The Monteverdi 450 project is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the trilogy of extant Monteverdi operas arduously and lavishly prepared by a pioneering conductor who is regarded as an icon of early music scholarship.
Although Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643) has long been recognized as the father of opera, only three of his contributions to the form survive. 2017 marks the 450th anniversary of the Venetian master’s birth, and to celebrate this musical milestone, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir, and the English Baroque Soloists have announced an ambitious international tour, with concert performances of all three operas – L’Orfeo, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, andL’incoronazione di Poppea – in the UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, and the USA, with the Harris Theater being its U.S. Premiere.
Eurydice, the wife of the demi-god Orfeo – son of Apollo, is bitten by a poisonous snake and dies in the pastoral fields of Thrace. Orfeo is determined to persuade the gods of the Underworld to allow Eurydice to return to life. Led by Hope, Orfeo descends to the Underworld, charms the ferryman Caronte, who carries the souls of the dead across the River Styx, to sleep, and ravishes Proserpina, the Queen of Hades, with his desperate song. Proserpina begs Plutone, the King of the Dead, to release Eurydice on the condition that as Orfeo leads her towards the light, he must not look back at her. Orfeo cannot resist the doubt of Eurydice following behind him and turns to check, thus returning to the upper world alone. In grief, Orfeo consecrates his powerful lyre to the memory of Eurydice. Apollo eases his son’s sorrow inviting him to leave the world and join him in the heavens where he can bask in Eurydice’s likeness in the stars.