Claudio Monteverdi

Composers Datebook:  15 May

Brief biography of Claudio Monteverdi, Italian composer of Late Renaissance and Early Baroque Eras. 

Claudio (Giovanni Antonio) Monteverdi (b. Cremona, 15 May 1567 - d.Venice, 29 November 1643), Italian composer known for opera La Favola d'Orfeo (The Fable of Orpheus), stood across the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods, and made the most important contribution to the opera early development. 

He exhibited work development from his first, La favola d’Orfeo (The Legend of Orpheus) for the carnival in Mantua, to his last opera, L’incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea). His next opera, Arianna, is now lost in performance except for the famous ‘Lament’, which also made him famous after Orfeo. 

Early Beginnings 
Claudio Monteverdi was born on May 15, 1567, in Cremona, a son of a surgeon who engaged  the director of music of Cremona's cathedral to instruct Claudio and his brother in music. He was in the service of the Duke of Mantua for some eleven years, and later, director of music at St Mark’s in Venice.  

Monteverdi's Other Compositions
His other works include some 250 madrigals, motets and sacred music, notably the Vespers, adding beautiful church music to his previous works. In 1630, he took holy orders after escaping the plague at Venice. From this period two more of his operas survived, the Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (The Return Of Ulysses to Country) and L'Incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea).
In 1610, Monteverdi dedicated his collection of church music, the Vespers, to Pope Paul V. This later became known as "The Vespers of 1610", a perfect introduction to the genius of baroque vocal writing. It was also evident from its opening chorus that for the first time, music was moving away from the private, that is, palace courts, into the public domain.  

Claudio Monteverdi died in Venice, at the age of 76. 

Monteverdi Key Works
Book 1 of Madrigals, 1587
La Favola d'Orfeo (The Fable of Orpheus), opera, 1607
Vespers, 1610
Book 6 of Madrigals, including "Arianna's Lament", 1614
Book 8 of Madrigals, Madrigali Guerrieri e Amorosi (Madrigals of War and Love", including "The Combat Between Tancredi and Clorinda")
Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria (The Return of Ulysses to his Homeland), opera, 1640
L'Incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea), opera, 1642

Related Link:

Monteverdi: L'Orfeo - concert - L'Arpeggiata. Compass Classical Music. Accessed May 15, 2018. 

Photo Credit:

Claudio Monteverdi. / Public Domain. 
Portrait of Claudio Monteverdi, from the title page of Fiori poetici, a 1644 book of commemorative poems for his funeral


The Encyclopedia of Music by Max Wade-Matthews & Wendy Thompson, HHouse (2002)
The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd Edition, edited by Stanley Sadie (2000)
The Oxford Companion to Music, edited by Alison Latham, OUP (2002)

Note:  This piece is abridged version of my original article published for,  8 February 2008. / Tel

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