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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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The Nymph Calisto and the Myth of Female Pleasure

The Nymph Calisto and the Myth of Female Pleasure

(p.178) Chapter 5 The Nymph Calisto and the Myth of Female Pleasure
Emblems of Eloquence

Wendy Heller

University of California Press

This chapter explains the mythical realm of Arcadia in Francesco Cavalli's La Calisto, and looks towards a libretto by Giovanni Faustini. The opera La Calisto engages with the myth of Venice in an entirely new manner, intersecting in surprising ways with the city's unique self-image, political ideologies, and libertine tendencies. With La Calisto, Cavalli and Faustini find a novel way to manage the problem of women's desire and eroticism in opera, casting a somewhat different light on the Venetian ambivalence toward female sexuality. Cavalli illustrates a skill at motivic unity and text painting that was less apparent in La Didone. The transformation of female sexual desire into spiritual fulfillment is demonstrated. Cavalli provides a musical language that represents explicit female pleasure, but nonetheless contrives for its ultimate suppression in the guise of spiritual enlightenment.

Keywords:   La Calisto, Giovanni Faustini, Arcadia, Francesco Cavalli, Venice, female sexual desire, spiritual fulfillment

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