Portland Opera Vino e Voce features Monteverdi

02/21/2017 08:31 pm ET Updated Feb 22, 2017
Courtesy Portland Opera

The Portland Opera just introduced an innovative event entitled Vino e Voce. The concept features the performance of operatic works in a more intimate setting with a casual atmosphere that features a wine sampler. For the debut event, they presented a fully staged Songs of Love and War by Claudio Monteverdi at their Hampton Opera Center, recently named Gregory K. and Mary Chomenko Hinckley Studio Theater, in Portland, Oregon.

“For this production, I’ve selected madrigals from Books 7, 8 and 9,” says General Director Christopher Mattaliano, who directed the production. “The poetry in these songs is surprisingly “modern” in viewpoint, covering a wide range of emotion and content: courtship and seduction, sensual attraction, unrequited love, sexual passion, betrayal, lovers at war, and the tension between chastity and sensual pleasure”.

Christopher Mattaliano personally chose the music of Monteverdi to integrate into this new concept, and especially the madrigals as they truly lend themselves to a modern treatment. It seems counter-intuitive that music from the 17th century would maintain such relevance in a contemporary setting.

In 1607 Claudio Monteverdi (at the age of 40) composed the opera L'Orfeo. Thirty-one years later, he created his eighth book of madrigals, known as the Songs of Love and War. The poetry in these madrigals uses the metaphor of war to describe love. In total, Monteverdi composed nine books of madrigals - essentially “song books” - that contain a series of vocal solos, duets, trios, quartets and other ensembles.

Unlike more modern music, the instrumentation of the scores of the baroque period is not specified, so the score serves as an outline upon which the director is free to embellish, given knowledge of the Baroque style. The result of the production by Nicholas Fox was a rich ensemble, with the artists adding ornamentation such as trills to their individual parts. The orchestra was tuned to a Baroque pitch, which aided in producing an authentic Baroque-era sound. After listening to Monteverdi, you can see for yourself how his artful combination of voices, and especially trios, contributed significantly to the body of operatic work. Click here for information on Claudio Monteverdi.

The opening night performance on February 17th was very well received by the audience, with lots of good interaction both during the show and afterwards. The closing show is apparently sold out already, so word must have gotten out that Vino e Voce was a hit!

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