This detailed study of the earliest opera to have gained a foothold in the modern repertoire has three main sections, with contributions from experts on various aspects of the opera's history and performance.
The book begins with a historical section, in which all the known evidence about the creation and early performances of "Orfeo" is drawn together and evaluated. The first chapter recounts the story of the early Mantuan performances, with the aid of hitherto unpublished contemporary correspondence (the texts of the letters are given, in Italian and English, in an appendix). The sources of the libretto are studied in this section, and the text of the original ending of the opera is given together with an English translation. This section ends with a detailed analytical synopsis of the opera, which considers (among other points) the reasons for believing that the opera was originally staged without breaks between the acts, and the implications of this for performers and critics today.
The second section of the book includes a detailed history of the rediscovery of the opera; an influential essay on the opera by Joseph Kerman is reprinted here, together with a review by Romain Rolland of the first modern performance of "Orfeo." The final section includes essays by a conductor and a producer who have staged notable performances of the opera in recent years. They explain their approaches to the work, and offer solutions to some of the problems that it poses in performance.
This book--essential reading for all students of Monteverdi and of the early history of opera--will also enhance the enjoyment of opera-goers and record-collectors alike.