'Orfeo,' indeed, exhibits many very remarkable affinities with Dramatic Music in its latest form of development—affinities which may not unreasonably lead us to enquire whether some of our newest conceptions are really so original as we suppose them to be. The employment of certain characteristic Instruments to support the Voices of certain members of the Dramatis personæ is one of them. The constant use of a species of Mezzo recitative—so to speak—in preference either to true Recitative, or true Melody, is another. But, what shall we say of the Instrumental Prelude, formed, from beginning to end, upon one single chord, with one single bass note sustained throughout? No two compositions could be less alike, in feeling, than this, and the Introduction to 'Das Rheingold'—yet, in construction, the two pieces are absolutely identical.
Monteverde produced only one more work of any importance, during his residence at Mantua—a Mythological Spectacle, called 'Il ballo delle Ingrate,' which was performed at the same time as 'Orfeo.' Five years later, he was invited to Venice, by the Procuratori of S. Mark, who, on the death of Giulio Cesare Martinengo, in 1613, elected him their Maestro di Capella, promising him a salary of three hundred ducats per annum—half as much again as any previous Maestro had ever received—together with a sum of fifty ducats for the expenses of his journey, and a house in the Canons' Close. In 1616, his salary was raised to five hundred ducats: and, from that time forward, he gave himself up entirely to the service of the Republic, and signed his name 'Claudio Monteverde, Veneziano.'
The new Maestro's time was now fully occupied in the composition of Church Music for the Cathedral, in training the Singers who were to perform it, and in directing the splended Choir placed under his command. His efforts to please his generous patrons were crowned with complete success; and his fame spread far and wide. On May 25, 1621, some Florentines, resident in Venice, celebrated a grand Requiem, in the Church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo, in memory of Duke Cosmo II. Monteverde composed the music, which produced a profound impression: but, judging from Strozzi's extravagant description, it would seem to have been more fitted for performance in the Theatre, than in the Church. A happier opportunity for the exercise of his own peculiar talent presented itself, in 1624, in connection with some festivities which took place at the Palace of Girolamo Mocenigo. On this occasion he composed the Music to a grand Dramatic Interlude, called Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, in the course of which he introduced, among other novel effects, an instrumental tremolo, used exactly as we use it at the present day—a passage which so astonished the performers, that, at first, they refused to play it.
But Monteverde's will was now too powerful to be resisted. He was the most popular Composer in Europe. In 1627, he composed five Intermezzi for the Court of Parma. In 1629, he wrote a Cantata—'Il Rosajo fiorito'—for the Birth-day Festival of the Son of Vito Morosini, governor of Rovigo. In 1630, he won new laurels by the production of 'Proserpina rapita,' a grand Opera, written for him by Giulio Strozzi, and represented at the Marriage Festival of Lorenzo Giustiniani and Giustiniana Mocenigo. Soon after this event, Italy was devastated by a pestilence, which, within the space of sixteen months, destroyed fifty thousand lives. On the cessation of the plague, in November, 1631, a grand Thanksgiving Service was held, in the Cathedral of S. Mark, and, for this, Monteverde wrote a Mass, in the Gloria and Credo of which he introduced an accompaniment of Trombones. Two years later, in 1633, he was admitted to the Priesthood; and, after this, we hear nothing more of him, for some considerable time.
In the year 1637, the first Venetian Opera House, Il Teatro di San Cassiano, was opened to the public, by Benedetto Ferrari and Francesco Manelli. In 1639, the success of the house was assured; and Monteverde wrote for it a new Opera, called 'L'Adone.' In 1641, 'Arianna' was revived, with triumphant success, at another new Theatre—that of S. Mark. In the same year, the veteran Composer produced two new works—'Le Nozze di Enea con Lavinia,' and 'Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in patria.' Finally, in 1642, appeared 'L'lncoronazione di Poppea'—the last great effort of a genius, which, in less than half a century, proved itself strong enough to overthrow a system which had been at work for ages, and to establish in its place another, which has served as the basis of all the great works produced between the year in which the Dominant Seventh was invented, and that in which we are now living.
Monteverde died, in 1643, and was buried in the Chiesa dei Frari, where his remains still rest, in a Chapel, on the Gospel side of the Choir. Of his printed works, we possess eight Books of Madrigals, published between the years 1587, and 1638; the volume of Canzonette, published in 1584; a volume of Scherzi; the complete edition of 'Orfeo'; and three volumes of Church Music. A MS. copy of 'Il Ritorno d'Ulisse' is preserved in the Imperial Library, at Vienna; but it is much to be regretted that the greater number of the Composer's MSS. appear to be hopelessly lost. We shall never be able to say the same of his influence upon Art—that can
- We deeply regret that want of space forbids us to give this Movement, in extenso. We have, however, good hope that it will not long remain unedited.