Claudio Monteverdi was an Italian composer whose work marked the transition from Renaissance music to Baroque music.
Monteverdi studied organ, viola, singing and counterpoint with Marc Antonio Ingegneri. After having published small sacred hymns and madrigals for four voices, he became well-known at the age of twenty when he published his first 5-part madrigal book; two further books shortly followed – there were eight in all. In 1590, Monteverdi was hired by the Duke Vincenzo of Mantua as an instrumentalist and then a decade later as Chapel Master. He devoted himself to madrigals and sacred music (creating Vespro della Beata Vergine), but also to the new genre of opera, first with Orfeo in 1607. This stage work focused on the same subject as Euridice (1600), the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice; it was an immense success and, according to some, marked the birth of opera. In 1608, the Lament from Arianna, Monteverdi's second lyric book, proved to be so popular that Monteverdi twice re-used the music.
In 1613, Monteverdi became choirmaster of the San Marco in Venice, a position he held until his death. He composed prolifically, mainly producing books of religious music, but also a number dramatic works, the majority of which are today lost. We do still however have two major operas from this period, The Return of Ulysses in his Homeland (1640) and The Coronation of Poppea (1643).
Monteverdi's music is full of evolving polyphony, and characterized by the definitive abandonment of the modal system and the appearance of elements of Baroque. It developed the solo voice and appealed more directly to the audience and their emotions.
Six Landmark Dates in the Life of Monteverdi
• 1601: Became Chapel Master in Mantua
• 1605: Published book 5 of his madrigals, in which he juxtaposed new and old style
• 1608: Premiere of Arianna, Monteverdi's second operatic work, of which only the Lamento remains
• 1613: Became Chapel master at St. Mark's Basilica in Venice
• 1630: Was ordained as a priest
• 1641: Wrote Selva morale e spirituale, a collection of sacred pieces of different styles
Six Key Works by Monteverdi
• 1607 : L’Orfeo, opera
• 1610 : Vespro della Beata Vergine
• 1610 : Missa in illo tempore
• 1638 : Madrigali guerrieri e amorosi, book 8 of his Madrigals
• 1641 : Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, opera (prologue and 3 acts)
• 1643 : L’incoronazione di Poppea, opera (prologue and 3 acts)