Opera Profile: Monteverdi, The Father of Opera

By David Salazar

Claudio Monteverdi is by many considered to be the “father of opera.”

His greatest works in the genre are among the first to survive, with one of them a major fixture of the standard repertoire.

Monteverdi was baptized on May 15, 1567, and developed an extensive career first at the Court of Mantua and then at the Republic of Venice.

His “L’Orfeo” is widely recognized as the first opera in existence and while he managed to get close to a dozen works crafted in his time, only three survive.

Major Works

As noted, “L’Orfeo” is recognized for being the “first” opera ever written, but it is “L’Incoronazione di Poppea” that is widely seen as his masterwork. The opera, which chronicles the rise to power of the titular character establishes the style and structural framework that opera would bow to for centuries. The opera’s final duet, “Pur ti miro” is one of the beloved pieces in the repertoire and is regularly performed out of the context of the opera.

The composer’s other opera, “Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in patria,” is also recognized as a fine opera in its own right and has garnered increasing popularity in recent decades.

Read More on Monteverdi

A Look at his 7 Lost Opera

Watch and Listen

 Check out this performance of “Poppea” with Richard Craft and Patricia Schumann in the lead roles of Nerone and Poppea. The performance is divided into several parts.


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