"First the words, and then the music", declared Monteverdi - an unexpected manifesto for one of the greatest and most innovative composers of all time. This course will discuss and illustrate Monteverdi's three surviving operas, exploring their background both in terms of a developing humanistic culture and an expansion of musical language in the direction of new expressive possibilities. Originating in an artistic and intellectual project that sought to revive the pairing of music and drama in ancient Greece, Monteverdi's operas unsurprisingly base their plots on legendary and historical personalities, notably Orpheus, Ulysses, and Nero. The message however is endlessly familiar: humans are at the mercy of forces beyond their control. How Monteverdi presents this in music is the question for us to consider. This course is a detailed exploration of the topic and will include some technicalities. It will require downloading of the texts of the operas.