With Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria, the Vienna State Opera completes its Monteverdi cycle opened in the past two seasons with L'incoronazione di Poppea and La favola di Orfeo. The relationship of the Ritorno to Vienna is a particularly close one, since the only surviving handwritten score by a copyist's hand was only identified in the 2nd half of the 19th century in the holdings of Leopold I's former bedchamber library; since the 2nd half of the 20th century, Monteverdi's authorship has been recognised beyond doubt. It could not be ascertained whether the copy of the score was expressly commissioned by the Habsburgs or acquired in Italy. Nor is there any indication that this score was used in connection with a performance.

The underlying concept of »recitar cantando«, i.e. »sung recitation«, implied the high literary standards that were set for the libretto poems.

The libretto theatricalizes cantos 13 to 23 of the Odyssey, that epic poem about the homecoming of King Odysseus of Ithaca from the Trojan War, written at the turn of the 8th to the 7th century B.C. and traditionally attributed to the Greek poet Homer, and focuses on the events on and around Ithaca, from the moment when the sleeping Ulisse is deposited on his home island by the friendly Phaeacians. The action shuttles back and forth between Ulisse, who is taken in unrecognized and in the guise of a beggar by the sowherd Eumete and initially reveals himself only to his son Telemaco, and the events at the residence, where Penelope, who has been missing her husband for 20 years, is courted by three suitors. In a further narrative strand, which in the reception has so far been reduced to "baroque booth magic", the god figures of the ancient pantheon Giove (Jupiter), Nettuno (Poseidon), Minerva (Athena) and Giunone (Juno) act. Their rivalries and strategies of assertion play a decisive role in the course of events and make it clear that it is above all also their war, which they have fought out by human representatives.

© Wiener Staatsoper


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