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Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi

Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi

Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi (1567-1643) was an Italian composer who, in addition to being the first great operatic writer, reflected in his works, especially the madrigals, the change in style from late Renaissance to early baroque.

Claudio Monteverdi was undoubtedly one of the more progressive composers between 1590 and 1625. During these years he infused the rather dry stile rappresentativo of the early monodists with a lyricism that foreshadowed the later aria, and he introduced a more intensely expressive and dramatic element into music, notably through what he called the stile concitato (agitated style). As early as 1600 Giovanni Maria Artusi, a well-known theorist, criticized Monteverdi for some harsh "modernisms."

Monteverdi's influence, both before and after his death, was not commensurate with the high esteem in which he was held by the discerning few; thus he left no "school," and the only significant composer who can be called his pupil was Heinrich Schütz. The reason for this comparative lack of influence was probably Monteverdi's serious cast of mind and a strong tinge of conservatism that mitigated his continuing in the vanguard throughout a period which was, perhaps, the most dichotomous in the history of music and during which taste and fashion changed rapidly. Today he is regarded less as a revolutionary than as one of the outstanding composers of all time, who combined the old with the new and who forged a style that for dramatic range, emotional expression, and sensuous lyricism had never been equaled before.

Monteverdi was born in Cremona and baptized on May 15, 1567. His mother, Maddalena, and father, Baldassare, a doctor, were probably musical, for both Claudio and his brother Giulio Cesare became professional musicians. It is most likely that Monteverdi became a choirboy at the local Cathedral and received his first musical training there. He was certainly a pupil of the noted composer M. A. Ingegneri, the Cathedral's music director, for in 1582 Monteverdi claims as much on the title page of a collection of three-voiced motets, Sacrae cantiunculae, published in Venice.

We know little about the next 10 years, apart from Monteverdi's unsuccessful attempt to get a job in Milan in 1589, but they were certainly productive, for he published a book of Madrigali spirituali (1583), one of Canzonette (1584), and the first two books of madrigals (1587, 1590). Perhaps in 1590 or the year after, he became a string player at the court of Vincenzo Gonzaga I, Duke of Mantua; he definitely held this position in 1592, the same year that he published his third madrigal book.

Employment at the Court of Mantua

Monteverdi remained at Mantua for about 20 years. During this period he accompanied the duke on two visits to foreign countries, the first (1595) a military expedition to Hungary to fight the Turks (an experience that made a deep impression on him), the second (1599) a journey to Liège, Antwerp, and Brussels. Shortly before the second visit he married Claudia Cattaneo, who in their brief marriage (she died in 1607) bore him three children, Francesco in 1601, Leonora in 1603, and Massimiliano in 1604. In 1602 Monteverdi was promoted to maestro della musica; he published his fourth madrigal book a year later, his fifth in 1605, and the first set of Scherzi musicali in 1607.

The Scherzi were edited by Monteverdi's brother Giulio Cesare, who had been appointed to the Mantuan court sometime previously and who added an appendix to the volume in which he expounded Claudio's views on music, in particular the elucidation of what Claudio called the prima prattica, that is, the old polyphonic style of the late Renaissance, and the seconda prattica, that is, the new style in which the poetic text dictated the character and form of the music. This latter style is already apparent to some extent in a few of the pieces in the fourth madrigal book and more obviously so in the last six pieces of the fifth book, which, like the rest of his output in this genre, use a continuo accompaniment and are better described as vocal chamber music than as madrigals.

The Opera Orfeo

The year 1607 also saw the production, in Mantua, of Monteverdi's first opera, La favola d'Orfeo. This was followed a year later by L'Arianna; the Prologue, no longer extant, to a comedy by Giovanni Battista Guarini, L'idropica; and Il ballo dell'ingrate. Orfeo is perhaps the most remarkable first essay in any musical genre by any composer. The libretto (by Alessandro Striggio) keeps to the original story more closely than the two earlier operas on the same subject by Jacopo Peri and Giulio Caccini (and most later ones), in that Orpheus loses Euridice on the journey back from Hades, though they are reunited in heaven.

The music represents a virtual cross section of contemporary practice, including choruses in imitative polyphony and chordal harmony, solo ensembles, da capo arias, dances and other independent instrumental pieces, and the new monodic recitativelike style, to which most of the text is set. The orchestra consists of over 40 instruments, including harpsichords, chamber organs, strings, woodwind, and brass; which of these played when was largely left to the music director, though in certain instances Monteverdi specifies the instrumentation. For example, the spirits of Hades are accompanied by regal (reed) and positive organs, five trombones, two bass gambas, and a violone, which produce a strikingly dark timbre; trombones, indeed, later became traditionally associated with anything "infernal."

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of Orfeo is the clearly deliberate attempt at some kind of overall design. This is particularly evident in Act I, where the arrangement of solos, ensembles, choruses, and instrumental ritornelli form two ABA structures, the first large and complex, the second small and simple, and followed by a coda.

Orfeo was revived several times during Monteverdi's lifetime, as was Arianna, which if anything was even more popular, especially the celebrated lament Lasciatemi morire, the only fragment to have survived. Not only was this piece arranged for five voices and included in the sixth madrigal book, and adapted to sacred words in the Selva morale e spirituale, but it also set a fashion that affected virtually every opera for the next 150 years or so, a well-known example being Dido's lament, "When I am laid in earth," in Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas.

The Vespers

In 1610 Monteverdi published one of his finest works, the Vespers, comprising a Mass, 2 Magnificats, 11 "motets," and an orchestral sonata. In it he combines solos, ensembles, choral writing for one and two choirs of up to five voices each, orchestral ritornelli (some in six real parts), in addition to a sonata, and obbligati for various instruments. The style ranges from the old to the new, from richly imitative seven-part polyphony to highly affective monody, from rhythmically clear-cut, ear-catching melodies to complex highly virtuosic melismas. As Denis Arnold (1963) said, "Passion and magnificence—these two are inseparable words when describing this volume."

The Vespers may have resulted from Monteverdi's desire to write a large-scale, widely expressive sacred work that complemented, to some extent, his operatic output. It almost certainly was a result of his wish to find another post, a wish that arose from the growing dissatisfaction with conditions, particularly his salary, at the Mantuan court. His situation became aggravated in 1612, when Vincenzo I died, for shortly afterward he was dismissed by Vincenzo's successor, Ferdinand. For over a year Monteverdi sought employment that was commensurate with his now considerable reputation, and finally, in August 1613, he was appointed to one of the most prestigious musical positions in Italy, that of maestro di cappella at the famous basilica of St. Mark's in Venice.

Years in Venice

Monteverdi spent the rest of his life in Venice, dying there on Nov. 29, 1643. The only domestic events of note during this period were the arrest in 1627 of his son Massimiliano by the Inquisition and his acquittal the following year, and Monteverdi's entry into the priesthood about 1632. Musically his 30 years in the service of St. Mark's were richly productive. In addition to completely reorganizing the whole musical setup and raising to a new excellence the standards of the singers and instrumentalists, he composed a quantity of music, both sacred and secular. Most of the sacred music was published in Selva morale e spirituale (1640), which includes a Mass, two Magnificats, and over 30 other pieces, and in a collection published posthumously in 1650, which contains a Mass, a litany, and over a dozen psalm settings.

The secular music can be divided into chamber and dramatic. The chamber category includes the sixth, seventh, and eighth madrigal books (1614, 1619, 1638) and the second set of Scherzi musicali (1632). The dramatic category comprises nine operas, three ballets, incidental music, an intermezzo, a masque, and the dramatic cantata Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda (1624). Il combattimento, notable for its demonstration of the stile concitatovia such unusual (at that time) instrumental effects as pizzicato and tremolando, has survived, as have the ballets Tirsi e Clori (1616) and Volgendo il ciel (1637) and Monteverdi's last two operas, Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (1641) and L'incoronazione di Poppea (1642). Poppea is the first opera on a historical subject (as opposed to mythological, biblical, or poetical subjects) and a masterpiece by any standard.

The Operas Ulisse and Poppea

Monteverdi's two last operas show profound differences compared with Orfeo. Both were first produced in Venice, but Ulisse is more typically Venetian than Poppea in the rapid succession of scenes—comic, serious, and spectacular—the quick patter of its recitative, often broken up by short songlike passages, the infrequency of instrumental numbers, the varied and heightened emotional range, and the reduction of the orchestra to a basic string group, which was first used in Il combattimento and has formed the foundation of the orchestra ever since.

In Poppea Monteverdi largely rejected the purely spectacular and the restless succession of scenic contrasts, relying more on the vivid and subtle characterization of the leading figures of the drama and maintaining a well-nigh perfect balance between music and drama, the music seeming to spring directly from the drama and not, as happened in most later baroque operas, being an end in itself. Not until Christoph Willibald Gluck, in fact, was such a conception of opera again realized. The music in Poppea is seldom less than attractive, and at times it reaches an emotional intensity and a melodic beauty that make an immediate impact today.

The works from Monteverdi's Venetian period that have not survived are the operas La favola di Peleo e di Tetide (1617), Andromeda (1617), La finta pazza Licori (1627), La Delia e l'Ulisse (1630), Proserpina rapita (1630), Adone (1639), and Le nozze d'Enea con Lavinia (1641); the Prologue to a sacred play, La Maddalena (1617); a Prologue and five "Intermedia" (1627); the ballet La vittoria d'amore (1641); the intermezzo Gli amori di Diana e di Endimione (1628); and the masque Mercurio e Marte (1628). The disappearance of these works, and in particular of all but two of the last nine operas composed in Venice, must be counted the most tragic loss in the history of music, when one considers the exceptional significance of any opera written during the first half of the 17th century, Monteverdi's own stature as a composer, and the high quality of those examples that have come down to us.

Further Reading

Full-length studies of Monteverdi include Henri Prunières, Monteverdi: His Life and Work (trans. 1926); Leo Schrade, Monteverdi: Creator of Modern Music (1950); Hans F. Redlich, Claudio Monteverdi: Life and Works (trans. 1952); and Denis Arnold, Monteverdi (1963). For background material see Donald J. Grout, A Short History of Opera (1947; 2d ed. 1965); Manfred F. Bukofzer, Music in the Baroque Era, from Monteverdi to Bach (1947); and Simon T. Worsthorne, Venetian Opera in the Seventeenth Century (1954).

Additional Sources

Fabbri, Paolo, Monteverdi, Cambridge; New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Horton, John, Monteverdi, Sevenoaks Eng.: Novello, 1975.

Schrade, Leo, Monteverdi: creator of modern music, New York: Da Capo Press, 1979, 1950. □

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Monteverdi, Claudio (1567–1642)


MONTEVERDI, CLAUDIO (15671642), Italian composer of madrigals, operas, and sacred music; one of the most pivotal figures in the history of music. Claudio Monteverdi's music was a primary force in the change in style and aesthetics that marked the transition from the Renaissance to the baroquethe shift from the stile antico (old style) or prima prattica (first practice), as represented by Giovanni Perluigi da Palestrina (15251594) and Orlando di Lasso (15301594), to the stile moderno (modern style) or seconda prattica (second practice). Under the influence of humanistic discoveriesin particular notions about Greek dramaMonteverdi's contemporaries sought new ways to move the passions of the listener. The Renaissance ideal of complex vocal polyphony was abandoned in favor of a simple texture, often featuring one melodic line and a bass (monody) so that the music could respond spontaneously to the rhythms and meaning of the text. Rigid rules of counterpoint were discarded in favor of a freer treatment of dissonance and chromaticism. Monteverdi's adventurous tonal style and his use of irregular rhythms, dance patterns, and frequent shifts of texture not only enriched the newly invented genre of opera but transformed genres that had developed during the preceding century, including the madrigal, motet, and mass.

Monteverdi was born in Cremona and baptized on 15 May 1567. The young musician's genius was so precocious that his first collection of vocal compositions, the Sacrae cantiunculae, was published when he was fifteen, when he was still a student of Marc'Antonio Ingegneri, the maestro di capella of Cremona Cathedral. While still in Cremona, he published his first book of madrigals in 1587 and a second on 1 January 1590. In 1590 or 1591, Monteverdi began a lengthy association with the city of Mantua and the Gonzaga family, entering the service of the Vincenzo I Gonzaga, duke of Mantua. His third book of madrigals, dedicated to the duke on 27 June 1592, featured texts by Tarquato Tasso (15441595) and Giambattista Guarini (15381612). Guarini's poetry would do much to shape what Gary Tomlinson had referred to as the "epigrammatic" style that characterized the fourth book of madrigals (1603). Monteverdi was appointed maestro della musica in Mantua in 1601, and went on to dedicate his fifth book of madrigals (1605) to Vincenzo Gonzaga. During this period, Monteverdi's unconventional style had attracted the attention of a conservative Bolognese theorist, Giovanni Artusi, who attacked Monteverdi (among others) for his rejection of tradition; the often vitriolic exchanges between the twowhich include Monteverdi's preface to the fifth book of madrigals and his brother Giulio Cesare's addendum to the Scherzi musicali (1607; Musical jokes)provide insight into this new aesthetic in which words might be understood as the mistress of the music.

Monteverdi's duties at court included the composition of a variety of dramatic entertainments. His Orfeo (1607), described as a favola in musica (fable in music), has long been considered the first great opera. The libretto by Alessandro Striggio was certainly influenced by that of Euridice (1600) by Ottavio Rinuccini (c. 15621621), one of the early Florentine operatic experiments. But Monteverdi's Orfeo was the first to truly transform the pastorale play with music into a compelling, through-composed entertainment. Expressive monody, juxtaposed with dancelike madrigals and brief arias, vividly depict Orpheus's joy, subsequentdespair, and musical virtuosity, as in the famous aria "Possente spirto" (Powerful spirit) addressed to Pluto; the highly dramatic use of a large instrumental ensemble (recorders, cornettos, trombones, and a basso continuo group of harps, harpsichords, and plucked instruments) captures the contrast between the pleasurable earthly existence and Pluto's underworld. In 1608, Monteverdi provided wedding entertainments for Prince Francesco Gonzaga and Margherita of Savoy, including the Ballo delle ingrate (Dance of the ingrates), and the opera Arianna, from which only the lament (which famously brought tears tothe eyes of the court ladies) has survived.

In 1613, Monteverdi was appointed maestro di cappella of San Marco in Venice, a declining institution that he revitalized by hiring new musicians, expanding the music library, and raising the standards of performance. He was responsible for directing and composing music for all major church ceremonies and activities, such as masses, vesper services, feast days, and weddings. While maintaining his connections with Mantua and Florence, Monteverdi continued to publish madrigals: books 6 and 7 were published in 1614 and 1619 respectively, and his earlier madrigals were reprinted in both Venice and Antwerp around this time. The eighth book of madrigals (1638), known as the Madrigali guerrieri, et amorosi (Madrigals of love and war), is a compendium of works written earlier. Monteverdi's attention to poetic detail is apparent in this volume, which includes settings of poems not only by Guarini, Tasso, and the revered Petrarch (13041374), but also the infamous Giovanni Battista Marino (15691625), whose influence on Monteverdi's aesthetics has frequently been observed. In book 8, Monteverdi invents a number of novel musical strategies to illustrate the popular topoi of love and war. Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda (1624/5; The battle of Tancredi and Clorinda), drawn from Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered, is noteworthy for the use of the stile concitato (agitated style) as discussed in the preface to book 8, in particular the innovative string techniques used to represent the battle scenes, including the use of pizzicato (plucking the strings) and col legno (striking the strings with the wood of the bow). Love is well represented by the Lamento della ninfa, in which the hypnotic soprano's complaint, set over a repeated descending bass pattern, became the model for numerous such laments.

When he was in his seventies, Monteverdi published his most important collection of sacred music, Selva morale e spirituale (1640; Spiritual and moral forest), and also profoundly influenced Venice's emerging opera industry. His 16391640 revival of Arianna was followed by a trilogy of three-act operas in Venetian style: Il ritorno di Ulisse in Patria (16391640; The return of Ulysses to his homeland); the lost Le nozze di Enea con Lavinia (16401641; The wedding of Aeneas and Lavinia); and L'incoronazione di Poppea (16421643; The coronation of Poppea), which some music historians believe was probably finished by Francesco Sacrati and others. Unlike in Orfeo, much of the expressive power of these works is concentrated in the closed forms (arias and duets) rather than recitative, as would become the norm in baroque opera. All three were written to librettos by members of the Venetian Accademia degli Incogniti, a group of freethinking patricians involved in both opera and publishing whose staunch patriotism, interest in the erotic, and playful attitude toward the classics seem to have inspired the composer at the height of his creative powers. From the representation of chaste marital fidelity in the recasting of Homer (in Il ritorno ) to the seemingly immoral endorsement of physical love in imperial Rome (in Poppea ), the surviving Venetian operas provide an eloquent testimony to Monteverdi's understanding of complex human emotions and his incomparable genius.

See also Baroque ; Lasso, Orlando di ; Mantua ; Music ; Music Criticism ; Opera ; Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi da ; Tasso, Tarquato ; Venice .


Primary Source

The Letters of Claudio Monteverdi. Translated by Denis Stevens. London, 1980; 2nd ed. Oxford, 1995.

Secondary Sources

Carter, Tim. Monteverdi's Musical Theatre. New Haven, 2002.

Chafe, Eric T. Monteverdi's Tonal Language. New York and Toronto, 1992.

Fabbri, Paolo. Monteverdi. Translated by Tim Carter. Cambridge, U.K., 1994.

Heller, Wendy. Emblems of Eloquence: Opera and Women's Voices in Seventeenth-Century Venice. Berkeley, 2003.

. "Tacitus Incognito: Opera as History in L'incoronazione di Poppea. " Journal of the American Musicological Society 52 (1999): 3996.

Pirrotta, Nino. Music and Culture in Italy from the Middle Ages to the Baroque. Cambridge, Mass., 1984.

Rosand, Ellen. Opera in Seventeenth-Century Venice: The Creation of a Genre. Berkeley, 1991.

Schrade, Leo. Monteverdi: Creator of Modern Music. New York, 1950; reprinted, 1979.

Tomlinson, Gary. Monteverdi and the End of the Renaissance. Oxford and Berkeley, 1987.

Whenham, John, ed. Claudio Monteverdi: "Orfeo." Cambridge Opera Handbooks. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1986.

Wendy Heller, Mark Kroll

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Monteverdi, Claudio (Giovanni Antonio)

Monteverdi, Claudio (Giovanni Antonio) (b Cremona, 1567; d Venice, 1643). It. composer. Chorister, Cremona Cath. At 16, when he was already a fine organist and viol player, he pubd. some sacred madrigals. Entered service of Duke of Mantua as viol player and singer of madrigals. Went with Duke on military expeditions to Danube and Flanders, 1595 and 1599. Heard and was influenced by Florentine operas of the Camerata, notably Peri's Euridice, 1600. His own first opera, La favola d'Orfeo was prod. in 1607, notable in history of mus. because for the first time the acc. was for a full (by the standards of the time) orch. The following year his Arianna was perf. at a ducal wedding celebration in Mantua; only the Lamento, which was immediately popular, survives. He left Cremona after the death of the Duke in 1612 and in 1613 became Master of Mus. of the Venetian Republic. For St Mark's, Venice, he composed a superb stream of sacred works which spread his fame throughout Europe. He received a visit from Schütz and his works were studied by M. Praetorius in Ger., Mersenne in Fr., and Tomkins in Eng. 12 of the operas he had written in Mantua were destroyed there in 1630 when it was sacked by Austrian troops. In the same year the plague ravaged Venice; the combination of these catastrophes probably accounts for Monteverdi's admission to holy orders in 1632. When the first opera house, San Cassiano, was opened in Venice in 1637, Monteverdi's interest in opera was re-kindled and for the remaining 6 years of his life he comp. a series of works of which only 2 survive.

Monteverdi's place in the history of Renaissance mus. can be justly compared to Shakespeare's in literature. Working from traditional beginnings, he transformed every genre in which he worked by imaginative use of available styles rather than by revolutionary means. His madrigals cover a period of 40 years, from publication of the 1st book in 1589 to the 8th in 1638 (the 9th was pubd. posthumously in 1651). He soon introduced instr. accs., and chromatic modulations, and the dramatic nature of the mus. foreshadows the solo cantata and operatic recit., culminating in Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda (1624) which is a miniature opera in style, acc. by str. and employing descriptive effects.

His sacred mus. veered between elaborate traditional polyphony and an advanced concerted style in which elements from his secular madrigals and operas lend colour and drama to the text, as in the famous Vespers comp. for Mantua in 1610. The operas take the Florentine melodramatic and monodic form and embellish it with all that he learned from It. madrigalists and Fr. composers. They are, in effect, the first mus. dramas, making use of what came to be known as leitmotiv and deploying many startling dramatic devices. They are also the first operas in which the characters are recognizably human rather than symbolic figures. Above all, the melodic genius and fertility of his mus. and its harmonic adventurousness are what make it so attractive and ‘contemporary’ in the 20th cent. Naturally, the scores present many musicological problems; their solution by various eds. has caused considerable disagreement among students of the period. Prin. works:OPERAS & BALLETS: La favola d'Orfeo (1607); Arianna (1608, lost); Il ballo delle Ingrate (1608); Tirsi e Clori (1616); Favola di Peleo e di Theti (1617, lost); Il matrimonio d'Alceste con Admeto (1618, lost); Andromeda (1619, lost); Commento d'Apollo (1620, lost); La finta Pazza Licori (1627, lost); Mercurio e Marte (1628, lost); Adone (1639, lost); Le nozze d'Enea con Lavinia (1641, lost); Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (1640); L'incoronazione di Poppea (1642).SACRED: Madrigali spirituali, 4 vv. (1583); Vespro della Beata Vergine (1610); Mass, In illo tempore, 6 vv. (1610); Masses, 4 vv., and psalms (1650); Selva morale e spirituale (1641) for varying numbers of vv. with varied instr. acc. in most cases; and a large number of motets, etc.SECULAR VOCAL: Canzonette for 3 vv. (1584); Madrigali: Book I for 5 vv. (1587), II for 5 vv. (1590), III for 5 vv. (1592), IV for 5 vv. (1603), V for 5 vv., some with instr. acc. (1605), VI for 5 vv., some with instr. acc.; includes Lamento d'Arianna of 1608 (1614), VII for vv. from 1 to 6, with instr. acc., incl. Lettera amorosa (1619), VIII Madrigali guerrieri e amorosi (Madrigals of Love and War) for vv. from 1 to 8 with instr. acc., incl. Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda of 1624 (1638), IX Madrigali e Canzonette for 2 to 3 vv., 4 with basso continuo (1651); 10 Scherzi musicali for 1 or 2 vv., all with basso continuo (1632); 15 Scherzi musicali for 3 vv., unacc. (1607).

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Monteverdi, Claudio

Claudio Monteverdi (klou´dyō mōntāvĕr´dē), 1567–1643, Italian composer; first great figure in the history of opera. His earliest published works, a set of three motifs, appeared when he was only 15. In 1590 he entered the service of the duke of Mantua, becoming choir master in the ducal court in 1601. Monteverdi's first opera, Orfeo, performed at Mantua in 1607, was revolutionary in its combination of dramatic power and expressive orchestral accompaniment. Of his next opera, Arianna (1608), only the celebrated lament, which Monteverdi himself arranged as a five-part madrigal, is extant. In 1613, Monteverdi was appointed choirmaster of St. Mark's, Venice, where he remained until his death. He took holy orders in 1632. Although he wrote mostly church music after settling in Venice, he continued to develop his dramatic gifts in many secular madrigals and dramatic cantatas such as Il combattimento di Tancredi e di Clorinda (1624). After the first public opera house opened in Venice in 1637, the aged Monteverdi produced his last operas, including Il ritorno di Ulisse in Patria (1641) and L'incoronazione di Poppea (1642), which show marked development in characterization and emotional power. They set the style of later Venetian opera. Of his 21 dramatic works, only six, including three operas, are extant. He was among the first composers to use the tremolo and pizzicato effects with strings, and his music shows a strong sense of modern tonality. In his operas he used large orchestras, whose members he grouped into specific combinations to portray characters on stage. His brother Giulio Cesare Monteverdi, 1573–?, was a composer, organist, and critic, and Claudio's assistant at the court of Mantua.

See studies by D. Arnold (1963 and 1968) and L. Schrade (1950, repr. 1969).

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Monteverdi, Claudio (1567–1643)

Monteverdi, Claudio (15671643)

Composer who pioneered the art of opera, born in Cremona, Italy. Monteverdi's first works were motets and madrigals, completed when he was still a teenager. He joined the court of Vincenzo I of Mantua as a singer and musician, and later was appointed conductor of the court orchestra. He pioneered many innovations in the writing of music, including the use of instrumental accompaniment known as continuo and the use of monody, a simpler and clearer melody that would be taken up by composers of the Baroque period that followed the Renaissance. Monteverdi combined vocal music with drama, and invented opera with the premier of L 'Orfeo in 1607. This work was the first to assign musical parts to specific instruments and to convey a dramatic plot with the use of musical devices and the singing voice. He wrote The Vespers of the Blessed Virgin in 1610, a work that began the practice of repeating melodies for dramatic effect and to unify the composition. Monteverdi became the conductor of San Marco Cathedral in Venice in 1613. There he wrote more books of madrigals and invented new techniques of playing string instruments, including the tremolo, in which a note is rapidly repeated or shaken, and pizzicato, in which the musician plucks the string with his finger. Late in his life he completed The Return of Ulysses and The Coronation of Poppea, a work based on the life of the Roman emperor Nero.

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Monteverdi, Claudio

Monteverdi, Claudio (1567–1643) Italian composer, the first great opera composer. Many of Monteverdi's operas are lost; the surviving ones include L'Orfeo (1607) and L'Incoronazione di Poppea (1642). He wrote much religious music and was the last and greatest master of the madrigal.

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"Monteverdi, Claudio." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 15, 2017 from