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Classical Composers A-Z: Claudio Monteverdi

Peter Wintersgill introduces us to Claudio Monteverdi, who composed a number of operas and took holy orders when he was 65.

Born
15th May, 1567, in Cremona, near Milan.

Adolescence
Taught in Ingegneri. Was organist at Cremona. Wrote three sets of madrigals at age 16.

Early Adult Life
Aged 24, appointed singer and viol player at court of Duke of Mantua. Under the influence of the director his style became more adventurous and innovative, which pleased some people and angered others. He brought out five books of madrigals in this new style between 1592 and 1605.

He married a singer at the court about 1600 and was promoted to Musical Director in 1602. He wrote his first opera Orfeo in 1607, the same year that his wife died. This was the first recorded opera, as we understand the term today. The first of all was Peri's Euridice, produced in 1600, but was hardly in the same class.

Later Adult Life
His second opera Arianna was written in 1608. This has been lost, apart from the well-known Lament. In the same year the satirical Ballo del Ingrate was produced. The famous Vespers came out in 1610, they combine the orthodox polyphonic style with his own innovative methods. Five books of madrigals, written about this time, show the development of his new style.

Dismissed by the new Duke of Mantua, who succeeded after his father's death, he obtained a similar post at St. Mark's in Venice, where he spent the rest of his life.

In 1624 he wrote a new work for the theatre, Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, a dramatic narrative with orchestra, introducing for the first time the tremolo and pizzicato effects.

He took holy orders in 1632 aged 65. By this time he was quite famous, attracting pupils and other composers, like Schutz for instance, who came to visit him.

He wrote five more operas, of which only two survive, Il Ritorno d' Ulise and L'Incoronazione di Poppea (1642), the first opera on a historical, as opposed to a mythical subject. At some stage he wrote the Missa da Capella, his only mass.

He died 29th November, 1643, in Venice, aged 76

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