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Orfeo Recuperated, Monteverdi Transformed

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Tue Oct 31
Green College Special Lecture
Orfeo Recuperated, Monteverdi Transformed

Iain Fenlon, Cambridge University
5:00 pm – 6:30 pm, Coach House, Green College, 6201 Cecil Green Park Road
Reception to follow
FREE and open to the public

In the spring of 1607, Monteverdi’s Orfeo, claimed by music history as ‘the first true opera,’ was given its first performance before an elite aristocratic audience in the Gonzaga palace in Mantua. Alessandro Striggio, a high-ranking Mantuan court official, wrote the libretto, drawing on an episode familiar to many from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. This transformation of a classical myth into a vernacular play was just the first phase of a complicated process.

Converted in turn by Monteverdi, into what he called a “favola in musica,”Orfeo challenged its few early listeners; one of them, a member of that first audience, wrote of the strangeness of a drama in which, as he put it, “all the characters speak in music.” Although Monteverdi’s music was published in an elaborate score two years later, it was not given any further performances and then lay dormant until the late nineteenth century. The history of its subsequent recuperation, and incorporation in the operatic canon, involves many different versions, including re-fashionings at the hands of composers such as Respighi and Berio, as well as more recent and historically-grounded interpretations. As such, it presents a fascinating panorama of organic adaptation and conversion which spans four centuries and is still continuing. Professor Fenlon will also take part in an onstage conversation at 2:15 pm on Sunday, October 29 at the Chan Centre.


This event is part of the series Transforming Sounds / Altered Selves: How Music Changes in Time, Changes Us, and Changes Our Worlds, presented by Green College, Early Music Vancouver, the SSHRC-funded “Early Modern Conversions Project” and the UBC School of Music