1909 EarlyThe Canadian summer is without a doubt one of the worst seasons anywhere in the world. Leaving aside the fact that it’s far too short, and was preceded this year by one of the longest, coldest winters in living memory, it’s still kind of hard to find things to do. I appreciate that Canadians (at least the ones in the Canadian cities where I’ve lived) take it a bit easier over the summer months and let things like having a social life or spending more time with family take precedence over work, but the same rule also applies to most arts organizations in the GTA. They all wound down their seasons in May, and while I know there are some exceptions to this rule, and I respect someone’s right to take vacations and take a couple months to prepare their next season, I’d like to suggest that a musical ensemble or theatre group could get a lot more subscribers if they let their artistic season stretch until June or start up again in August.

Finding things to do over the summer may be a little less obvious than in other months, but if you’re looking to catch some exceptional concerts to see, I have two words for you. Get out. Seriously. The very best concerts this summer are happening outside the city, and if you can escape Toronto for even a few days, you’ll be rewarded by some fabulous summer festivals and a chance to absorb some culture, as well as hear some great and unique music. Check out the lineup for the Montreal Baroque Festival, taking place in downtown Montreal for the weekend of June 19 to 22. Since its inaugural year in 2003, Montreal Baroque has featured some of the finest musicians in the world performing great works of music in interesting, challenging concert programs. The festival used to have pride of place as the first festival of the summer (it starts every St. Jean Baptiste weekend) taking place in Montreal’s most notorious tourist trap, the historic Old Port. It has since moved over to McGill’s main campus on Sherbrooke St., but I expect it will be no less crowded this year. Montreal has a thriving early music scene, and Montrealers come to this festival in droves. If you can make it up to Montreal for the weekend, this festival is a must-see. Check out Tom Beghin’s performance of Beethoven’s monstrous Hammerklavier sonata on fortepiano (in the MMR Studio on Friday June 20 at 5pm and Sunday at 11am) and let me know when you can hear that in concert again. Catch David Monti and Gili Loftus playing Beethoven’s “Spring” and “Kreutzer” sonatas (in Pollack Hall Sunday June 22 at 2pm): rare enough as a concert program, but almost never heard on period instruments in North America. If you’re not into Beethoven, consider two medieval concerts: Ensemble Alkenia performing the music of the 14th-century composer Johannes Ciconia (McGill main campus on Saturday June 21 at 11am) and Ensemble Eya’s concert of troubadour song (McGill main campus on Saturday June 21 at 9am). Add to that the always-solid Les Voix Humaines concert of music for three, four, five and six viols (Redpath Hall on Saturday June 21 at 4pm) and you can easily spend the whole weekend in the concert hall. This is an exceptional festival with some top-tier artists playing music that you rarely get a chance to hear in concert. I strongly advise anyone reading this column to consider clearing their calendar and vacationing in Montreal for that weekend.


Stratford Summer Music: If you prefer a day trip to Stratford over a road trip to Montreal, Stratford Summer Music has several concert weekends. If you find yourself there on either July 23 or 24, consider a couple of concerts by the Folger Shakespearean Consort at 7pm that will provide you with the soundtrack to Renaissance England. Songs by the Bard of Avon’s contemporaries, namely John Dowland, Tobias Hume and Thomas Morley, were hits very likely enjoyed by Shakespeare himself. If Shakespeare was enough of an advocate for the arts that he couldn’t trust a man who didn’t enjoy music, it would be well worth the trouble to find what sort of music the playwright liked to listen to.

If you’re no fan of Renaissance music (or just don’t trust Shakespeare as an arbiter of musical taste) Stratford Summer Music is also bringing out Tafelmusik for some very fine chamber music on August 22 and 23. Highlights from these programs include the Bach “Wedding” and “Coffee” cantatas, a Vivaldi bassoon concerto, a Telemann sonata for winds and a Bach violin sonata. These both look to be solid concerts and between Tafelmusik and the Folger Shakespearean Consort, proof that going to Stratford doesn’t need to mean just going to see a play anymore.

Music in the Garden and more: Being stuck in Toronto all summer doesn’t mean you miss out on everything. If you’re unable to get out of the city, consider visiting the Toronto Music Garden, 479 Queen’s Quay W., a unique concert space by the waterfront that functions as its own mini-escape from the tumult of the city. This summer, the Toronto Music Garden is presenting a program of early music by some young up-and-coming musicians. On Sunday July 13 at 4pm, members of the New York-based period chamber ensemble Gretchen’s Muse will present Haydn’s String Quartet in E-Flat Major, Op.33 No.2 (“The Joke”), and Beethoven’s Quartet in C Major, Op.59 No.3. Abigail Karr is the leader of this ensemble and she will be joined by Vita Wallace on violin, Kyle Miller on viola and guest cellist Beiliang Zhu. Zhu also holds the singular honour of being the first person ever to win the Leipzig Bach Competition on a period instrument, so it will be very interesting to hear her perform in a quartet. They will also be appearing the next day at Music Mondays’ free noon-hour concert at the Church of the Holy Trinity. The Music Garden will also be showcasing another fine young baroque cellist later this summer – Kate Bennett Haynes. Haynes is performing Bach’s six suites for unaccompanied cello in installments at the Music Garden; Thursday August 28 at 7pm will see her performing Bach’s Suite No. 4 in E-Flat Major in a mixed program that includes Britten and Oesterle. Haynes also happens to be an exceptional artist, and this concert promises to be an intimate and passionate experience.

Finally, a great local group that I’m proud to be playing with will kick off the summer with a concert in Parkdale. Rezonance’s next concert, “Birds, Beasts, and Rustic Revelry,” taking place at Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw St. #202, on June 14 at 8pm, is a program that explores Baroque composers’ depictions of nature, and will feature all manner of musical foolishness from the 17th century, including music by Veracini, Schmelzer, Biber and Couperin. Rezonance is led by the young virtuoso violinist Rezan Onen-Lapointe and will be joined by lutenist Ben Stein and cellist Kerri McGonigle. A chance to hear some brilliant performances at this concert, and the music on the program defies anyone to take classical music too seriously.

David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist, music teacher and a founding member of Rezonance. He can be contacted at earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

Shortly after I finished university in Montreal, I got a job in the classical department of a record store. Occasionally customers would come in and ask me for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s recordings of Beethoven conducted by Bruno Weil and I would direct them to an album that Weil had made with Tafelmusik earlier that year.

1908-EarlyBruno Weil has never made an album with the Toronto Symphony, but to my customers at the record store, Tafelmusik and the TSO were one and the same, and I never saw the point in correcting them. Throughout its 35-year history, Tafelmusik has gone from a group of competent musicians representing early music in Canada to the biggest and best-selling early music group in the country, as well as an internationally renowned orchestra. If Montrealers think Tafelmusik is the TSO, I can’t blame them, and I’m sure Weil and everyone else who has ever appeared on a Tafelmusik album should consider the confusion a compliment.

Tafelmusik’s success is due in a large part to the leadership of Jeanne Lamon and the direction she charted for the group when she took it over in 1981. Tafelmusik’s guest artists are deeply impressed by the band’s near-military precision in following Lamon; in contrast to some early-music orchestras who function as oversize chamber groups, Lamon’s band is a disciplined unit with a clear sense of hierarchy. If you’re listening to Tafelmusik in concert or recorded, you’re listening to a sound Jeanne Lamon created.

This month marks the end of an era for early music in Canada, as Lamon will be performing her last concert series with Tafelmusik as concertmaster and artistic director. It’s still anyone’s guess as to which direction the orchestra will go after Lamon departs, but this is Toronto’s last chance to hear (officially, as I’m sure Lamon will return to play) the work of an artist who has left a profound influence on classical music in this country. The orchestra will be doing a mixed program of Lamon’s favourites, including Vivaldi, Handel, Rameau, and Bach, and members of Tafelmusik have composed a set of variations on Purcell dedicated to their boss, so I’m willing to bet the final concert will be an emotional evening. It all happens at Trinity St-Paul’s Centre on May 8 to 11 and 14 (with an additional concert at George Weston Recital Hall, May 13). I defy anyone looking forward to retiring this year to throw a better retirement party.

Elixir: Given how often musicians improvise in jazz and rock music, it’s kind of disappointing that classical musicians don’t make anything up very much. Obviously, when the music is written down for you, improvisation becomes superfluous, but making up a great solo remains one of the best ways for musicians to show off. This wasn’t always the case in classical music. Composers and musicians in the Renaissance used to jam over ground bass lines in much the same way that rock musicians do today, and famous composers from Bach through to Liszt were raised in a tradition of improvisation that was a foundation for their fame as composers. In Bach’s case, his admirers pointed to the fact that he could improvise any counterpoint right up to a six-part fugue and Liszt’s claim to fame was the ability to instantly compose endless and technically brilliant piano variations on any theme selected at random by members of the audience at his concerts.

One Toronto musician who is trying to revive the practice is lutenist (and fellow WholeNote columnist) Benjamin Stein. Stein has made Renaissance “standard” tunes a special project of his for some time now, and he’s finally trying out his experiment on the concertgoing public this month. Stein will be joined by the Elixir Baroque Ensemble in a concert of improvised and composed music featuring tunes by Uccellini, Vivaldi, Byrd, Castaldi and Collard. Stein and Elixir will add to the mix by improvising their own solos in the style of each composer on every tune they play. This is a very ambitious project and it will be exciting to see what happens – it may even revive the lost art of improvisation among classical musicians if Stein’s project gains a following in the Toronto music scene (although that may be a few years away). You can catch Ben Stein and Elixir Baroque at Metropolitan United Church on May 10 at 7:30pm.

The Toronto Continuo Collective is back and their latest concert, “Psyche: The Immortal Soul,” is a musical exploration of the myth of Psyche and Cupid, told through the music of French composer Jean-Baptiste Lully and his English contemporary Matthew Locke. The myth of Psyche is a story of love, duty and betrayal, and was adapted by Molière from the Roman story by Apuleius. Lully in turn adapted Molière’s play into an opera, after which Locke adapted Lully’s opera into his own opera/ballet. The point being that by the time Locke’s version rolled out, audiences would be fortunate to recognize anything from the original myth. The TCC is avoiding any confusion by playing only excerpts from Lully and Locke, and they will be joined by Montreal sopranos Andréanne Brisson-Paquin and Ghislaine Deschambault, as well as local singers Luke Arnason (countertenor), Bud Roach (tenor) and David Roth (bass). They will be presenting it at York University on May 8 at the McLean Performance Studio in York’s Accolade Building at 7pm. It’s also a rare chance to hear any opera originally intended to be performed in English (English opera was basically a canonical no-man’s land from the beginning of the 18th century until Britten) so that reason alone should make this concert a must-see for opera buffs.

Toronto Masque Theatre And speaking of Restoration-era English operas, another Toronto group based on the English tradition of music in the 17th century, the Toronto Masque Theatre, is venturing outside the GTA to perform a classic English opera (thus depleting the entire repertoire of English opera in the space of two concerts). TMT will be performing Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas as part of the Westben Arts Festival in Campbellford.Dido and Aeneas is based on the founding myth of Britain in Roman mythology, Virgil’s Aeneid. It’s a short but tragic tale that remains, even after 300 years, a classic opera, and I sincerely hope it’s a hit in Campbellford. The performances aren’t until July 5 and 6, but on May 23 at 7pm you can catch TMT artistic director Larry Beckwith in a discussion at Westben about the operatic classic, featuring excerpts from their upcoming production. Campbellford is just up Highway 30 off the 401, before Quinte – if you’re interested in a weekend outside of the city (or if you live in the Peterborough area and feel like a night out), be sure to check out the talk, and to mark July 5 and 6 on your calendar.

Finally, there’s one more Tafelmusik concert early next month that’s worth checking out. The orchestra and choir will be performing a special noon-hour program on June 1 that features members of the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute faculty. It happens at 12:30 in Walter Hall in the Edward Johnson building on the U of T campus. No word on the program yet, but it’s a chance to hear Tafelmusik for free. Skip off work or take a long lunch and check it out.

David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist, music teacher and a founding member of Rezonance. He can be contacted at earlymusic@thewholenote.com.

It’s good to get out of the city once in a while. The Toronto early music scene is now big enough that rather than simply staying home and welcoming guest artists from elsewhere, our own artists are starting to migrate and perform on the outskirts of the GTA and occasionally further out – really as far as one could reasonably expect to drive in the course of one day. I really hope this is a positive development for both the musicians and the cities they visit. If you live in say, Stratford or Hamilton, you can get a little more variety in entertainment and nightlife, and if you’re a Toronto-based artist, you can tour not too far from home and get a chance to make some more money with a program you would otherwise only get to perform in town.

earlymusic borys-medickyVesuvius: If you live in St. Catharines, you might want to catch an outstanding Toronto group playing early this month. The Vesuvius Ensemble, founded by singer and guitarist Francesco Pellegrino, is devoted to playing traditional music from Italy, and they are performing at St. Barnabas Anglican Church at 2pm April 6 in a program of renaissance and baroque music. Painting a vivid picture of 17th-century Naples, the Vesuvius Ensemble will show the life of an exotic city and its surrounding countryside heavily influenced by Arabic and Spanish culture but with its own distinct culture that set it apart from the rest of Italy and Europe. This group also plays on a wide variety of traditional Italian instruments and guitars as well as more conventional baroque instruments, so you’ll definitely enjoy this program if you’re an Italianophile or just a gearhead.

Medicky: Another Toronto artist who has expanded outside the GTA is harpsichordist Borys Medicky. A co-founder of the Toronto Continuo Collective, Medicky has found something of a home away from home in Kitchener-Waterloo, where he leads the Nota Bene Baroque Players. April 12 Nota Bene will be putting on a fundraising concert at First United Church in Waterloo, performing Handel’s Messiah (which, I note as a musicological aside, is traditionally a concert celebrating Easter, not Christmas). Nota Bene is going all-out with this concert, which features soloists Daniel Taylor and Michael Schade, with John Thiessen on trumpet and Jan Overduin as a guest harpsichordist. And if that isn’t enough to draw a crowd, it’s also a sing-along and should be a blast. (There is a regular performance April 13.)

Lully: Closer to home, a must-see event is Opera Atelier’s run of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Persée, which they’ll be performing at the Elgin Theatre on April 26, 27, 29, and 30 as well as May 2 and 3. Opera Atelier has the singular honour of being the early music group responsible for reviving the classic Lully opera, which had its last performance in Versailles in the 1770s and had never been heard since until the group dug up the work in the 1990s. While it isn’t the first time Opera Atelier has done Persée, they will be taking the show back to Versailles after this run in Toronto, so this is a great chance to experience the work of a local group that is among the top ranks of performing artists worldwide.

Toronto Consort: Italian opera in the 17th century wasn’t nearly as glamorous as the operas playing at Versailles (it’s hard to match the budget available to the king of France) but Cavalli’s opera Giasone is still a great piece of music that opera fans should find to be an essential part of the opera canon. Based on the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece, it was the most popular opera of the century. This month, the Toronto Consort is putting on its own production of Giasone. Laura Pudwell will join the Toronto Consort to sing the role of Jason (no castrati being available any more) and the Consort will supply the backup band of strings, continuo and winds. It all happens on April 4, 5, and 6 at Trinity-St Paul’s Centre.

Suzie Leblanc: Anyone in Toronto still looking to get their fix of opera this month should consider checking out the Toronto Masque Theatre – they’ll be presenting an opera of sorts at the Trinity-St Paul’s Centre on April 25 and 26. The opera in question is Michel Pignolet de Montéclair’s L’Europe, a cantata for soprano based on the myth of Europa. There’s only one vocal part, along with a backup band, in this cantata, so you could think of it as opera on the cheap, or alternately as really souped-up vocal chamber music. Suzie Leblanc will be singing with TMT and the concert will be further fortified by the choreography of Marie-Nathalie Lacoursière, the dancing of Stéphanie Brochard and the acting talents of Martin Julien, so it will be a fine multimedia experience that will delight aficionados of French Baroque music. Also on the program is a newly-commissioned contemporary work: Toronto-based composer James Rolfe’s Europa and the White Bull, so if you don’t want to hear something old, stick around and listen for something new.

earlymusic sine-nomine-ensembleSine Nomine: If you’re completely against the idea of new music, indulge your inner arch-conservative and consider checking out the Sine Nomine Ensemble in a program devoted to the music of Guillaume de Machaut. Machaut was the leading composer of 14th-century France and an early writer of polyphonic masses and motets. If you have any interest in medieval music at all or are looking for a good place to start, Machaut is an excellent introduction to the Middle Ages. Sine Nomine will perform at St. Thomas Anglican Church  at 8pm on April 25.

Scaramella: a chamber group with a reputation for bringing together informative and well-thought-out programs, this month Scaramella will play a concert devoted to the invention of the cello in Italy in the latter half of the 17th century and the gradual musical Darwinism that ensued as it sought to take the place in the musical world previously held by the viola da gamba. The cello ultimately won that contest, but it was a hard-won fight that lasted nearly a hundred years. Cellist Elinor Frey and gambaist Joëlle Morton will square off in an epic battle of bowed bass instruments, assisted by Daniel Zuluaga on chitarrone and guitar. Who will win? Find out at 8pm April 12 at Innis Town Hall.

Musical rivalry: it’s a great way to sell tickets, and it’s especially fun to watch in opera. Tafelmusik will commemorate one of the most famous rivalries in opera history, the battle between Faustina Bordoni and Francesca Cuzzoni. Soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian will join the orchestra at Koerner Hall on April 9, 10, 12, and 13 for a program featuring arias written for the two divas by Handel, Hasse, and Bononcini; it also includes concertos by Handel, Vivaldi, and Telemann, and a sinfonia by Zelenka. I should stress that Ms. Bayrakdarian is singing all the arias composed for the two divas herself, so it is the historical rivaly that will be on display in what should be a comparatively civilized affair.

 David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist, music teacher and a founding member of Rezonance. He can be contacted at


The writer Nick Hornby is, to the members of Generation X and the millennials, the leading authority on the art of the mix tape, and in his novel High Fidelity, he defined the poetic frustration of creating a playlist for someone, now rendered irrelevant in our current era of iTunes playlists and YouTube channels: “To me, making a tape is like writing a letter— there’s a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again. A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You’ve got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention (I started with “Got to Get You Off My Mind,” but then realized that she might not get any further than track one, side one if I delivered what she wanted straightaway, so I buried it in the middle of side two), and then you’ve got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch...” Anyone who’s ever made a mix tape knows this feeling. There’s a sense of curatorial omnipotence that making a mix tape confers on its maker: I may not play in a band, I may not know how to write any songs, but damn it, I’ve got taste!

If you thought mix tapes were a generational flash in the pan, you’d be wrong. Long before the compact disc and cassette tape, music nerds were compiling playlists of their favourite songs and sharing them, except these geeks were either composers or performers of music and were perfectly capable of making music of their own. There’s a substantial amount of evidence that Brahms, Beethoven and Mendelssohn were passionate music collectors who wanted to share their discoveries, but one composer stands above all other connoisseurs and arbiters of good taste as an obsessive hoarder, cultural pack rat, and literal all-out, all-time violator of copyright – none other than Johann Sebastian Bach.

Bach’s reputation for near-autistic complexity and perfect detail as a contrapuntalist is well-known and I won’t bore you by repeating it here. Less appreciated, though, is the obsession he had with collecting music – either for personal consumption or to share with friends and colleagues. In the last 40 or so years of Bach scholarship, scholars have focused less on Bach the immortal master of counterpoint and more on Bach the music collector, virtually to the point where every composition and theme of Bach was thought to be originally written by another composer or else was derivative of some other style of music. It’s gotten a bit out of hand, and there isn’t a whole lot of direct cause and effect linking Bach’s musical taste with what he composed.

Bach’s St. Mark’s Mix: It’s for this reason that we are very fortunate to have actual evidence of a real playlist of songs that Bach collected, assembled into a concert program and had performed for a live audience. A particular version of the St. Mark Passion was one of a few concerts that Bach had performed while employed as the Thomaskantor in Leipzig; Bach not only thought highly enough of the music to have performed it three different times in his career, but reworked the concert order, cut arias and added new pieces by different composers, with just as much care (and possibly frustration) as Nick Hornby described as being part of the process of making a good mix tape. The final cut, completed just three years before he died, included songs by Handel (the leading composer of Bach’s day) and a composer lost to history but whom Bach evidently liked – known only as Kaiser.

The man responsible for bringing this mix of Bach’s to the Canadian concert stage is none other than Kenneth Hull, the director of the Spiritus Ensemble, and he will be leading a performance of the Bach compilation at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Kitchener on March 30. When I ask him about some of the great composer’s favourites, Hull is able to provide me with some clues. “Up to now we’ve known very little of what Bach had actually performed besides his own music,” Hull explains. “We know for sure that J.S. Bach performed music by his second cousin, Johann Ludwig Bach, and music composed by his relatives. Bach came from a very musical family and he had inherited a lot of family connections to good composers.” Besides the advantage of promoting family members, Bach had to select composers that were easier than his own music for the musicians at his church to perform, and playing the “Kaiser” St. Mark Passion is certainly easier than playing Bach, Hull admits.

Hull is also quick to mention that he is in fact giving this Passion its Canadian premiere – and that this is just the second time this St. Mark is being performed in North America. “The Bach Society of Houston was able to obtain a copy of the St. Mark Passion because they are the sister city of Leipzig,” he says. “I’m fortunate enough to have a close connection with the Bach Society and was able to hear about this discovery.”

I Furiosi, Biber, Lent: If you aren’t interested in Bach’s favourite composers, or if you can’t make it to Kitchener for a concert, consider checking out a few Toronto-based ensembles instead. I Furiosi, still the best classical band you can hear for ten dollars (if you’re a student, senior or just plain broke), will be joined by organist Stephanie Martin and mezzo-soprano Vicki St. Pierre to perform Giovanni Battista’ Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater on March 22 at Windermere United Church. It will be well worth it to hear this work be performed by an ensemble that can play with verve, and well, fury.

This is your last chance to catch Chris Verrette and Musicians in Ordinary play Biber’s Mystery Sonatas on March 14 at St. Michael’s College’s Madden Hall. They’ll be playing the sonatas based on the Sorrowful Mysteries, so if you’re an observant Christian, this is an excellent program for Lent – if not, be prepared to hear something sad.

Speaking of Lent, on March 1 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, the Toronto Consort will perform music leading up to the 40 days’ fast with a program devoted to the Venetian Carnival represented by Italian composers Monteverdi, Banchieri and Vecchi.

Finally, Tafelmusik has a couple of programs well worth hearing: Alison McKay’s audience favourite “The Four Seasons: A Cycle of the Sun,” featuring music by Antonio Vivaldi and Mychael Danna, at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre on March 6 to 9, 11 and 12. Tafelmusik will be doing another program later in March –“A Night in Paris” – on March 27 to 30 also at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre. This concert will feature superb music by Telemann and Leclair as well as Vivaldi’s violin concerto “Tempeste di Mare.”

David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist, music teacher and a founding member of Rezonance. He can be contacted at

Despite the fact that musicians are some of the most dedicated of professionals, no one really pays sufficient attention to the fact that we are also incredibly strange. I mean it. Musicians are some of the weirdest people you are ever likely to encounter socially, and I like to think it helps. Toronto hero Glenn Gould famously had an obsessive fear of illness which drove him to dress in sweaters and coats in mid-summer, and an equally obsessive desire to hear every possible melody line in a piece of music which led him to record some of the most original recordings of Bach of the 20th century. Obsessive behaviour comes with the artistic territory – if you’re going to devote your life to mastering an instrument, a long-dead composer, or an artistic tradition that’s been lost for several hundred years, it kind of helps if you don’t worry about looking like a bit of a nut socially, or indeed not having much of a social life at all.

bbb - early musicBud Roach: One Toronto-based artist who has let his obsession run wild is Bud Roach, who to the best of my knowledge possesses all of the social graces one needs (like I would know), but is nevertheless very, very dedicated to Italian vocal music circa 1600. I caught up with Roach one evening in January to discuss his next concert with Capella Intima, a re-creation of Marco da Gagliano’s Dafne, which ranked as one of the most avant-garde musical art works of its time when it was premiered in 1608. Dafne, you see, was written in a musical form that da Gagliano’s Italian contemporaries couldn’t understand, and they called the work a favola in musica (a musical fable). Later generations of Italians, like music-lovers elsewhere in Europe, would later find a new name for this sung fable: an opera.

“Marco da Gagliano has all the traits of a composer of the Florentine camerata,” Roach explains, referencing the artistic movement that advocated for a new, dramatic form of vocal music in 17th-century Italy. “His music has long, singing recitatives and focuses on emphasizing the text. His music is really as much about poetry as it is about singing.” Dafne was one of the first operas ever written, but da Gagliano didn’t take that particular prize: he was beaten out by Jacopo Peri, who wrote Eurydice just eight years earlier in 1600.

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