(New York Times) — More than any other composer of his time, Claudio Monteverdi liberated the human voice to express the most intense personal emotions. His “L’Orfeo,” which had its premiere in 1607, is widely regarded as the first great opera. But in the madrigals — short poetry settings that were sometimes woven into dramatic sequences — Monteverdi had already created an unprecedented synthesis between words and music. And his progressive style spilled over into church music.
This season in Europe, to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Monteverdi’s birth, early music ensembles are exploring the composer’s oeuvre in all its breadth. Performances include I Fagiolini presenting Monteverdi’s lesser-known vespers (the 1641 “Selva morale e spirtuale”) at the Edinburgh International Festival on Aug. 19, and Les Arts Florissants in a selection from the third and fourth books of madrigals at the Festival in the Gardens of William Christie on Aug. 21 and 23.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner and his Monteverdi Choir are on tour with a semi-staged trilogy of Monteverdi’s three surviving operas — “L’Orfeo,” “Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria” and “L’incoronazione di Poppea” — which arrives in Salzburg on July 26 and Lucerne on Aug. 22. […]