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Paper 10: Monteverdi in Mantua and Venice

Aims and objectives

To develop an understanding of the different social, political, and artistic contexts in which Monteverdi lived and worked, and of the relationship between them and his music.

Description of the course

The course contrasts, compares, and contextualizes Monteverdi’s activities as a composer in the two main urban centres in which he worked in the course of his long career: the Gonzaga court in Mantua, and the Republic of Venice. In the first he was initially employed as a member of the court musical establishment; in the course of some twenty years there he wrote some of his best-known music including the Vespers of 1610, the operas L’Orfeo and L’Arianna (of which only the lament survives), and a number of books of madrigals. Although Monteverdi remained in contact with the Gonzaga after his move to Venice, the principal works of the next two decades were composed for St. Mark’s Basilica (where he was employed as maestro di cappella until his death), influential private patrons (Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda), and of the theatres which began to sponsor opera productions from the late 1630s (L’incoronazione di Poppea; Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria). These works will lie at the heart of the course.


Lecturer: Iain Fenlon

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