March 2017 is Baroque Month here at Bachtrack, and 15th May will be the 300th anniversary of Claudio Monteverdi's birth. La Venexiana, founded by Claudio Cavina, have made a lifetime's work out of performing and recording Monteverdi's madrigals, moving on to the operas this year.

La Venexiana © Kaupo Kikkas
La Venexiana
© Kaupo Kikkas

This year is the 300th anniversary of Monteverdi, and you’re performing Orfeo, Poppea and Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Schwetzingen. What’s going to be exciting about these performances?

It’s a unique opportunity to present all three extraordinary masterpieces in a just a few days. It’s both a big commitment and a great pleasure!

What else are you planning to celebrate the anniversary?

We have scheduled several exciting events including in particular three concerts taking place in April in Mexico City. Each one will have a unique programme: sacred music from Selva Morale, madrigals from the 7th and 8th books and finally our own project “Round M”, where Monteverdi meets jazz. In September we will perform L'Orfeo in Lisbon, at the Belem Centre. And we mustn’t forget a concert taking place in Ludwigshafen, where in one single night we will perform music ranging from madrigals to instrumental music and jazz in a series of different locations. It will be a three hour marathon of magnificent music!

What first attracted you to Monteverdi’s music?

The exceptional power of this music is that it touches everbody immediately in a very deep way.

Faced with a listener who knows nothing of Monteverdi’s music, what would you say as an “elevator pitch” that would persuade them that this is music that must be heard?

By listening to Monteverdi's music we can immediately feel and experience the sense of an amazing, unique and kaleidoscopic universe of human passions. His music takes us beyond simple listening. This music makes us aware of a certain wealth we should not and cannot give up: beauty.

Monteverdi is described as a Baroque composer, but his vocal writing is a long, long way away from, say, Bach or Handel. Tell us what’s different about singing his music - and what should the audience be looking out for?

Besides the different way of writing that distinguishes these composers, actually this question leads to another thought. I believe that Handel’s music represents maybe the purest example of Baroque music. He was also an inspiring and prestigious man, an undisputed symbol of his time.

But Monteverdi and Bach, well... in my opinion they have something “magic” that makes us feel like living out of time and place. If there is a gate to a higher spiritual dimension, for sure Monteverdi and Bach have got the key. It would be reductive to point them out as simply “Baroque”.

What are the top Monteverdi works that you would recommend to get to know his music? And why is each of these special?

The Vespro della Beata Vergine gives a great chance to keep silent whilst being enchanted by such an astonishing beauty. An indescribable experience.

If you could go back in time and ask Monteverdi one question, what would it be?

I would ask him to teach me how to stage L'Orfeo.

Outside Monteverdi, give us some highlights of music you’re playing that we should look out for in 2017?

We will have an interesting concert in Graz, where we will travel musically through a hundred years (from the beginning of 1500, up to the beginning of 1600), including various forms of music from the Frottola and the Madrigale to the Recitar Cantando, celebrating fertility, spring, and femininity.

In October, in Kiev, we'll show the audience how Monteverdi's theatricality has also affected sacred music through composers who succeeded him and received his legacy: Cavalli, Ferrari, Legrenzi.

What are the places you love best for performing Baroque music? It could be for any reason: the interior decor, a sense of history, the acoustic, a particular audience or anything else.

Ancient theatres, halls and churches in order to let the music soar and fly high in all the places where it was born. In this way playing for us and listening for the public becomes absolutely natural. We couldn’t ask for more.

What’s the first thing you do when a concert has finished?

That was beautiful. Now let’s drink a good glass of red wine...