First masterpieces of the Opera

A brief history of Italian Opera — part three


(previous part here)

The pioneers of the experimental phase of the Opera were Giulio Caccini and Jacopo Peri.

The first masterpieces of the Opera were written by Claudio Monteverdi, a composer with a strong sense of theater.

Claudio Monteverdi, 1640

His innovative and dramatic spirit was in perfect harmony with the passions and the emotions that the new musical language wanted to represent.
All these powerful feelings appeared in his first Opera: the Orfeo.

Claudio Monteverdi, l’Orfeo — Dir. Jordi Savall

He worked in the north of Italy, Mantua, Venice and his works soon reached a great success with the nobles and the common people of the time.

Many of his Operas come to us complete as the Orfeo, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, L’incoronazione di Poppea.
However, some of his works have been lost and we have only fragments of some of his compositions like the Lamento di Arianna.

Claudio Monteverdi, Lamento d’Arianna

As well as in the Opera Monteverdi left a strong and innovative imprint in other musical genres like the Madrigale.
For the theater he also composed many Balli, the most famous is the Ballo delle Ingrate, and staging such as the Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, based on the work of Torquato Tasso.

Claudio Monteverdi, Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda

Claudio Monteverdi marked the first phase of the Opera and he influenced its development.
We will talk about it in the next article.


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