Claudio Monteverdi

L’Orfeo (1607)

Tells the story of Orpheus. Consider at this moment, the power of the orpheus legend with respect to sound and music.

L’Orfeo is considered to be the first opera, or at least, the first serious opera. Operas are commonly divided into arias, recitatives, and choruses.

1. Toccata

Listen to the Toccata that opens the Opera:


Q1.1 What is the spirit of the toccata and how does it relate to the cover of the score shown below?


(here is my translation…)


Fable in Music

by Claudio Monteverdi

Presented in Mantova

in the year 1607 & and again in …

To his Excellency Mr (Sir might be better…)

Don Francesco Gonzaga

Prince of Mantova, and Monserato

Printed in Venice by Ricciardo Amadino

MDCIX (1609)




Who is Gonzaga?

Where is Mantova?

Again, how does this text relate to the Tocatta?

Let’s now watch the production by Jordi Savall, at the Liceu in Barcelona:

Q.1.2 What do you think was the function of the Tocatta in the performance of L’Orfeo?

2. Prologo: La Musica

Look for a second at the beginning of the score for the Prologue.

Can you recognize the Basso Continuo?

Let’s pay attention to two important innovations:


Let’s watch:

Try to follow the Libretto:

Here is the audio in case you want to listen instead of seeing:



3. Aria: Possente Spirto

When listening to the excerpt below, have these questions in mind:

Q.3.1. How does the singing style of this aria compare to that of the recitativo? (for example, which one is more melismatic?)

Q.3.2. Why do you think he chooses to use this singing style for this aria?


4. Re-Creating L’Orfeo:

The following clip gives some context to Orfeo and to the stage design for the Savall production. Watch as much as you can, but try to each at least the first few minutes.

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