Jacopo Peri, known as Zazzerino (1561–1633)

Composer, singer (tenor), organist, and gentleman. Born on 20 August 1561, to a family of Florentine nobility, perhaps in Rome. In the early 1570s, in the capital of the Grand Duchy, he became a singer in the convent of the Annunziata and was a pupil of Cristofano Malvezzi. He entered the service of the Medici court of Ferdinando I in 1588 and subsequently remained faithful to the Grand Duchy, where he also became master of the princesses who never forgot to use his skills. Thanks to the excellent memories of Eleonora, daughter of the Grand Duke Francesco, then wife of Vincenzo Gonzaga, he also had excellent relations with the Mantuan court, which he served with a certain intermittence. In 1589, still young, she supported the solo role of Arione in the fifth intermedio of La Pellegrina, for the marriage of the Grand Duke’s protector to Christine of Lorraine. A member of the Camerata de’ Bardi, he was recognized by contemporary chroniclers as a cultured man of great breadth, leading him to become one of the protagonists of the new monodic music. Since the 1590s he had been assiduous in the activities of Jacopo Corsi (a meeting place for Florentine musicians, poets and philosophers).

Peri collaborated with him in setting to music the pastoral Dafne by Ottavio Rinuccini, whose first known performance was in Florence in 1598. Dafne competed with the following Eurydice for the birth of the opera in monodic style, later called representative style. Staged in Florence in 1600 for the wedding of the ancient pupil Maria de’ Medici to Henry IV of France, the opera, again on a text by Rinuccini, saw the collaboration of Giovanni Caccini and the staging of Cigoli. His participation in the composition of La liberazione di Tirreno e d’Arnea by Marco da Gagliano, with whom he also collaborated for Lo sposalizio di Medoro e Angelica, staged, in 1619, at Palazzo Pitti for the celebrations of the election of Emperor Ferdinand III and in 1628 for La Flora on the occasion of the wedding of Margherita de’ Medici and Duke Odoardo Farnese of Parma, is uncertain. The collaboration also continued with Gagliano in the oratories, La benedittione di Jacob (1622), II gran natale di Christo salvator nostro (1622), and La celeste guida, o veroL’Arcangelo Raffaello (1624). The Mantuan experience was not as fruitful, even though it produced the Tetide (Cini’s libretto) in 1608, and Adone (Cicognini’s libretto  of 1611), which ended up never being staged.