Monteverdi, an Italian composer, singer, priest, and gambist from Cremona, is one of the most important composers in the history of Western music. His compositional output marked the transition from the late Renaissance to the new "Baroque" style, combining the brand-new basso continuo technique with formal counterpoint. He did much to develop the then-new genre, the opera, writing one of the very first operas (L'Orfeo, 1607) to still be regularly performed today. His other two surviving operas, Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria and L'incoronazione di Poppea, are also both masterpieces. He published eight books of Madrigals in his lifetime, which successively stretched the harmonic and musico-dramatic language of the time to new lengths. He was also a pioneer in music for the Church: his Vespero della Beata Vergine of 1610 is a landmark work for choir and orchestra that introduces, alongside archaic polyphony, such forward-looking techniques as concertato writing and ritornello forms to sacred music.
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