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Episode 131             Episode 133
Episode 132

Lost operas by Claudio Monteverdi
Thu, 2017-Sep-14 00:10 UTC
Length - 3:18

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The featured article for Thursday, 14 September 2017 is Lost operas by Claudio Monteverdi.

The Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643), in addition to a large output of church music and madrigals, wrote prolifically for the stage. His theatrical works were written between 1604 and 1643 and included ten operas, of which three—L'Orfeo (1607), Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (1640) and L'incoronazione di Poppea (1643)—have survived with their music and librettos intact. In the case of the other seven operas, the music has disappeared almost entirely, although some of the librettos exist. The loss of these works, written during a critical period of early opera history, has been much regretted by commentators and musicologists.

Opera, as a musical and theatrical genre, began to emerge during the early part of Monteverdi's career, initially as a form of courtly entertainment. With other composers he played a leading part in its development into the main form of public musical theatre. His first opera, L'Orfeo, written in 1607 for the Mantuan court, which employed him, was a great success. In the years that followed, at Mantua and in his later capacity as maestro di capella (director of music) at St Mark's Basilica in Venice, Monteverdi continued to write theatrical music in various genres, including operas, dances, and intermedi (short musical interludes inserted into straight plays). Because in Monteverdi's times stage music was rarely thought to have much utility after its initial performance, much of this music vanished shortly after its creation.

Most of the available information relating to the seven lost operas has been deduced from contemporary documents, including the many letters that Monteverdi wrote. These papers provide irrefutable evidence that four of these works—L'Arianna, Andromeda, Proserpina rapita and Le nozze d'Enea con Lavinia—were completed and performed in Monteverdi's lifetime, but of their music, only the famous lament from L'Arianna and a trio from Proserpina are known to have survived. The other three lost operas—Le nozze di Tetide, La finta pazza Licori and Armida abbandonata—were abandoned by Monteverdi before completion; how much of their music was actually written is unknown.

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Abulsme Productions also produces Curmudgeon's Corner, a current events podcast.

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