A Trendsetting Triple Threat: Monteverdi, Gluck, and 'Orfeo'


THE HIT SINGLE: "Possente Spirto"

In Monteverdi's Orfeo, the title character (tenor Anizio Zorzi Giustiniani) appeals to the infernal boatman Caronte in one of the opera's most extraordinary and emotional musical numbers -- "Possente spirto" ("Powerful spirit.")  Orfeo's plaintive lines are echoed by instruments and his pleas are interrupted by longer instrumental passages that reinforce his desperation. Caronte (bass Salvo Vitale) is unmoved, making a cantankerous interjection, but the music eventually lulls him to sleep, and Orfeo slips past.

THE B SIDE:  "Che faro senza Euridice"

In Gluck's opera, Orfeo (soprano Katerina Karnéus) faces the unthinkable, when he breaks his pledge to Amore, and his wife dies for the second time.  Alone again, he sings the gentle yet heartbreaking aria, "Che faro senza Euridice?" -- "What shall I do without Euridice?"