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The opera received its first performance on 28 November 1651 at the Teatro Sant 'Apollinare, Venice, where it drew limited audiences for its run of eleven performances. In the twentieth century it was successfully revived.
The libretto was published in 1651 by Giuliani and Batti. The story combines two myths: Jupiter's seduction of Calisto, and Diana's adventure with Endymion. The plot is somewhat formulaic: Jane Glover has commented on how the librettist had to invent complications to meet audience expectations in the context of Venetian opera.
Faustini, who was an impresario as well as a librettist, rented the Sant 'Apollinare Theatre in 1650. He and Cavalli put on three operas there before his death in December 1651 during the run of La Calisto. The theatre was equipped with complex stage machinery intended to impress the opera audiences with spectacle. However, the eleven performances of La Calisto from 28 November to 31 December 1651 attracted only about 1,200 patrons to a theatre that housed 400.
The manuscript score was preserved in the Biblioteca Marciana, Venice, allowing La Calisto to be revived in modern times. The first person to publish the score was the British conductor Raymond Leppard in 1975. Leppard had arranged the opera for performance at Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 1970. This production included a number of then-prominent singers including Janet Baker as Diana. It was significant for creating new audiences for baroque opera. However, the way that Leppard had "realised" (as he termed his orchestrations) the opera was removed from the original work. The recording of the Glyndebourne version has been re-released on compact disc.
In 2008, Jennifer Williams Brown's edition of the score (A-R Editions, 2007) won the American Musicological Society's Claude V. Palisca award (recognizing outstanding scholarly editions or translations).
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast, November 28, 1651|
|La Natura||alto||Tomaso Bovi?|
|L'Eternità||soprano||Margarita da Costa?|
|Il Destino||soprano||Catterina Giani|
|Calisto||soprano||Margarita da Costa|
|Giove||bass||Giulio Cesare Donati|
|Giunone||soprano||Nina dal Pavon|
|Mercurio||tenor||Tenor di Carrara [sic]|