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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

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

Wendy Heller

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520209336.003.0006

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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