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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Saturday, June 29

A modern Monteverdi premiere

Synopsis

The reign of the Roman emperor Nero, notorious for his horrific deeds, was chronicled by the historian Tacitus. His account of the rise of the courtesan Poppea from Nero’s mistress to his empress, provides the plot of one of the operas written by the 17th century Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi.

Monteverdi’s “The Coronation of Poppea” was first performed in Venice at the Teatro Sanctae Giovanni e Paolo in the autumn of 1643.

The first performance of Monteverdi’s “Poppea” in modern times had to wait until 1913, when the French composer Vincent d’Indy presented his arrangement of “Poppea” in Paris. In America and Britain, “Poppea” was first staged in 1927, at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts and at Oxford University in England. It wasn’t until today’s date in 1962 that a full professional staging of “Poppea” occurred at the Glyndebourne Festival in England, in a version prepared and conducted by Raymond Leppard.

Monteverdi did not prescribe specific vocal ranges for the characters, and since there was no standardized orchestra in the 17th century, it was customary back then to simply give a list of some suggested instruments and leave it to the performers to decide who played what and when. Therefore, any MODERN performance of a Monteverdi opera is always somebody’s “version” of the surviving notes, based on educated guesswork and the available performers.

Music Played in Today's Program

Claudio Monteverdi (1567 – 1643) L'incoronazione di Poppea soloists; Vienna Concentus Music Vienna; Nikolaus Harnoncourt, cond. Teldec 42547

Additional Information

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