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Live from the Vienna State Opera-Monterverdi: The Return of Ulysses to his Homeland

Monday, 3 April 2023 , ora 11.39

This Sunday, the 2nd of April 2023, I'm expecting you earlier than usual, at 19.30 o'clock, for a special edition of Opera in reference interpretation.

We'll be listening to the live transmission from the Vienna State Opera of a special piece from the middle of the XVII century, signed by Claudio Monteverdi-the opera "The Return of Ulysses to his Homeland"

Although Monteverdi (1567-1643) wrote many pieces, only three of his stage scores have been preserved to this day: Orpheus, dating from 1607, which is undoubtedly his most famous creation, and two other operas composed by the Italian artist towards the end of his life: The Return of Ulysses to his Homeland, from 1640, and theThe Coronation of Poppaea.

Based on Homer's Odyssey, The Return of Ulysses to his Homeland uses the story from books 13 to 23 of the epic poem, where Uylsses returns to his Homeland after the Trojan War, after an absence of 20 years, and kills his wife's suitors, who had taken over his palace. Monteverdi was 73 years old when he wrote the opera, based on the libretto of Giacomo Badoardo. The premiere, which took place in 1640, during the Carnival of Venice, was a great success, and the opera was presented again the following year, which was unsual at the time. The performance took place at one of the public opera houses that had been recently opened in Venice and that aimed to entertain the masses. Then the score dissapeared, and was regained at the end of the XIX century, when an unsigned manuscript was found in Vienna, proof of a production that had taken place there. But only towards the end of the XX century, when other documents have been found, it was concluded that it was indeed an authentic opera of Monteverdi.

The opera returns to Vienna, on the stage of the State Opera, in a new production, directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, with Pablo Heras-Casao (foto) at the coducter's rostrum. With the staging of this creation, Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria, the Vienna State Opera ends the cycle of performances dedicated to Claudio Monteverdi, which opened its first two seasons with L'incoronazione di Poppea and La favola di Orfeo. The Ulysses concert will be repeated on the 4th, 8th, 11th, and 14th of April at the Vienna State Opera.

The premiere night, on the 2nd of April 2023, brings on stage, among others, the Austrian baritone Georg Nigl ( in the role of Ulysses), the American mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey (as Penelope), the Canadian tenor Josh Lovell ( Telemaco) and the Puerto Rican mezzo-soprano Isabel Signoret ( as Minerva).

The return of Ulysses to his Homeland is certainly the least known and least played out of the three surviving Monteverdi operas. One of the reasons for this is the recent redescovery and authentication of the score, and the other one is the fact that the libretto of the opera makes it difficult of be staged. But Montevedi's music is above all these problems, and the The return of Ulysses to his Homeland stands as proof that the Italian artist is still relevant to this day.

Irina Cristina Vasilescu
Translated by Ioana Busuioc,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year II
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu