Italian composer and singer. He was the son of Giovanni Battista Caletti, organist and maestro di capellaat the cathedral at Crema. As a boy Francesco apparently excelled as a singer in the local choir; Venetian nobleman and governor Federico Cavalli noticed the boy and in 1616 persuaded the elder Caletti to let Francesco accompany him to Venice, where he would see to his musical studies. Young Caletti was immediately taken into the choir of St. Mark's (Monteverdi was maestro), where he remained for a decade. From 1620 he was also one of the organists at SS. Giovanni e Paolo. His first known composition appeared in 1625 in a collection of solo motets, Ghirlanda sacra.In 1630 his marriage to Maria Sozomeno, member of a wealthy family, provided him with a measure of personal economic stability that enabled him to spend the rest of his life involved in financially insecure operatic ventures.
In 1639, when the post of second organist at St. Mark's became vacant, Cavalli was the unanimous choice for the position. That same year his first opera, Le nozze di Teti e di Peleo(libretto by Orazio Persiani), was performed in Venice. It was followed by a number of successes throughout the 1740s: Gli amori d'Apollo e di Dafne(1640), with a libretto by Busenello, and Egisto(1642) and Giasone(1649), both with librettos by Giovanni Faustini. Egistowas performed in a great many Italian cities, as well as in Paris and (perhaps) in Vicuna. In 1652 Cavalli's wife died, leaving most of her estate to him; during the next eight years he composed operas not only for Venice but also for Naples, Milan, and Florence. In 1656 he published Musiche saere, a collection of concertato Masses, Psalms, and hymns.
In 1659 the French prime minister Cardinal Mazarin invited Cavalli to compose an opera to honor Louis XIV's marriage to Maria Theresia of Spain. Cavalli spent two years in Paris (1660-62) composing Ercole amante(libretto by Francesco Buti) for the occasion. When the work was finally performed in 1662 in the lavish, gigantic Tuileries theater built specifically for the event, poor acoustics made the music virtually incoherent. Perhaps embittered by the experience, Cavalli returned to Venice in 1662 and again took up his organ duties at St. Mark's; in 1668 he was made maestro di cappella. Of his six remaining operas, two (Eliogabaloand Massenzio) were left unperformed, possibly because the music was, by the 1670s, oldfashioned. In 1675 Cavalli brought out his second publication, the three Vesperi.In addition to 33 verifiable operas and two published collections, he also composed cantatas, arias, a Magnificat (1650), and a Cantate Domino(1625).