MUSIC 1A03 Lecture 15: Claudio Monteverdi

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7 Aug 2016
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Chapter 4 – Claudio Monteverdi
Intro: Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
Life and musical activites
- born in Cremona, northern Italy, in 1567 (Cremona is known for violins)
- musical prodigy
- worked at the court of Vinvenzo Gonzaga, duke of Mantua, until 1612
- composed Orfeo in 1607 for a performance in Mantua; text by Alessandro
Striggio (lambretto = the words of an opera)
- appointed maestro di caappella at St. Mark;s Basiilica in Venice in 1613
-composed two operas late in life: il ritorna d’ulisse in patria (the return of
Ulysses, 1641) and l’incoronazione di pappea (the coronation of poppea, 16
Monteverdi and orfeo
- first performed in February 1607 in a small room in the duke’s palace
- the audience was a club of noblemen, the Accademia degl’ invaghiti (the
academy of the Lovesstruck)
- performed only twice
- now considered the first great opera
mantua in 1607
- Italy was composed of many distinct principalities, republics, and papal states
- Mantua was an important artistic and civic center
- Residence of the Gonzaga family
-The absolute ruler of Mantua in 1607 was Vincenzo Gonzaga; Francesco
Gonzaga, his eldest son,
- The Gonzaga family had been important patrons of the arts for generations
- Claudio Monteverdi was the leader of the musician at the Gonzaga court
The birth of opera
- in Florence in the 1580s and 1590s, poets, composers, and intellectuals
discussed the possibility of reviving greek tragedy
- expressive effects of solo voice linked to oratory
- orfeo was called a “fable in music” (favola in musica)
the story of Orpheus (orfeo)
- Orpheus is a mythological figure celebrated as the greatest musician in history;
the story would have been familiar to the audience
- Orpheus, son of appollo, loses is beloved Eurydice on their wedding day; he
crosses the River Styx to bring her back from the underworld but fails to follow
the stipulation that he cant look behind him as he leads her out. In the conflict of
reasons and passion, passion wins. And he looks back, losing Eurydice a second
time and returning alone.
- Subject matter well suited to opera, given that Orpheus is a musician (singer)
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- Moral message for audience was to achieve balance in all things
- Layout of Striggio’s text resembles classical greek and roman tragedy: prologue,
five acts, long discourses or speeches, the use of chorus as a commentator, and
choral odes.
- the preparations included the construction of a temporary theater
- published score documents the performance conditions
- further information concerning the performance is available from Francesco
Gonzaga to his brother Ferdinando
- cast composed exclusively of men
- a casterato (a male singer who was casterated before his voice changed in
puberty) was borrowed from another nobleman to sing the roles or Proserpina,
La Musica (in the prologue), and at least one other role; his name was Giovanni
Gualberto Magli
- other singers included Girolamo Bacchini (Eurydice) and Francesco Rasi
the instruments
- exceptionally rich istruments palette, reflecting the wealth of the court
- priciples of usage
oinstruments are used in groupings of similar sounds (string or flutes, for
omelodic instruments don’t accompany vocal passages
- grouping
opaired instruments: recorders (flautini), violins, conetts
ogroups of 5: trumpets, stringed instruments, trombones
- Orfeo’s song “possente spirto” includes a solo for harp, the earliest surviving
music of its kind
-Accompaniment (basso continuo): harpsichords, wood and red organs,
chitarroni, harp, ciole de gama
-Virtuosic instrumental passages in the opera
- opening fanfare is called a “toccata” (‘touched’ typically referring to keyboard
music requiring dexterity)
-three statements of the toccata: 5 trumpets, strings and recorders
the performance
- texture and style: the coice and its accompaniment
ochordal accompaniment of voices by instruments such as the lute, organ,
harpsichord, and regal was indicated by numerical shorthand (figured
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ocontinuos ball melody underlying chordal accompaniment: basso
odistinction between ‘speaking’ and ‘singing’
a song is defined through rhythm, phrasing and repetition
recitation, or ‘speaking’ typically lacks repetition of words and
musical phrases
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