Discover Monteverdi’s colourfully emotional music with our playlist

With less than a week to go until the Monteverdi 450 series makes its UK premiere at Colston Hall with Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, we’ve made a short playlist to highlight some our favourite moments from the three Monteverdi operas that are coming to Colston Hall during April and May 2017. Monteverdi’s music is all about bringing the high emotion of text to their full effect, and we can’t wait to see it realised by the world’s finest experts: English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir under the baton of Sir John Eliot Gardiner.

A whistle-stop tour of the emotions of Monteverdi

There are so many glorious moments that it was hard to narrow it down, but we had to start with the playful, pastoral celebration of the shepherds and nymphs at the opening of L’Orfeo (track 1). The opera moves later to a colourfully chromatic conversation (track 6) that communicates tragedy through unpredictable harmonic shifts and tense speech-like exchanges between the characters, contrasting wonderfully with the stately brass-gilded chorus that follows (track 7).

In L’incoronazione di Poppea, the gliding silvery melodies of Poppea’s hymn to love and Arnalta’s lullaby (track 2) are dramatically countered by the noble but doom-laden gravity of the philosopher Seneca as he is visited by the gods’ messenger Mercury (track 3). This opera, of course, culminates in the exquisite, intertwining duet of determined lovers Poppea and Nerone (track 9).

Il ritorno d’Ulisse oscillates beautifully between light and shade, joy and fear. The heaving sorrow of Penelope as she curses love and mourns her long-lost husband (track 4) is made all the more poignant by the frivolous song of her suitors (track 5). The lush strings of ‘Fiamma e l’ira’ (track 8) give way perfectly to the elegant runs sung by the goddess Minerva as she helps Ulisse regain his land and Penelope’s love.

Move over Huey Lewis, it’s all about Monteverdi and the power of love

Above all, Monteverdi was a master of representing the consuming power of love with such emotional intelligence that his provocative, sensual writing still touches the hearts and minds of listeners all over the world today. Even in his short madrigals, often lasting just a few minutes, his remarkable comprehension of the partnership between music and emotion shines through. For example, the stunning ‘Lamento Della Ninfa’ (track 10) almost feels like a tiny, concise opera in itself. But beyond mere pain and anguish, his operas embody the ideal of redemptive love, so we’ve rounded off the playlist with Love’s chorus from L’incoronazione di Poppea (track 11).

Our Monteverdi450 series kicks off on Wednesday 12 April with Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, followed by L’incoronazione di Poppea on Monday 8 May, and finally L’Orfeo on Sunday 28 May.

Tickets and information available at

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