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 original Venetian production suffered from many incidents, including the death of the primo uomo Bonifazio Ceretti shortly after the premiere. This forced major changes in the original cast: the role of Endimione was changed from alto to soprano and probably asigned to one of the Caresana brothers; the two soprano Furie were replaced by a single bass Furia and a new character was added, a drunken peasant called Bifolco, probably performed by a new singer, Lorenzo Ferri, whose part has not survived in the score.
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 and the recorded version is still listened to (it has been released on compact disc). However, the way that Leppard had "realised" (as he termed his orchestrations) the opera was removed from the original work.
The United States premiere of the opera was presented in April 1972 for the dedication of the Patricia Corbett Pavilion at the University of Cincinnati – College-Conservatory of Music. The cast included Barbara Daniels as Diana and Tom Fox as Jove.
The opera continues to be performed in new venues. For example, it received its premiere at Madrid's Teatro Real in 2019, while in the season 19-20 it will be performed in Nürnberg and Achen.
Raymond Leppard´s edition of 1975 was the first publication of the score. It includes translations of the libretto.
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).
Torrente and Badolato
The German music publisher Bärenreiter Verlag initiated the publication of The Operas of Francesco Cavalli in 2012 with the publication of a new critical edition prepared by Álvaro Torrente and Nicola Badolato  that was used in the new productions of the opera in the Bayerische Staatsoper (2005), the Royal Opera House (2008), Theater Basel (2010) and Teatro Real (2019).
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast, November 28, 1651
(reconstruction by Jennifer Brown)
|(reconstrucción de Álvaro Torrente)|
|La Natura||alto||Tomaso Bovi?||Tomaso Bovi?|
|L'Eternità||soprano||Margarita da Costa?||Nina dal Pavon|
|Il Destino||soprano||Catterina Giani||Margarita da Costa|
|Calisto||soprano||Margarita da Costa||Caterina Giani|
|Giove||bass||Giulio Cesare Donati||Giulio Cesare Donati|
|Giove in Diana||soprano||Catterina Giani||Giulio Cesare Donati|
|Diana||soprano||Catterina Giani||Margarita da Costa|
|Endimione||alto||Cristoforo Caresana?||Cristoforo Caresana?|
|Giunone||soprano||Nina dal Pavon||Nina dal Pavon|
|Linfea||soprano||Antonia Padovano?||Antonia Padovano?|
|Satirino||soprano||Andrea Caresana||Andrea Caresana|
|Mercurio||tenor||Tenor di Carrara [sic]||Tenor di Carrara [sic]|
|Pane||alto||Tomaso Bovi?||Tomaso Bovi?|
|Silvano||bass||Pellegrino Canner||Pellegrino Canner|
|Furia 1||soprano||Andrea Caresana|
|Furia 2||soprano||Cristoforo Caresana|
- Soloists including Janet Baker, James Bowman and Ileana Cotrubaș, Glyndebourne Festival Chorus, LPO, Raymond Leppard (Decca, 1971)
- Concerto Vocale, René Jacobs, Marcelo Lippi, Maria Bayo, etc. (Harmonia Mundi, 1996)
- Glimmerglass Opera, Jane Glover (BBC Music, 1996) - extracts from a live performance
- Glover, Jane, "The Peak Period of Venetian Public Opera: The 1650s" (1975-1976). Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, 102: pp. 67-82.
- Glixon, Beth L. and Glixon, Jonathan E., "Marco Faustini and Venetian Opera Production in the 1650s: Recent Archival Discoveries", The Journal of Musicology,(Winter 1992),10 (1): pp. 48-73.
- Cavalli, F., Leppard, R., Faustini, G., Marz, K. R., & Dunn, G. (1975). La Calisto: An Opera in Two Acts With a Prologue. London: Faber Music.
- Janelle Gelfand (July 13, 2014). "The love of 'La Calisto'". The Cincinnati Enquirer.
- American Musicological Society. Claude V. Palisca Award Winners.
- Torrente, Álvaro & Nicola Badolato (eds.), Francesco Cavalli. La Calisto, The operas of Francesco Cavalli, Vol. I, Kassel, Bärenreiter Verlag, 2012. ISMN 979-0-006-55660-1
- Holden, Amanda (Ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam, 2001. ISBN 0-14-029312-4
- Glixon, Beth, Rosand, Ellen, et al, Calisto a le stelle: Cavalli and the Staging of Venetian Opera, Lecture transcripts and video presentation, Gresham College, 22 September 2008.
- La Calisto: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
- 'Introduction' to the critical edition of La Calisto by Álvaro Torrente, Kassel, Bärenreiter, 2012.