Monteverdi and his constellation podcast

5. The anatomy of melancholy - Monteverdi and his constellation

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The young star chosen and coached by Monteverdi to sing the title role in his second opera, Arianna, died of smallpox just days before the scheduled première in 1608. Her replacement, an experienced singing actress, held strong views on the character of the abandoned heroine, Ariadne. This podcast explores how women suddenly step forward as creative participants and instigators in this brave new world of the senses. Monteverdi showed a particular empathy with his female protagonists and performers. Actress Dame Janet Suzman finds a resonant truthfulness in Shakespeare’s Cleopatra, and we hear how the painter Artemisia Gentileschi dealt with her real-life experience of rape and processed it in her creative work. A window of opportunity opened for women artists and musicians in this period, allowing a temporary escape from paternalistic dominance, before closing again by mid-century.

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