L'incoronazione di Poppea : Work information

Claudio (Giovanni Antonio) Monteverdi ( Music, Images,)
Performed by
Boris Christoff (Bass), Bulgarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Choeur National Bulgare, Ettore Gracis (Conductor)

This work

Work name
L'incoronazione di Poppea
Work number
1642-01-01 02:00:00

This recording

Forlane CI
Ivan Pastor
Recording date
1992-01-01 00:00:00

Track listing

  • Act II Scene 1 - Aria: 'Solitudine amata...' 14:10 min


First performed in Venice's Teatro SS Giovanni e Paolo, L'Incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea) was probably Monteverdi's last work, though doubt has recently been shed on how much of it he actually wrote. It is now generally thought that some sections of the opera were written by younger composers such as Sacrati, Benedetto Ferrari and Cavalli.

The opera tells of Poppea's love for the Emperor Nero and her ambition to become Emperess, celebrating lust and ambition over reason and morality. These flawed human vices are vividly potrayed by the music. Nero and Poppea express their love in sensuous lyricism and Octavia, as the wronged wife of Nero, sings only in recitative.

The opera ends with a touching love duet between Nero and Poppea, Pur ti miro, pur ti godo (I gaze on you, I delight in you), and other highlights include Seneca's death scene, Amici e giunta l'hora (Friends, the hour is at hand) and Octavia's farewell to Rome, A Dio Roma.

The Composers

Claudio (Giovanni Antonio) Monteverdi

Born in Cremona, Claudio Monteverdi was the son of a barber who supplemented his meager income by the illegal practice of medicine.  Taught by the master of the cathedral choir, Monteverdi published his first book of motets at age 15, following this with a book of sacred madrigals the next year.  These are assumed to have been subsidised by the rich patrons to whom they were dedicated, and Monteverdi continued to publish prolifically throughout his life.  In 1592 he began employment under the Duke of Mantua as a string player, and his compositions from this time show the influence of the maestro di cappella there, Giaches de Wert .  Monteverdi was clearly favoured by the Duke, travelling with him in 1595 to Austria and Hungary.  Although he did not succeed de Wert after his death in 1596, Pallavincino, who was chosen for the post, lived only until 1601, after which Monteverdi took over at the court chapel. 

By this time Monteverdi had become rather controversial, attacked by Artusi for his modern use of harmony.  This seems to have cemented his reputation, and his public ripostes to his critics fuelled demand for his published works.  In 1607 he wrote his first opera, L'Orfeo, and returned to Cremona to tend to his dying wife.  An intensive period of work following his return to Mantua and the death of close friends took its toll on Monteverdi, and he lapsed into depression.  By 1610 he was seeking employment elsewhere, visiting Rome and Venice.  Duke Vicenzo would not allow him to leave, but upon his death in 1612 Monteverdi found the new duke only too willing for him, and many other musicians, to go.  He returned to Cremona and accompolished little until the following year.

Monteverdi was invited to Venice, where he impressed the procurators of the chapel of St Mark's sufficiently to be offered a post and a handsome financial gift.  After returning home to set his affairs in order he was robbed by brigands, but seems to have settled into his new post well otherwise.  Under his leadership new singers were found for the choir, the musicians were put on a full-time payroll and more masses were sung, reviving the works of Lassus and Palestrina.  All this initially left him little time for composition, and he appointed composers to write for St Mark's while he wrote more lucrative works for Mantua.

1627 began a run of ill fortune for Monteverdi - his son was arrested by the Inquisition for possession of banned books, and he was required to raise bail.  The following year the Duke of Mantua died, and in the absence of a male heir the court was ransacked, leaving Monteverdi with no source of commissions.  Venice was struck by the plague in 1630, which aside from anything else was disatrous for the publishing industry.  Monteverdi was clearly glad to escape with his life - in 1631 he composed a mass in thanks for his survival.  All this caused a notable drop in his output, and he took holy orders soon afterwards, returning to the public eye when Venice opened its first public opera houses in 1637.  For these new establishments he wrote various pieces, including L'incoronazione di Poppea (1642).  His works were collected for publication in two stages, first in 1638 for his secular music and then religious in 1641.  He died in 1643, shortly after a trip home to Cremona.

Related Composers: Peri, Caccini, Cavalieri