Bringing the text to life in the Monteverdi 450 project

Bringing the text to life in the Monteverdi 450 project Melofonetica
Bringing the text to life in the Monteverdi 450 project Melofonetica

In his introduction to the recently released recording of Monteverdi’s ‘Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria’,  Sir John Eliot Gardiner discusses the work of Melofonetica Founder Matteo Dalle Fratte on the Italian diction in the award-winning Monteverdi 450 project.

The poignant and vivid new recording of Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria, performed by the Monteverdi Choir & Orchestra and English Baroque Soloists and conducted by Gardiner, was recorded as part of last year’s Monteverdi 450 trilogy project. The acclaimed project saw Gardiner conduct a world-class cast of singers in their performances of L’OrfeoIl ritorno d’Ulisse in patria and L’incoronazione di Poppea, in locations around the world. Matteo was honoured to work closely with Gardiner as Italian Coach on the project, and as part of his introduction to the new recording, Gardiner provides fascinating insight into Matteo’s work on the text and how this enhanced expression in the three Monteverdi works:


“Our language coach, Matteo Dalle Fratte, went to great lengths to point out to the cast the mesmerising beauty of sung Italian when consonants are projected percussively and expressively in counterpoint to the smooth legato flow of the vowels. This applies not just to double consonants but to comma punctuation, agogic accents, word repetitions and exclamations. Only once the technique has been fully mastered by the singer-actors (as opposed to the dreaded ‘singerese’ – the disease of so many opera singers), can this produce a frisson in the way words will be received by the listener; but it also enhances the expressive vocabulary of Monteverdi’s word-setting and his cunning way of imitating the accents of speech. The slight anticipation of the incoming consonant and a minuscule delay before the vowel mirrors the thought processes of the narration. To me this is analogous to the ways Monteverdi uses both rhythm and counterpoint. In his operas Monteverdi habitually uses an alternation of duple and triple metre against an implied tactus (a regular unvarying beat). That is where the rhythmic frisson originates.”*

* Gardiner, John Eliot. 2018. ‘The Return of Ulysses to his Homeland’, sleeve note for Monteverdi, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, cond. by John Eliot Gardiner (Monteverdi Productions, SDG730, 2018), 6–11

It is thanks in large measure to the insights of language coach Matteo Dalle Fratte that this performance is every bit as vivid (in many respects more so) as any DVD production might be.

Europadisc review, October 2018

Reflecting on the project, Matteo comments, “It was a privilege to work with such talented artists and the inspirational Sir John Eliot Gardiner on the Monteverdi trilogy. The detail of the sung Italian was given a huge amount of importance and focus by everyone involved. My work on this project showed me just how powerful great diction in Italian opera can be, ensuring that all the emotions of the text are truly delivered with impact in a performance space – and fulfilling Monteverdi’s own vision that opera should stir the emotions.”

Bringing the text to life in the Monteverdi 450 project Melofonetica

We highly recommend listening to the new recording of Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria to enjoy both the excellent sung Italian and an opera that, despite being composed almost four centuries ago, remains musically and dramatically so powerful today. Visit the Monteverdi Choir & Orchestras website to find out more.

Image above: the final bow and live recording at one of the ‘Il ritorno di Ulisse’ performances at the National Forum of Music in Wrocław, Poland, September 2017.

Feeling inspired?

We have opportunities for singers, pianists and instrumentalists to join us in Italy next summer to be coached by Matteo Dalle Fratte and perform in scenes from Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria at our inaugural Arte Lirica Festival in Asolo. Find out more here.