Composers Datebook®

Monteverdi gets mugged (and a new job)

Composer's Datebook - Aug. 18, 2023


August 1613 proved to be an especially eventful month in the life and career of Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi. The previous summer his old employer, Duke Vincenzo of Mantua, had died, and Monteverdi was looking for a job.  Fortunately, the position of Master of Music for the Republic of Venice opened up, and, on today’s date Monteverdi was probably rehearsing musicians for a trial concert of his music at St. Mark’s Cathedral. The concert was a success. Monteverdi got the job, a generous salary, and even a cash advance to cover the move from his home.

So much for the good news—on his trip back home, Monteverdi was robbed by highwaymen armed with muskets. In a surviving letter, Monteverdi described the incident in some detail, noting that the muskets were very long and of the flint-wheel variety, and that he lost more than a hundred Venetian ducats.

Despite the trauma—and the humiliation of being strip-searched for valuables by one of the robbers—Monteverdi recovered his fortunes in Venice. In addition to his church duties at St. Mark’s, he became famous writing a newfangled sort of commercial entertainment called opera, and lived to the ripe old age of 77.

Music Played in Today's Program

Claudio Monteverdi (1567 – 1643) Che dar piu vi poss'io, fr 5th Book of Madrigals Consort of Musicke; Anthony Rooley, conductor. L'oiseau Lyre 410 291

On This Day


  • 1750 - Italian opera composer Antonio Salieri, in Legnago (near Verona);

  • 1849 - French composer Benjamin Godard, in Paris;

  • 1893 - Canadian composer and conductor Sir Ernest MacMillan, in Mimico, Ontario;


  • 1942 - Austrian composer Erwin Schulhoff, age 48, in a German concentration camp in Wülzburg;


  • 1820 - Schubert: opera "Die Zauberharfe" (The Magic Harp) in Vienna;

  • 1912 - Schreker: opera "Der ferne Klang" (The Distant Sound), in Frankfurt at the Opernhaus;

  • 1938 - Britten: Piano Concerto, with the composer as soloist, at a Proms Concert conducted by Sir Henry Wood;

  • 1956 - Henry Brant: "On the Nature of Things," for spatially grouped instruments and strings, in Bennington, Vt.;

  • 1966 - Ulysseys Kay: "Markings" (dedicated to the late Secretary General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld), at the Meadow Brook Music Festival in Rochester, Michigan;


  • 1906 - Gustav Mahler conducts the first of two performances of Mozart's opera "The Marriage of Figaro" in Salzburg, Austria, during a Mozart Festival that also included Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte" conducted by Richard Strauss.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®