After training in singing, string playing and composition, Monteverdi worked as a musician in Verona and Milan until, in 1590 or 1591, he secured a post as suonatore di vivuola (viola player) at Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga's court at Mantua. The Double harp was a string instrument that is similar to a modern-day harp. During the early seventeenth century, the traditional intermedio—a musical sequence between the acts of a straight play—was evolving into the form of a complete musical drama or “opera.” Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo moved this process out of its experimental era and provided the first fully developed example of the new genre. Schonberg wrote: "Even the biggest aria in the opera, 'Possente spirito', has a good-sized slash in the middle ... [L'Orfeo] is long enough, and important enough, not to mention beautiful enough, to have been the entire evening's opera. Back in the fields of Thrace, Orfeo has a long soliloquy in which he laments his loss, praises Euridice's beauty and resolves that his heart will never again be pierced by Cupid's arrow.  In this new style, the text dominates the music; while sinfonias and instrumental ritornelli illustrate the action, the audience's attention is always drawn primarily to the words. Harnoncourt indicates that in Monteverdi's day the numbers of players and singers together, and the small rooms in which performances were held, often meant that the audience barely numbered more than the performers. Orfeo is guided by Speranza to the gates of Hades. Its function within the opera as a whole is to represent the "power of music"; as such it is heard at the end of act 2, and again at the beginning of act 5, one of the earliest examples of an operatic leitmotiv. There may also have been a revival in Paris in 1832. The chorus expresses its anguish: "Ah, bitter happening, ah, impious and cruel fate! Towards the end of the 16th century innovative Florentine musicians were developing the intermedio—a long-established form of musical interlude inserted between the acts of spoken dramas—into increasingly elaborate forms. Despite the five-act structure, with two sets of scene changes, it is likely that L'Orfeo conformed to the standard practice for court entertainments of that time and was played as a continuous entity, without intervals or curtain descents between acts. These last two works were the first of many musical representations of the Orpheus myth as recounted in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and as such were direct precursors of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo. Moved by her pleas, Plutone agrees on the condition that, as he leads Euridice towards the world, Orfeo must not look back. Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) Considered the composer of the first “great” opera, L’Orfeo(1607) Defines the Baroque notion of the “Two Practices”. Two choruses, one solemn and one jovial are repeated in reverse order around the central love-song "Rosa del ciel" ("Rose of the heavens"), followed by the shepherds' songs of praise. Carter's suggested role-doublings include La musica with Euridice, Ninfa with Proserpina and La messaggera with Speranza. The action takes place in two contrasting locations: the fields of Thrace (Acts 1, 2 and 5) and the Underworld (Acts 3 and 4).  The musicologist and historian Hans Redlich mistakenly allocates Magli to the role of Orfeo. At first these tended to be unstaged versions within institutes and music societies, but following the first modern dramatised performance in Paris, in 1911, the work began to be seen increasingly often in theatres.  It is likely that his principal musicians, including Monteverdi, were also present at this performance.  Monteverdi's instructions as the act concludes are that the violins, the organ and harpsichord become silent and that the music is taken up by the trombones, the cornetts and the regal, as the scene changes to the Underworld. Orfeo and Euridice enter together with a chorus of nymphs and shepherds, who act in the manner of a Greek chorus, commenting on the action both as a group and as individuals. Orfeo attempts to follow her but is drawn away by an unseen force. Vincenzo Gonzaga’s particular passion for musical theatre and spectacle grew from his family connections with the court of Florence. Music from different cultures such as Latin America or Japan, have different musical conventions and tastes which results in vastly different sounds, purposes, or instrumentations.  The involvement in the premiere of a Florentine castrato, Giovanni Gualberto Magli, is confirmed by correspondence between the Gonzaga princes. Only fragments of its music still exist, but several other Florentine works of the same period—Rappresentatione di Anima, et di Corpo by Emilio de’ Cavalieri, Peri’s Euridice and Giulio Caccini’s identically titled Euridice—survive complete. It accounts for less than a quarter of the first act's music, around a third of the second and third acts, and a little under half in the final two acts. Monteverdi's vocal embellishments and virtuoso accompaniment provide what Carter describes as "one of the most compelling visual and aural representations" in early opera. The work is not orchestrated as such; in the Renaissance tradition instrumentalists followed the composer's general instructions but were given considerable freedom to improvise. Together with Duke Vincent's two young sons, Francesco and Fernandino, he was a member of Mantua's exclusive intellectual society, the Accademia degli Invaghiti [it], which provided the chief outlet for the city's theatrical works. It is distinguished from an oratorio (such as Handel's Messiah) because it is presented theatrically with … He had been employed at the Gonzaga court for 16 years, much of it as a performer or arranger of stage music, and in 1604 he had written the ballo Gli amori di Diane ed Endimone for the 1604–05 Mantua Carnival. This edition was the basis of the first public performance of the work in two-and-a-half centuries, a concert performance at d'Indy's Schola Cantorum on 25 February 1904. The libretto, written by Alessandro Siggio recounts the story of Orfeo (Orpheus) as he tries to save his love Eurydice from hell. . ", Monteverdi states the orchestral requirements at the beginning of his published score, but in accordance with the practice of the day he does not specify their exact usage. After La musica's final request for silence, the curtain rises on act 1 to reveal a pastoral scene. It was written in 1607 for a court performance during the annual Carnival at Mantua. In the Underworld, Proserpina, Queen of Hades, who has been deeply affected by Orfeo’s singing, petitions King Plutone, her husband, for Euridice’s release. , The libretto was published in Mantua in 1607 to coincide with the premiere and incorporated Striggio's ambiguous ending. It is different from other types of musical drama in that it is primarily sung; the action of the drama is conveyed through singing rather than through spoken dialogue. More recently, in 1598 Monteverdi had helped the court’s musical establishment produce Giovanni Battista Guarini’s play Il pastor fido, described by theatre historian Mark Ringer as a “watershed theatrical work” which inspired the Italian craze for pastoral drama. You have already been introduced to Claudio Monteverdi, whose music straddles the late Renaissance and early Baroque. On 6 October 1600, while visiting Florence for the wedding of Maria de’ Medici to King Henry IV of France, Duke Vincenzo attended a production of Peri’s Euridice. , Striggio's main sources for his libretto were Books 10 and 11 of Ovid's Metamorphoses and Book Four of Virgil's Georgics.  However, the visit was cancelled, as was the celebratory performance.  Such flourishes were the standard signal for the commencement of performances at the Mantuan court; the opening chorus of Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers, also composed for Gonzaga's court, employs the same fanfare.  Among more recent recordings, that of Emmanuelle Haïm in 2004 has been praised for its dramatic effect. This edition was the basis of the opera's United States debut, another concert performance at the New York Met in April 1912. Its score was published by Monteverdi in 1609 and again in 1615. . English translations quoted in the synopsis are from the version accompanying Nikolaus Harnoncourt's 1969 recording.  Rinuccini, whose work had been written for the festivities accompanying a Medici wedding, was obliged to alter the myth to provide a "happy ending" suitable for the occasion. While the honor of the first ever opera goes to Jacopo Peri’s Dafne, and the earliest surviving opera is Euridice (also by Peri), L’Orfeo has the honor of being the earliest surviving opera that is still regularly performed today.  The Monteverdi scholar Tim Carter speculates that two prominent Mantuan tenors, Pandolfo Grande and Francesco Campagnola may have sung minor roles in the premiere. This work combined elements of madrigal singing and monody with dancing and instrumental passages to form a dramatic whole. , After the prologue, act 1 follows in the form of a pastoral idyll. Orfeo and Euridice sing of their love for each other before leaving with most of the group for the wedding ceremony in the temple. L'Orfeo is, in Redlich's analysis, the product of two musical epochs.  Only the composers Valentino Bucchi (1967), Bruno Maderna (1967) and Luciano Berio (1984) produced editions based on the convention of a large modern orchestra.  In 1881 a truncated version of the L'Orfeo score, intended for study rather than performance, was published in Berlin by Robert Eitner. Orfeo returns with the main chorus, and sings with them of the beauties of nature. Many recordings were issued, and the opera was increasingly staged in opera houses. In 1965, Sadler's Wells, forerunner of English National Opera (ENO), staged the first of many ENO presentations which would continue into the 21st century. L’ORFEO! Claudio Monteverdi, born in Cremona in 1567, was a musical prodigy who studied under Marc’Antonio Ingegneri, the maestro di cappella (head of music) at Cremona Cathedral.  Among various celebrations marking the opera's 400th anniversary in 2007 were a semi-staged performance at the Teatro Bibiena in Mantua, a full-scale production by the English Bach Festival (EBF) at the Whitehall Banqueting House in London on 7 February, and an unconventional production by Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, New York, conducted by Antony Walker and directed by Christopher Alden. In Striggio's 1607 libretto, Orfeo's act 5 soliloquy is interrupted, not by Apollo's appearance but by a chorus of maenads or Bacchantes—wild, drunken women—who sing of the "divine fury" of their master, the god Bacchus. A shepherd announces that this is the couple’s wedding day; the chorus responds, first in a stately invocation (“Come, Hymen, O come”) and then in a joyful dance (“Leave the mountains, leave the fountains”). It was the contemporary custom for scene shifts to take place in sight of the audience, these changes being reflected musically by changes in instrumentation, key and style. The libretto, written by Alessandro Siggio recounts the story of Orfeo (Orpheus) as he tries to save his love Eurydice from hell.  In act 4 the impersonal coldness of the Underworld is broken by the warmth of Proserpina's singing on behalf of Orfeo, a warmth that is retained until the dramatic moment at which Orfeo "looks back".
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