Composer, singer and instrumentalist Giulio Caccini was related to the Camerata Fiorentina, a group of musicians and poets from the end of the 16th century, of which he was a member with composer Jacopo Peri. The Camerata Fiorentina wanted to revive the Greek dramatic style in theatre and poetry, a foundation for the development of monody to “represent the human soul through music”.
Giulio Caccini started to work for the Medici court in 1565: after his first polyphonic works, he started to focus on the newly created style of monody, in which textual intelligibility takes precedence: one solo voice sang a melodic part, whereas the other parts were assigned to accompanying instruments. In his compositions, he introduced ornaments that were at the roots of bel canto, with the purpose of translating textual expressiveness. Together with Jacopo Peri, he was the first to introduce the recitar cantando.
From 1602 to 1614, Caccini composed a collection of monodies and songs for solo voice and basso continuo that reflected his theoretical and pedagogical aesthetic concerns (Le Nuove Musiche, 1602, and Nuove Musiche e nuova maniera di scriverle, 1614). He gave his music either the structure of strophic variations (which he invented, clearly related to the concern for virtuosity), or that of madrigals. He was also one of the first to use the figured bass. The virtuoso artist travelled to France in 1604 at the request of Maria de Medici, and had an indisputable influence on his contemporaries as a teacher and composer.
The Camerata's research would later lead to creation of a new genre: the opera. Caccini's Euridice, with a libretto by O. Rinuccini, was published in 1600 and it was performed for the first time in Florence on 5 December 1602. The same year, Caccini composed his Orpheo. Peri had composed a version of Euridice two years before. Giulio Caccini then composed Il rapimento di Cefalo, collaborating with other composers of the Florentine School, which was performed three days after Peri’s 'Euridice.
He was also a remarkable pedagogue and taught his three children to sing; they later performed in the Concerto Caccini, a vocal ensemble organising concerts in Paris during the winter of 1604 - 1605.
Main works by Giulio Caccini
Euridice, opera (1600)
Dafne, opera (1598), lost
Le nuove Musiche, monodies and songs for solo voice and basso continuo (1602)
Il Rapimento di Cefalo, one of the first Italian operas (1600)