Media Room

A True Odyssey: Boston Baroque Releases New Performing Version of Monteverdi’s “Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria” led by Martin Pearlman

May 12, 2015

Monteverdi’s most recently authenticated opera benefits from the attention to detail that has ensured Martin Pearlman’s reputation as a leading champion of period performance.

April 21, 2015 – The three-time GRAMMY-nominated Boston Baroque is the first permanent Baroque orchestra ever established in North America and is widely regarded as “one of the world’s premier period-instrument bands”(Fanfare). The ensemble produces lively, emotionally charged, groundbreaking performances of Baroque and Classical works—performed on instruments and using performance techniques that reflect the eras in which the music was composed. May 12th, 2015 marks the North American release of the ensemble’s recording of Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, in a new performance version created by Boston Baroque’s founder and Music Director Martin Pearlman. The album, released internationally on Linn Records April 20th, has already received significant critical praise and promises to be the new benchmark recording of this work. “This performance is technically solid with some fine playing from the orchestra,” wrote The Guardian in an advance review of this release, also chosen as Album of the Week by the Sunday Times.

Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria is based on the story told in books 13–23 of Homer’s Odyssey, in which Ulysses returns home from the Trojan War after an absence of 20 years and slays his wife’s suitors, who have taken over his palace. The 73-year-old Monteverdi’s setting of Giacomo Badoaro’s libretto was premiered in 1640 during the carnival season in Venice, to such acclaim that it was revived the following season, an unusual distinction for an opera of the time. Not long after the premiere, Ulisse dropped from view until late in the nineteenth century, when a manuscript was rediscovered in Vienna, which appears to be a copy made for a later revival in that city. Initially there were doubts as to whether the newly discovered work was a genuine lost opera of Monteverdi. But by the mid-twentieth century, further documents were found which removed any doubts about the work’s authenticity.

Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria is unquestionably one of the three pillars that place Monteverdi among the greatest of opera composers, and Boston Baroque’s new performing version immortalized in this recording is a highly considered approach to all aspects of the score and performance, ensuring this version is true to Monteverdi’s original vision.

This work has always held a special place for me,” states Music Director Martin Pearlman, “both for the subject matter, pulled from a great literary masterpiece, and for its great music. Difficulties presented by the surviving material – there is one manuscript, and the copyist’s score that does survive is hastily and sometimes carelessly written, probably after the composer’s death – and the lack of details, pose challenges for a performance that therefore requires many decisions to fill in the gaps in the manuscript. For Boston Baroque’s production, every note and word of the surviving manuscript were checked, a process that led to countless small adjustments plus a few major ones, to what we find in modern editions, and a variety of interpretative decisions were made. It was a pleasure to work with such a wonderful group of singers and musicians on this recording, and I hope that listeners will enjoy this version as much as we enjoyed performing it.”

The Boston Baroque recording of this riveting human drama comes to life through an enviable cast, led by Portuguese tenor and baroque specialist Fernando Guimarães in the title role, alongside the internationally renowned mezzo-soprano Jennifer Rivera as his loving wife Penelope.

Get Involved

Participate in one or more of our membership opportunities and enjoy great benefits!

Learn More

Join the List

Stay informed of upcoming events, concerts, new recordings, tours, and more!

@ bostonbaroque