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Monteverdi and Opera

Although Monteverdi came late to the opera scene in Venice, he established himself as a master of the genre. No composer was more adept than Monteverdi at expressing human emotion through music. An examination of Monteverdi's life from 1633 to his death reveals a composer whose brilliance never diminished with age.

By 1633, Monteverdi, although advanced in age, was a prolific composer. His name and publications were famous throughout Europe. During this period Monteverdi also set out to prepare a musical treatise, in which he hoped to make clear to the musical world the theories that formed the basis of his seconda prattica, or second practice.

In 1633, Monteverdi was still music director at St. Mark's, Venice, a post he had held since 1613. By the 1630s, Monteverdi had even become a priest; in a letter regarding a legal matter, he writes, "I come therefore to Your Excellencies' feet not as Claudio Monteverdi the priest . . . but as Director of Music, whose authority deriving from the royal hand of the Most Serene Republic . . . " In addition to building St. Mark's choral repertoire and fulfilling his duties with regard to special music for state occasions, Monteverdi also indulged his interest in secular and dramatic music. Monteverdi's last years in Venice witnessed further successes in the field of opera.

In all, Monteverdi wrote eight operas, the music of only a few of which have survived. The operas correspond to specific periods in the composer's life. Orfeo and Arianna were written during Monteverdi's Mantuan period. La finta pazza Licori and Poroserpina rapita were written twenty years later while the composer was in Venice. The operas Adone, Ulisse, Le nozze d'Enea, and Poppea were written in a yearly sequence between 1639 and 1642.

By the time opera came to Venice, Monteverdi was already intimately familiar with the genre. Monteverdi had written his Orfeo in 1607, which for most music historia...

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