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Italian Baroque masterpiece a Christmas gift to New Orleans

To hear Sharon Litwin interview Mattea Musso on WWNO public radio, click here.

One can hear all kinds of music in New Orleans. There’s blues and Bartok, soul and Sibelius. But, except for the occasional concert or two, there’s not a whole lot of Baroque being played around here. Mattea Musso, a newcomer to the city and an acclaimed vocal interpreter of the Baroque, has spent the past few months adding performances of this 400-year-old musical style into the vocal variety of the Crescent City.

Mattea Musso

Mattea Musso

Her devotion to the music comes to a peak this weekend at the Marigny Opera House with its presentation of a rarely performed musical masterpiece, the Vespers of 1610 by Claudio Monteverdi. Acting as vocal director for this weekend’s performances, Mattea and her group of 13 singers will be accompanied by the New Resonance Orchestra under the baton of Francis Scully and a troupe of dancers led by the Brazilian choreographer/dancer Diogo de Lima.

Monteverdi, an Italian composer and Catholic priest (1567-1643), led the transition from the late 16th century Renaissance style of music for many voices to the revolutionary early 17th century style featuring the clear sounds of the solo voice. It was the precursor of what was to become opera.

Mattea Musso, born in Rome of Sicilian parents, was educated in Florence, starting out as a classical pianist before deciding to focus on a vocal career. For her this early form of music was perfect.

“It’s the first type of music where the solo voice comes out,” she explains.

New Orleans can hardly be described as a center of 17th century music. So one might be forgiven for asking why an accomplished musician with diplomas from the Conservatorio di Musica in Florence and leader of Echomundi, a renowned eight-member vocal ensemble, would come to this Baroque-barren city?

“I’m here because of  love,” Mattea says, explaining that she came to New Orleans to be with her Argentinean husband, who was invited to join the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University. That love has grown, she says, to include so much about New Orleans: “because of the way people say hello to you on the street; the weather, of course; the melting of the cultures and because of the melting of the music.”

Even though Mattea knew no one when she came here a year ago, through a series of only-in-New Orleans coincidences she has made musical connections. Now she and her new colleagues are presenting a very different production of the Vespers of 1610, framed as a festival of light celebrating the Winter Solstice.

Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 will be performed on Thursday, Dec. 12, Friday, Dec. 13 and Saturday, Dec. 14 at 8 p.m. at the Marigny Opera House, 725 St. Ferdinand St. General Admission tickets are $30; $20 for students and seniors. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to or call 504-948-8998.


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