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Summary Article: Monteverdi, Claudio Giovanni Antonio
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Italian composer. He contributed to the development of the opera with La favola d'Orfeo/The Legend of Orpheus (1607) and L'incoronazione di Poppea/The Coronation of Poppea (1642). He also wrote madrigals, motets, and sacred music, notably the Vespers (1610).

Born in Cremona, he was in the service of the Duke of Mantua about 1591–1612, and was director of music at St Mark's Cathedral, Venice, from 1613. He was the first to use an orchestra and to reveal the dramatic possibilities of the operatic form. His first opera Orfeo/Orpheus (1607) was produced for the carnival at Mantua in 1607.

Monteverdi was the son of a doctor. He was a chorister at Cremona Cathedral and a pupil of Marcantonio Ingegneri. He then became an organist and viol player and in 1583, aged 16, published sacred madrigals. About 1591 he entered the service of the Duke of Mantua, Vincenzo Gonzaga, as a viol player and singer, and there married the harpist Claudia Cataneo. He was in Gonzaga's retinue in the war against the Turks on the Danube and again in Flanders in 1599. He probably heard Jacopo Peri's Euridice at Florence in 1600, and in 1602 was made music master to the court of Mantua. His wife died in 1607 after a long illness, and in the same year Monteverdi finished his first opera, La favola d'Orfeo/The Legend of Orpheus. It remains the earliest opera to be regularly performed today. His next opera, Arianna (1608), now lost except for the famous ‘Lament’, made him widely famous. Meanwhile Monteverdi had written his first five books of madrigals, which are also important in the development of this form. In 1610 he dedicated his collection of church music, the Vespers, to Pope Paul V. From the opening chorus, based on the Toccata of Orfeo, and through to the concluding Magnificat, it can be seen that music is now being written for public performance and not just for private use.

When Francesco Gonzaga succeeded his brother to the dukedom in 1612, he quarrelled with Monteverdi, who left for Cremona to wait for a new appointment. This came from Venice in 1613, where he was was appointed maestro to St Mark's Cathedral, the most coveted church appointment in northern Italy. He remained there until his death, adding church music of great splendour to his previous output. He had by this time written much church music and numerous madrigals. His church music makes very effective use of the architecture of St Mark's, using separate groups of instruments and singers to exploit its antiphonal effects. The nine books of madrigals develop from the small-scale pieces of 1587 to the hugely extended forms in Book 8 of 1638. In 1630 he took holy orders after escaping the plague at Venice. In 1639 the second public opera theatre in Venice, the Teatro dei SS Giovanni e Paolo, was opened with Monteverdi's Adone, and Arianna was revived the same year when the Teatro di San Moisè was opened in Venice. Two further operas survive from this period: Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (1641), and his last opera L'incoronazione di Poppea/The Coronation of Poppea (1642), widely performed today in an increasing variety of editions. Monteverdi's work in this genre was highly important and influential in establishing opera during this early period. More broadly, Monteverdi was a key figure in providing the drive for change in which secular music and music for the general public became increasingly important.

WorksOperaOrfeo/Orpheus (1607), Arianna (lost except the ‘Lament’, 1608), Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda (after Tasso, 1624), Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (1640), L'incoronazione di Poppea/The Coronation of Poppea (1642), and about a dozen lost stage works.

BalletsBallo delle ingrate (1608) and Tirsi e Clori (1619).

Vocal Masses, Magnificats, and psalms; Vespers (1610), Sancta Maria for voice and eight instruments; 40 sacred madrigals; 21 canzonette for three voices; nine books of secular madrigals containing 250, including Book VIII, Madrigali guerrieri e amorosi/Madrigals of love and war ; 26 madrigals published in various collections; 25 Scherzi musicali for one to three voices (1607).

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