Remembering Monteverdi’s 7 Lost Operas As He Turns 450

By David Salazar

Claudio Monteverdi, baptized on May 15, 1567 (he’s now 450), is known as the father of opera, his “L’Orfeo” widely recognized as the very first opera in existence. To this day, we know of two other complete works, “L’Incoronazione di Poppea” and “Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in patria,” which are both parts of the canon.

But this was not his only operatic output. In fact, there are other works, seven to be exact, that the legendary composer created. Here is a look at his “lost operas.”


Monteverdi composed this work between 1607-08 and it was actually his second opera. The work premiered on May 28, 1608, in Mantua and the libretto remains intact. Unfortunately, all the music, with the exception of one extended recitative is completely lost. This recitative is the famous “Lamento d’Arianna” which has influenced many works of music thereafter, turning into a popular concert or recital piece.

Le Nozze di Tetide

This work was written to celebrate the marriage of Duke Ferdinando Gonzaga to Catherine de’ Medici. The work is based on the marriage of the Greek hero Peleus to the goddess Thetis. Monteverdi delayed the project on several occasions throughout 1616 and 1617, his heart never fully in it. It was eventually scrapped altogether and its music and libretto lost for all time.


This work, which Monteverdi worked on between 1619 and 1620 was also heavily delayed because the composer was not particularly enthused by the work. He tried to drop the project repeatedly but was forced to finish it. The music is completely lost though the libretto was rediscovered in 1984. However, it remains in private hands and has not yet been made public.

La Finta Pazza Licori

The libretto, written by Giulio Strozzi, was the first known attempt at comic opera, with the woman Licori disguising herself as a man, a woman and then feigns madness to win over her lover. Monteverdi was enthusiastic about the work, even planning one ballet for each of the five acts. The commission, made by Mantua court secretary Alessandro Striggio, was ultimately annulled. All music and the libretto is lost.

Armida Abbandonata

This work followed “Licori,” and Monteverdi was instructed to begin on this work, which follows the enchantress Armida seducing Rinaldo to her island. In 1627, he presumably told Striggio, who commissioned the work alongside “Licori,” that the work was completed and copied. The opera’s premiere was ultimately canceled. There is some speculation that the work did get a premiere though it is lost to posterity.

Proserpina Rapita

The Venice commission was staged in 1630 and one fragment of music survives, a song for three voices. The opera is said to have placed greater emphasis on dance numbers and there are other notes on music in the published libretto of the opera.

Le Nozze d’Enea con Lavinia 

Another Venice commission, this opera was sandwiched between the famed “Ulisse” and “Poppea” in 1641. The libretto survives in manuscript form, but music is nowhere to be found. The opera is often paired thematically with the other two works, noting its look at Rome’s historical progression.


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