and madrigals.
In the 1590s, Peri became associated with Jacopo Corsi, the
leading patron of music in Florence. They believed
contemporary art was inferior to classical Greek and Roman
works, and decided to attempt to recreate Greek tragedy, as
they understood it. Their work added to that of the
Florentine Camerata of the previous decade, which produced
the first experiments in monody, the solo song style over
continuo bass which eventually developed into recitative and
aria. Peri and Corsi brought in the poet Ottavio Rinuccini
to write a text, and the result, Dafne, though nowadays
thought to be a long way from anything the Greeks would have
recognised, is seen as the first work in a new form, opera.
Rinuccini and Peri next collaborated on Euridice. This was
first performed on 6 October 1600 at the Palazzo Pitti.
Unlike Dafne, it has survived to the present day (though it
is hardly ever staged, and then only as an historical
curio). The work made use of recitatives, a new development
which went between the arias and choruses and served to move
the action along.
Peri produced a number of other operas, often in
collaboration with other composers (such as La Flora with
Marco da Gagliano), and also wrote a number of other pieces
for various court entertainments. Few of his pieces are
still performed today, and even by the time of his death his
operatic style was looking rather old-fashioned when
compared to the work of relatively younger reformist
composers such as Claudio Monteverdi. Peri's influence on
those later composers, however, was large.
Jacopo Peri -
Euridice - Prologo "La Tragedia" e Coro "Se de'
Jacopo Peri -
(1561-1633) Tu dormi, e 'l dolce sonno
Jacopo Peri -
Highlights from "La varie musiche" 
III. Ricecar del primo tuono del Zazzarino
Played by Ellen Hargis (soprano), Andrew Lawrence-King
(harp), Paul O'Dette (chitarrone/baroque guitar) and Hille
Perl (lirone/viola da gamba).