He, soothing his love-sickness on his hollow shell, sang of thee, O sweet wife, of thee alone on the solitary shore, of thee at dayspring, of thee at the death of the day.Virgil: Georgics, book IV, 30 BC
The source of the opera is the story of Orpheus, who descends into Hades to find his wife—a woman who died before her time— and bring her back using solely the force of his singing. Claudio Monteverdi, a critical figure in the history of opera, transforms this tale into an absolute masterpiece, in which bucolic choirs, virtuoso songs, and lamentations that could bring the most stoic of listeners to tears, all still move the audience today. With this favola in musica written in 1607 for the Duke of Mantua’s court, the master from Cremona wrote the first chef-d’oeuvre in a genre that was in its infancy. Four centuries later, the work has not aged a day. To lend perspective to The Coronation of Poppea, which was Monteverdi’s final operatic work and is being performed at the Théâtre du Jeu de Paume, Leonardo García Alarcón and his troupe will present the music of this first opera in a staged concert.