Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi (15 May 1567 (baptized) – 29 November 1643) was an Italian composer, gambist, and singer.
Monteverdi's work, often regarded as revolutionary, marked the transition from the Renaissance style of music to that of the Baroque period. He developed two individual styles of composition: the new basso continuo technique of the Baroque and the heritage of Renaissance polyphony. Enjoying fame in his lifetime, he wrote one of the earliest operas, L'Orfeo, which is still regularly performed.
Claudio Monteverdi was born in 1567 in Cremona, a town in Northern Italy. His father was Baldassare Monteverdi, a doctor, apothecary and surgeon. He was the oldest of five children. During his childhood, he was taught by Marc'Antonio Ingegnei, the maestro di cappella (The Maestro di capella’s job was to conduct important worship services in accordance with the liturgy books of the Roman Catholic Church.), at the Cathedral of Cremona. Monteverdi learned about music by being part of the cathedral choir. He also studied at the University of Cremona. His first music was written for publication, including some motets and sacred madrigals, in 1582 and 1583. His first five compositions were: Cantiunculae Sacrae, 1582; Madrigal Spirituali, 1583; the three-part canzonets, 1584; and the five-part madrigals– Book I, 1587, and Book II, 1590. By 1587, he had produced his first book of secular madrigals. Monteverdi worked for the court of Mantua first as a singer and violist, then as music director. He worked at the court of Vincenzo I of Gonzaga in Mantua as a vocalist and viol player. In 1602, he was working as the court conductor.
In 1599 Monteverdi married the court singer Claudia Cattaneo, who died in September 1607. He and his wife had two boys and one girl, who died shortly after birth.
By 1613, he had moved to the San Marco in Venice where, as conductor, he quickly restored the musical standard of both the choir and the instrumentalists. The musical standard had declined due to the financial mismanagement of his predecessor, Giulio Cesare Martinengo. The managers of the basilica were relieved to have such a distinguished musician in charge, as the music had been declining since the death of Giovanni Croce in 1609.
In 1632, he became a priest. During the last years of his life, when he was often ill, he composed his two last masterpieces: Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria (The Return of Ulysses, 1641), and the historic opera L'incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea, 1642), based on the life of the infamous Roman emperor Nero. L'incoronazione especially is considered a culminating point of Monteverdi's work. It contains tragic, romantic, and comedic scenes (a new development in opera), a more realistic portrayal of the characters, and warmer melodies than previously heard It requires a smaller orchestra, and has a less prominent role for the choir. For a long period of time, Monteverdi's operas were merely regarded as a historical or musical interest. Since the 1960s, The Coronation of Poppea has re-entered the repertoire of major opera companies worldwide.
Monteverdi died in Venice on November 29, 1643 and was buried at the church of the Frari.
Images & texts:wikipedia.com