Where It All Got Started: Monteverdi's 'Orfeo'

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THE HIT SINGLE: "Powerful Spirit"

In Monteverdi's Orfeo, the title character (tenor Jan Van Elsacker) appeals to the infernal boatman Caronte in one of the opera's most extraordinary and emotional musical numbers -- "Possente spirto." Orfeo's plaintive lines are echoed by instruments and his pleas are interrupted by longer instrumental passages that reinforce his desperation.

THE B SIDE: "I Am Music"

It's fitting that, in an opera that arguably spawned all others, Monteverdi's opening vocal number is sung by La Musica (mezzo-soprano Saskia Salembier), extolling the power of music itself to "bring peace to every troubled heart," and "kindle the coldest spirits."