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The remainder of the book follows the same format, with useful historical background intermingled with extensive descriptions of the dramatic works -- the description of L'Incoronazione di Poppea runs to nearly ninety pages. The book concludes with selective discography and good bibliography.

Whilst appreciating the strong narrative flow of the book, I did find Ringer's use of hyperbole rather annoying. He also has a tendency to ascribe motives to Monteverdi which makes the book almost read like a work of fiction. Language is generally evocative and direct, avoiding any jargon; only occasionally does this slip, as when Ringer refers to Neoplatonism without a definition.

The book comes with a disc of excerpts from well known, and admired, recordings of Monteverdi's work. But though Ringer makes a good case for Monteverdi's madrigals being a proving ground for some of his operatic style, the disc does not include any, which is a shame. The disc includes four tracks from Rene Jacobs' account of Orfeo, one track from William Christie's Il ballo delle ingrate, three tracks from Jacobs' Il ritorno d'Ulisse and five tracks from Jacobs' L'Incoronazione di Poppea. All the tracks are chosen to highlight the great moments from the works and give a wonderful soundtrack to the book.

I am not sure how much interest this book would have to a convinced lover of Monteverdi's works -- there is perhaps too much description of the music and the writing can be a little flowery for my taste. But where it does work well is in its stated purpose to introduce someone to the music. This is probably a book to read and pass on; something to buy for a favourite godchild in the hope that they will appreciate it and then pass it on to someone else.

Copyright © 21 September 2006 Robert Hugill, London UK


Unlocking the Masters Series
Opera's First Master
The Musical Dramas of Claudio Monteverdi

Mark Ringer

Amadeus Press, 2006
ISBN 1-57467-110-3
344 pages, paperback
Includes a full-length harmonia mundi CD

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