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Emblems of EloquenceOpera and Women's Voices in Seventeenth-Century Venice$
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Wendy Heller

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780520209336

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520209336.001.0001

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“Disprezzata regina”

“Disprezzata regina”

Woman and Empire

(p.136) Chapter 4 “Disprezzata regina”
Emblems of Eloquence

Wendy Heller

University of California Press

This chapter introduces Octavia, wife of Nero, in Claudio Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea. It specifically addresses the relationship between woman and empire as manifest in the musical and dramatic representation of Ottavia, and the next lamenting woman to be featured in an opera libretto by Giovanni Francesco Busenello. While Ottavia rejects the Nutrice's teachings on sexual pleasure, the lesson on revenge may well have found its mark. Ottavia's final appearance in the opera returns the heroine to a seemingly more accurate depiction of Tacitus' historical narrative: in exile on the island of Pandateria. Ottavia is exiled not only physically but also musically and left to die under ambiguous circumstances. At the conclusion of the opera, it is Poppea's sensuality that commands the stage.

Keywords:   Octavia, Claudio Monteverdi, L'incoronazione di Poppea, Nutrice, opera, Tacitus, Giovanni Francesco Busenello

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