Monteverdi – Madrigal into Opera

Performers: 7-8 singers, 5 strings, organ, theorbo, harp, harpsichord

Extra requirements: organ, harpsichord

L’Orfeo (1607) – (Prologue & Act II Messenger scene)
Il Ballo dell’Ingrate
Madrigals by De Wert, Rore, Marenzio, Gesualdo and Monteverdi

This programme shows how, unlike his contemporaries, Monteverdi’s first dramatic works were built on the experience of his madrigals and those of his forward-looking colleagues writing in the style he called ‘The second practice’. In this, music didn’t have to obey traditional rules if it served the purpose of expressing the text.

L’Orfeo was written in 1607 for private performance at the court of the Duke of Mantua at Carnival. Its most touching scene is the announcement of Euridice’s death – and Orfeo’s response. The following year, to celebrate the marriage of the Duke’s elder son, other works were commissioned including Il Ballo dell’Ingrate (The Ball of the Ingrates). The story, set at the gates of Hell and written for the newly married couple, is about the perils for young women of not accepting the advances of Love and features virtuoso roles for Pluto and Venus. It contains wonderful dance music and a desolate lament.

To set up these pieces, fabulously descriptive madrigals by the last composers of their generation which give the perfect context to Monteverdi’s colouristic writing.

The performance conducted by Hollingworth has the charm of the panting blossoming of the voices which submerge each other in the omnipresent concept of sweetness.” La Repubblica (Italy)

“As with The Full Monteverdi, the audience is made to feel that it is actually inside the music: stung by the biting discords, caressed by the velvety sonority of the consolatory consonances.. .and finally overwhelmed by the intensity of these miniature choral-dramas.” The Times

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