In and Out the Underworld

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The heroic tale of Orpheus and his journey to the underworld was used for a number of operas during the 1600s, with two specific versions catching the audience’s attention. Jacopo Peri, whose opera of the Orpheus legend was first performed in October of 1600, was created for King Henry IV of France and his marriage with Maria de Medici. Its original intentions were to be private and rarely performed, but composer Jacopo Corsi offered to provide help in paying Peri’s staging costs. Claudio Monteverdi, inspired by Peri’s recitative style, wrote Orfeo for it to be performed during the Carnival at Mantua on February 24, 1607. Monteverdi’s opera, funded by Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga of Mantua, was already written for public presentation, and because of it quickly caught interest and continued to be used since its first performance, especially after being republished with alterations in its ending.
Both Peri and Monteverdi, regardless of whether it was a public or private performance, took the tale of Orpheus and his journey into the underworld to bring his wife Euridice back to the living, altering sections of the story to create operas that would best suit their work. With similarities along with differences, both operas were well suited for the events they were written for, meeting their audiences’ expectations well by introducing and ending the myth quite differently.
Both operas begin with a prologue, introducing the play through a single character to set the mood for the entirety of the opera. These two characters are respectively used as a source of forewarning for the audience to prepare them for whatever the story may present to them. Because both Peri and Monteverdi wrote their operas on the same legend, the journey’s purpose a...

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