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Monteverdi in Venice

The series about historical places of opera art & culture. Get to know exciting excursion and travel ideas for opera lovers. This time: Monteverdi  in Venice.


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Monteverdi in Venice

Claudio Monteverdi:

In 1613, the 46-year-old Monteverdi found himself in difficult economic circumstances. His underpaid job as maestro at the court of Mantua was on the line because the new duke was not a lover of the arts like his just-deceased predecessor. So it came in handy for Monteverdi that the position as music director of St. Mark’s Cathedral became vacant. In this important position he found the artistic and economic recognition he had been seeking.

When the plague struck in 1632, he lost his son and became ill. After his recovery, under the impact of the plague epidemic, he had himself ordained a priest.

Already over 70 years old, he reinvented himself once again when Venice opera opened up to secular themes and needed operas for the carnival season. The opera was independent of a court theater and was attended by a middle-class audience seeking entertainment during the carnival season. He abandoned the usual mythological material and wrote the scathing satire “L’incoronazione di Poppea.” One of the most successful creations was the Amme Arnaulta, sung by a castrato, making Monteverdi, appropriately for Venice’s carnival season in 1643 at the age of 76, the inventor of the drag queen (more on this in the digression at the bottom). The theater of the first performance, San Giovanni e Paolo, no longer exists. Shortly after the first performance of the “Incoronazione” Monteverdi died in Venice.




Destination Basilica San Marco (St. Mark’s)

In his function as Kapellmeister, Monteverdi took special care of the choirs. The excellent acoustics of St. Mark’s Cathedral allowed the choirs to be placed in the room. Listen to the beautiful hymn “Ave maris stella” from the Marian Vespers from Gardiner’s brilliant recording from St. Mark’s Cathedral in 1990.

If you have the opportunity to listen to music in St. Mark’s Basilica, take it.

Basilica San Marco:

San Marco St. Marks's Basilica Markusdom Venice Venedig Claudio Monteverdi Travel Reisen Culture Tourism (1)



Destination Santa Maria Della Salute

In 1630 Venice lost 50,000 inhabitants to the plague, which was a third of its residents. The Doge vowed to endow a church for the cessation of the plague. This became the magnificent Santa Maria della Salute opposite the Doge’s Palace. Monteverdi wrote a Mass of thanksgiving for it and performed it in the opening of the church.

Santa Maria Della Salute:

Santa Maria della Salute Venice Venedig Claudio Monteverdi Travel Reisen Culture Tourism (1)



Destination Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

Monteverdi’s tomb is in the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari.

Monteverdi’s tomb:

Santa Maria Gloriosa dei FrariTomb Monteverdi Venice Venedig Claudio Monteverdi Travel Reisen Culture Tourism (1)



Musical background: A drag queen and the first mega-hit in the history of opera in “L’incoronazione di poppea”

Monteverdi and the Venetian librettist Busenello chose for this opera an arsenal of role types that became trend-setting. First of all, there is the contrast between the couple of high rank (Nero / Poppea) and that of low rank (Ottone / Drusilla). Furthermore, the comedic characters from the people (the nurses, the servants), the role of the intriguer (Ottavia) and the trouser role of the page are to be mentioned. How close this constellation seems to us to Mozart’s opera “Le nozze di Figaro”, which was composed 150 years later and written by the Venetian da Ponte!

Listen and see sung by Poppea’s travesty amme the enchanting lullaby “Oblivion soave”.

Oblivion soave:


With the famous duet “Pur ti miro, pur ti godo” Monteverdi may have succeeded in creating the first megahit in opera history. Listen to the magical piece.

Pur ti miro, pur ti godo



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