Claudio Monteverdi

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Claudio Monteverdi

Cremona, Provincia di Cremona, Lombardia, Italy
Death 29 Nov 1643 (aged 76)
Venice, Città Metropolitana di Venezia, Veneto, Italy
Burial Venice, Città Metropolitana di Venezia, Veneto, Italy
Memorial ID 7571 · View Source
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Composer. A towering figure in music's transition from the Renaissance to the Baroque periods. He was the first great composer of opera and his "L'Orfeo" (1607) is the earliest such work in the modern repertory. Only two of his other operas survive complete, "Il ritorno d"Ulisse in patria" ("The Return of Ulysses", 1640) and "L'incoronazione di Poppea" ("The Coronation of Poppea", 1642). "Poppea", his masterpiece, is regarded by many as the finest opera written in the 1600s. Monteverdi was born in Cremona, Italy, the son of a physician who encouraged his early musical gifts. He studied with maestro M.A. Ingegneri at the Cremona Cathedral and had three collections of vocal pieces published while still in his teens. In 1591 he was hired as a string player at the court of Vincenzo Gonzaga I, Duke of Mantua, and was promoted to its music director in 1602. By then Monteverdi already had a reputation as a progressive, and he eagerly brought the new form of opera to Mantua with "L'Orfeo". It was an immediate sensation; there was little precedent for secular music of such dramatic power. He had an even greater success with his second opera, "Arianna" (1608), though only one of its numbers, the famous "Arianna's Lament", has come down to us. A man of fiery temperament, Monteverdi grew increasingly unhappy with the working conditions and salary at the Mantuan court and took several leaves of absence. His masterful sacred music collection "Vespers" (1610) was likely published as an effort to secure another post, and he finally gained his release with the death of Vincenzo I in 1612. The following year he received the prestigious appointment as music director of St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice, which he held for the rest of his life. Besides revitalizing musical life there, he was free to accept outside commissions for secular works. These include the remarkable dramatic cantata (almost a miniature opera) "Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda" (1624), the ballets "Tirsi e Clori" (1616) and "Volgendo il ciel" (1637), and seven operas that have sadly been lost. Monteverdi took holy orders in 1632 and his output declined, but the opening of the first public opera houses in Venice after 1637 stirred him into an Indian Summer of activity, culminating with the composition of "Ulisse" and "Poppea". When he died at 76, he was Europe's most famous opera composer and Venice had become a great center of music theatre. Schooled in the Renaissance tradition, Monteverdi went on to create the first masterpieces of the Baroque era. His nine books of madrigals (published between 1587 and 1651) chronicle this evolution, as he progressed from polyphonic influences to monody and a more emotive lyricism. As early as 1600 an Italian theorist attacked him for rejecting the past, to which he replied that he composed in two styles: the "prima prattica" (strict Renaissance manner) and the "seconda prattica", in which music was a faithful reflection of the text and not an end in itself. He brilliantly illustrated old and new in the "Vespers", comprising a Mass, two Magnifcats, 11 motets and an orchestral sonata. Beginning with "L'Orfeo", Monteverdi single-handedly made opera a vital and enduring genre by freeing it from its stuffy origins. Opera, or "dramma per musica" as it was originally called, started as an attempt to replicate the spirit of Ancient Greek theatre, and was intended for an intellectual audience. Early examples by Peri ("Euridice", 1600) and Caccini are dry, static, almost ceremonial. Monteverdi brought human emotion into play by writing music that was inherently dramatic in both the vocal lines and the orchestral accompaniment. The expressiveness of his recitatives and solos appeals to the heart - "Arianna's Lament" is known to have moved its original listeners to tears. He later developed a "stile concitato" ("agitated style") to portray powerful and even violent feelings, and introduced such devices as pizzicato and tremolo in the strings to heighten dramatic effect. With "Poppea" Monteverdi achieved a perfect synthesis of music and drama that would not be heard again on the operatic stage until the reforms of Gluck more than a century later. Other important surviving works are the ballet "Il ballo delle ingrate" ("Dance of the Ungrateful Women", 1608), two books of "Scherzi musicali" (1607, 1632), and the sacred music collection "Selva morale e spirituale" (1640).

Bio by: Bobb Edwards

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 11 Dec 1999
  • Find a Grave Memorial 7571
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Claudio Monteverdi (15 May 1567–29 Nov 1643), Find a Grave Memorial no. 7571, citing Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice, Città Metropolitana di Venezia, Veneto, Italy ; Maintained by Find A Grave .