Monday, April 10, 2017

Monteverdi at 450: Don’t Believe the Hype (Guest post by Andrew Dell'Antonio)

From Linda: Hello, everyone! I completed my eighteen treatments of brain radiation a little over a week ago, and as far as I can tell, I’m not experiencing much in the way of cognitive impairment. That’s particularly good news, considering that in the past month I’ve had some fantastic opportunities: I received a commission to write program notes for a concert by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and I’ve been selected as a contestant for Jeopardy!, with the taping next week. So, even though I have a clear idea of what I want to blog about next, I haven’t had the time to write the posts.

But people keep being wrong on the internet, and I’m not the only one who cares. My friend and colleague Andrew Dell’Antonio (co-editor of The Avid Listener) spotted a trend in the way newspapers are using Claudio Monteverdi to boost tourism, and he offered to write a guest post. My sincere thanks to Andrew for his contribution!

As a long-time admirer of Linda Shaver-Gleason’s insights on the perils of musical-historical cliché, I am absolutely honored that she has given me this opportunity to have my say on an instance of celebratory flim-flam from my own musical-historical backyard.

Claudio Monteverdi
Portrait by Bernardo Strozzi
We are in the 450th anniversary year of the birth of Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), verifiably one of the most prominent European musicians of the turn of the seventeenth century.  Anniversaries bring celebrations, and several have already been underway, the most noteworthy sponsored by the town of Cremona, where he was born, but also at Mantua, where he built his reputation, and Venice, where he landed and put down roots for the last 30 years of his long and productive life.

Most recently hype has bubbled up in a pair of posts from the travel sections of UK newspaper web sites The Guardian and The Telegraph, in conjunction with a planned performance in Venice of the three surviving operas by Monteverdi by prominent English ensembles directed by John Eliot Gardiner. Stephen Pritchard of The Guardian gushes:
The first composer to break through convention and display the true nature of humanity… a man who moved music out of the Renaissance into the Baroque, as much a revolutionary in his own artform as his contemporaries Shakespeare, Galileo, Cervantes, Caravaggio and Rubens were in theirs.