Based on the second half of Homer’s Odyssey, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria is a tale of treachery and deception, eventually overcome by fidelity and love. When Ulysses, King of Ithaca, returns home from the Trojan wars he finds his faithful queen, Penelope, besieged by a trio of unctuous suitors and urged by her advisors to accept one of them as her new husband. Ulysses (with both the help and hindrance of the gods) eventually convinces her of his true identity, routs the three suitors and regains his kingdom. Monteverdi and his librettist Badoaro chart the trials and twists of Ulysses’ journey, introducing us to a Shakespearean cast of characters – from the quarrelling gods, to the noble protagonists, their scheming servants, the evil courtiers, and rustics that are either innocent, faithful or merely foolish. It is astonishing how accurately and subtly Monteverdi’s music reflects the salient features of each personage. Most strikingly, he underlines the essential humanity of Ulysses and Penelope, so that we are moved to share in their sorrows and joys.