The Monteverdi monopoly from Times online

His influence is everywhere at the Edinburgh Festival this year. Our correspondent explores the early music master?s appeal

....One can?t help feeling that Monteverdi would have appreciated

this rock reference. After all, he was seen as so potentially

subversive during his tenure as conductor at San Marco in Venice that

one of his chorus members attempted to denounce him to the Papal

Inquisition. The Tiger Lillies, who describe their work as ?satanic

folk?, may not have been denounced to the Pope yet, but their

appearance as the controversial arm of the Edinburgh Monteverdi assault

is certainly apposite. ?We?re doing the ?naughty night?,? says singer

Martyn Jacques of his Tribute (of Sorts) to Monteverdi.

The Tiger Lillies? greatest main-stream success was the weird and

brilliant ?junk opera? Shockheaded Peter, which sold out in the West

End, Broadway and worldwide in the late 1990s. In Edinburgh they have

the period instruments of Concerto Caledonia backing them.

?The festival asked if I would be interested in writing something about

Monteverdi, and I wrote back, saying, Mantovani? Which pretty much sums

up my knowledge.? Jacques was sent a CD of Monteverdi?s Madrigals of

Love and War. ?I sat there with my accordion for about five minutes

making a sincere effort to play music in the style of Monteverdi, but I

couldn?t do it. We?re 400 years apart. It ended up sounding a bit like

Kum ba yah. In the end, I wrote my own Songs of Love and War, more

inspired by the words Monteverdi had set. And, oddly, I think there is

something Monteverdian about it, particularly with the harpsichord

flourishes. I get the feeling that he may have popped in while I was


Given that Monteverdi lived in a Venice rife with disease, prostitutes

and filth, it?s appropriate that these self-styled ?London filth

merchants? should be charged with creating a tribute to him. ?We have

got more disgusting with every album, but people seem to want that,?

Jacques says. ?We?re a controversial gun for hire for all these serious

festivals, which is lovely. Jonathan Mills [the festival?s new

director] said to me, ?I hope you?re going to really offend people.? ?

L?Orfeo opens tomorrow at Edinburgh Festival Theatre; Orpheus X is at

the Royal Lyceum, Aug 25-29; the Tiger Lillies are at Usher Hall on Aug

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