John Taylor Ward
During the summer of 2003 we paid homage to Claudio Monteverdi through a spectacular documentary exploring the composer’s life and showcasing his sacred and secular music in richly evocative venues.
Composer Claudio Monteverdi has been central to our organisation for 60 years. During this time John Eliot Gardiner has been a pioneering figure in the revival of Monteverdi, breathing new life into little-known repertoire and giving Monteverdi his rightful place on international concert and opera stages.
In 2017, to mark the 450th anniversary of the birth of Monteverdi, the Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists and an exemplary cast of world-class singers performed the composer’s 3 surviving operas: L’Orfeo, L’incoronazione di Poppea & Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria. The Monteverdi 450 Project, which was awarded the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Award, was preceded by a series of workshops under the auspices of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice and culminated with a site-specific itinerant concert at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
In 2019 Monteverdi Choir & Orchestras released a critically acclaimed series of podcasts to explore the role of Monteverdi within the tumultuous cultural environment of the early 17th century.
In June 2023 we returned to Italy to film a prestigious documentary in the Galleria Borghese, Rome and at significant sites in Monteverdi’s career: Cremona, Mantua and Venice. This landmark project enabled us to bring to life the dialogue between Monteverdi and his contemporaries for international audiences. John Eliot Gardiner was named an Honorary Citizen of Cremona, the town where Monteverdi was born, on 25 June 2023. The ceremony was held in the Sala dei Quadri of the Palazzo Comunale in Cremona, Italy.
Monteverdi in Rome – Galleria Borghese
We performed in the Galleria Borghese in Rome and took Monteverdi on an imaginary journey, bringing his music alive alongside the artworks of Caravaggio, Bernini and Titian.
Venice: Monteverdi’s sacred music beside his tomb
Travelling to Venice gave us a special opportunity to pay homage to the final years of Monteverdi’s life, which he spent as Maestro di Cappella at the Basilica San Marco. We performed a programme of sacred music at the Basilica dei Frari, the church where Monteverdi is buried. Works from the composer’s Selva Morale collection (including the beloved ‘Beatus vir’) and his late Messa quattro voci (Mass for four voices) bloomed in this wonderful venue, which is home to artistic masterpieces by Titian, Donatello and Bellini. Performing beside Monteverdi’s tomb was a highlight of the tour.
Monteverdi in Mantua: Jewels of the 4th, 6th and 8th books of madrigals
This performance in the Galleria degli Specchi at the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua offered an exceptional opportunity to hear Monteverdi’s music in the home of the Gonzaga family. The Dukes of Mantua were patrons of some of the greatest poets, artists and musicians in Europe in the 16th and early 17th centuries, from Bellini and Mantegna to Rubens and Tasso. It was in their palace that Monteverdi composed and performed some of his greatest works, including his first opera L’Orfeo. The music performed included Monteverdi’s settings of texts by poets directly connected with the Mantuan court, including Ottavio Rinuccini and Scipione Agnelli, as well as Petrarch, the father of Italian humanism himself.
Monteverdi in Cremona - Sacred works
Monteverdi’s final major publications of music, his Selva morale e spirituale (1640-41) and Messa e Salmi (published posthumously in 1650) gather the greatest sacred works he composed in the final decades of his life. These richly varied pieces include works for choir as well as for solo voices and madrigalian meditations on the frailty of life. They also reveal the close connections between the sacred and the profane: the tragic Pianto della Madonna is a sacred version of the heroine’s lament from Monteverdi’s second opera, L’Arianna.
Public Performance – Sunday 25 June 2023 – Chiesa di Sant’Agostino
We brought these impassioned and serene late works to the church of Sant’Agostino in Cremona, the town where the composer was born, for a public performance on the last night of the 2023 Monteverdi Festival. La Provincia described the performance as, “A heavenly, sublime concert” and Voce Blu noted, “Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists enchant at the Monteverdi Festival in Cremona.”
Image: Andrea Mantegna (1431–1506), Camera degli Sposi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantua, Italy.