A first masterpiece

In the court of Gonzaga I of Mantua, Claudio Monteverdi received an order to open the festivities for the carnival of 1607. Based on the myth of Orpheus, the powers of music, love and men’s weakness, the libretto by Alessandro Striggio is perfectly adapted to the emergence of the first masterpiece in the history of opera. The brilliant musician developed a dramatic alternation between the traditional recitative style and grand arias, the first examples of bel canto. This new singing style was combined with choruses, dances and choirs to offer a performance that drew on all the resources of the opera genre.

Signalling the start of the baroque era, Orfeo is not merely a piece of high-society entertainment. Its entirely symmetric structure, its uniformity, its modern orchestra and the efficiency of its tragic language make it a comprehensive performance in which human emotion, philosophical intentions and spectacular performance strike a perfect balance.