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The power of Orfeo

As the world's first great opera celebrates its 400th birthday, its new-found popularity may signal a welcome expansion of opera companies' repertoires

By Stephen Pettitt   March 2007

The world’s first great opera has just celebrated its 400th birthday. It was on 24th February 1607 that L’Orfeo, composed to a text by Alessandro Striggio by the Cremonese composer Claudio Monteverdi, was first performed at the Ducal Palace in Mantua. The work gained temporary renown: it was published in 1609 and again in 1615, and enjoyed productions here and there until the mid-1600s. After that, it disappeared from the stage for 250 years, before occasional revivals in the first half of the 20th century.

In the 1960s and 1970s, thanks to far-sighted championing by musicians like Raymond Leppard, Jane…

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