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April 9   -   Guardian

Grazie mille, maestro: Monteverdi’s Venice

The 450th anniversary of Claudio Monteverdi’s birth is the cue for a year of music in his home town

A raunchy Beyoncé video blaring from a tiny bar’s TV might seem an unlikely backdrop for an earnest discussion on the intricacies of reconstructing music from 400 years ago – but this is Venice, where sex and melody have always been close, and the composer we are talking about is Claudio Monteverdi. The first composer to break through convention and display the true nature of humanity, he will be celebrated around the world this year, the 450th anniversary of his birth.

Sipping his Spritz under the glaring screen is today’s manifestation of Monteverdi – Marco Gemmani, maestro di cappella of the basilica of San Marco, the job Monteverdi held from 1613 until his death in 1643. We had stopped for a drink after he had given a rare tour of the singing galleries of the great basilica, a manifestation of the meeting of east and west. A Byzantine glory, it is covered in ancient mosaics and floored in dazzling Cosmati marble, and is as much a symbol of Venice as bobbing gondolas and creepy carnival masks.

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