Who is Monteverdi?

With this year’s Winter Festival showcasing the works of Claudio Monteverdi, we thought it would be a good idea to give a little insight into who Monteverdi was. Danielle Sutcliffe, Box Office Manager, takes you through the man, the music, the myth.

Lines drawn between periods of music are very blurry at best, and musicologists worldwide will argue until they are blue in the face about specific dates and important works. However, the debate over Claudio Monteverdi being a pivotal composer at the crux of developing the ‘baroque style’ is widely accepted as fact.

Monteverdi was born in 1567 in a north Italian town called Cremona to a barber-surgeon-chemist (Yes, that’s right, he cut your hair, took your tonsils out, and gave you some goats grease with saffron for your gout!) His musical talents were spotted at a young age while in Cremona’s cathedral choir under the watchful eye of Marcantonio Ingegneri.

“Artusi used Monteverdi’s works as unacceptable examples of music writing.”

Monteverdi’s first publication of madrigals was printed when he was just 15 years old and his first book of five-part madrigals helped establish his reputation and secured him a job in the court of the Duke of Mantua. However, his success didn’t come without criticism. An infamous conflict arose with musical theorist G.M. Artusi, who began the argument in a published essay which used Monteverdi’s works as unacceptable examples of music writing.

During his time in Mantua, Monteverdi wrote his first opera L’Orfeo which was an instant success and is now one of the oldest operas frequently performed on the modern stage. His second opera, L’Arianna, only built on this success. However, the score has not survived, and to this day the only fragment remaining is the soulful Lament of Arianna, which appears in Book Six of Madrigals.His successful career was halted by the death of his wife, which drove Monteverdi into depression and when the old Duke of Mantua died, Monteverdi was left with three children and no job. Later he was appointed Maestro di Cappella of St Mark’s Cathedral where he lived a comfortable life up until 1630, when plague and fighting struck the city of Venice.  During the last few years of his life, there was a resurgence of interest in his work, and his death in 1643 followed the restaging of the lost L’Arianna, and the commissioning of three new operas including L’incornonazione di Poppea.

Monteverdi was clearly a multi-faceted and very talented man; his catalogue of choral, chamber and vocal music, operas and ballets has stood the test of time to be appreciated by audiences around the world. If that isn’t deserving of a Festival dedicated to him, we don’t know what is!

To listen to some of the pieces we mentioned in this post check out our Spotify ‘Who is Monteverdi?‘ playlist!

For more information on the Monteverdi concerts on offer in the Winter Festival, click here.

One response to “Who is Monteverdi?”

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