Claudio Monteverdi

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Monteverdi, Claudio

(klou`dyō mōntāvĕr`dē), 1567–1643, Italian composer; first great figure in the history of opera. His earliest published works, a set of three motifs, appeared when he was only 15. In 1590 he entered the service of the duke of Mantua, becoming choir master in the ducal court in 1601. Monteverdi's first opera, Orfeo, performed at Mantua in 1607, was revolutionary in its combination of dramatic power and expressive orchestral accompaniment. Of his next opera, Arianna (1608), only the celebrated lament, which Monteverdi himself arranged as a five-part madrigal, is extant. In 1613, Monteverdi was appointed choirmaster of St. Mark's, Venice, where he remained until his death. He took holy orders in 1632. Although he wrote mostly church music after settling in Venice, he continued to develop his dramatic gifts in many secular madrigals and dramatic cantatas such as Il combattimento di Tancredi e di Clorinda (1624). After the first public opera house opened in Venice in 1637, the aged Monteverdi produced his last operas, including Il ritorno di Ulisse in Patria (1641) and L'incoronazione di Poppea (1642), which show marked development in characterization and emotional power. They set the style of later Venetian opera. Of his 21 dramatic works, only six, including three operas, are extant. He was among the first composers to use the tremolo and pizzicato effects with strings, and his music shows a strong sense of modern tonality. In his operas he used large orchestras, whose members he grouped into specific combinations to portray characters on stage. His brother Giulio Cesare Monteverdi, 1573–?, was a composer, organist, and critic, and Claudio's assistant at the court of Mantua.


See studies by D. Arnold (1963 and 1968) and L. Schrade (1950, repr. 1969).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Monteverdi, Claudio


(Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi). Born May 15, 1567, in Cremona; died Nov. 29, 1643, in Venice. Italian composer.

From 1590 to 1612, Monteverdi served as a musician, singer, and choirmaster in the chapel of the Gonzaga dukes in Mantua. In 1613 he became the choirmaster of St. Mark’s Church in Venice. Monteverdi wrote mainly polyphonic choral music; between 1587 and 1683 he published eight books of madrigals. Continuing the polyphonic tradition of the 16th century, Monteverdi strove for lyrical and dramatic expressiveness in his music; this tendency is noticeable even in his madrigals, which gradually led to a renewal of the whole madrigal genre.

From 1607, Monteverdi was occupied chiefly with composing operas. Only his first opera, La f a vola a “Orfeo (1607, Mantua), and his last two, // ritorno d “Ulisse in patria (1640, Bologna) and I’incoronazione di Poppea (1642, Venice) have been preserved. Monteverdi developed and broadened the opera’s musical expressiveness; he imparted to this then new genre (“fairy tale set to music, ““drama set to music“) real dramatic meaning. He was the innovator of the stile concitato (emotional style) in music. Monteverdi greatly influenced his contemporaries, especially the composers of the Venetian school.


Konen, V. D. K. Monteverdi. Moscow, 1971
Prunières, H. Claudio Monteverdi. Paris, 1924.
Malipiero, G. F. Claudio Monteverdi. Milan, 1929.
Albert, A. A. Claudio Monteverdi und das musikalische Drama. Lippstadt, 1954.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.