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  • andybrom

Monteverdi’s l’Orfeo

Sometimes I just have to believe in Serendipity! (and I don’t mean the ice cream!). And last Friday was one of those times.

Firstly I sat down at my kitchen table and read the newspaper. This might not seem like a big deal but as we get it delivered daily, and rarely actually read it, it is.

Not only that but I made it all the way to the Metro or ‘what’s on’ section. I can honestly not remember when I last did this!

While flicking through something caught my eye – Monteverdi’s l’Orfeo being performed by the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra in a few weeks time! I could not believe my good luck, squealed, and immediately bought tickets.

Why the excitement with this opera???

Well this is the first real opera ever written. The two previous attempts were by the Florentine’s Jacobo Peri and Ottavio Runuccini in 1598 and1600. These men wanted to write music which encompassed all forms of the arts and told a complete story – ‘opera’ meaning ‘the work’. By all accounts the first, Dafne, was met with favourable critic but Euridice was not a great success. This may have had something to do with the subject matter – man’s arrogance and subsequent doom, to be performed at the marriage of Maria de Medici to Henri IV. Probably not the best choice for a festive royal wedding!

This new form of music may have died out then and there if it wasn’t for two guests at the wedding Alessandro Striggio and Vincenzo Gonzaga. Gonzaga was not only the most powerful man in northern Italy but a lover of the arts, a womaniser and a dueller who had killed both his organist and interpreter. A scary place to be employed! His family had ruled Mantua since 1328 and for some reason he thought his new musical concept might have legs!

When he arrived back in Mantua he arranged for his head court musician to have a go at writing an opera – and who was his court musician? The greatest musical genius of the day, Claudio Monteverdi.

And what was his first opera??? L’Orfeo. Written in 1607.

Monteverdi pushed the boundaries of music so far in this piece. He used designated outside instruments to be played inside, used recitative to move through the action and as a tool to make this poignant story plot not overly melodramatic, started the tradition of using a castrato (I don’t think the ABO will use one of these this time!) and finally having the whole drama being told through the music; every thought, emotion, action and event expressed through song.

I can’t wait to hear this production, I’m sure it will be sublime. And I recommend anyone who can get there to go! 19, 20, 21, 25, 26 September

You’ve got to love Serendipity!

Love me


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