Francesco Cavalli was a 17th century composer, organist and singer. He was best known for his operas, which followed in the stylistic footsteps of Monteverdi. Cavalli represents a true rags-to-riches story and was regarded as the best Italian composer of the mid-17th century.
Cavalli was born in Crema in 1602 as Pier Francesco Caletti-Bruni to Giovanni Battista Caletti. He was first introduced to music through his father. Cavalli was active in the church choir as a boy soprano, at which he was very gifted. His singing attracted the notice of Federico Cavalli, the Venetian governor of Crema from 1614-1616. After Federico Cavalli’s term ended, he convinced Giovanni Battista Caletti to allow his son to go to Vienna with him. Under the protection of Federico Cavalli, Francesco joined the choir of San Marco in 1616. During these early years the choir was directed by Monteverdi, who had a profound influence on Francesco. He also had contact with older singer-composers such as Giovanni Rovetta.
In 1620, Francesco Cavalli was appointed organist at the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo. However, due to his many duties as a singer at San Marco, he often had to hire a substitute to cover his organ duties. Eventually he resigned in 1630, as he was rarely present to perform at the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo. In addition, Cavalli was active at church feasts and celebrations to supplement his income.
Cavalli received some financial relief in 1630 with his marriage to Maria Sozomeno, the widow of the wealthy Venetian Alvise Schiavina. This allowed Cavalli the freedom to travel and invest time in operas. It is also at this time that he began using the name of his first patron.