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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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Semiramide and Musical Transvestism

Semiramide and Musical Transvestism

Chapter:
(p.220) Chapter 6 Semiramide and Musical Transvestism
Source:
Emblems of Eloquence
Author(s):

Wendy Heller

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520209336.003.0007

This chapter investigates the musical transvestism in the operatic representation of Queen Semiramis. It also considers the operatic representation of a far less virtuous and more unconventional warrior woman, Semiramis, the queen of Assyria, as presented in Pietro Ziani and Matteo Noris' La Semiramide, first performed at the Teatro SS. Giovanni e Paolo in 1670. Despite Semiramide's brilliance and the complexities of her mythological reputation, she was unable to overcome the assumptions about female speech and song that ultimately controlled her musical representation. Semiramide's usurpation of Nino's birthright, identity, and gender is eventually resolved in a manner that manages the problem of female power, regardless of distortions in myth and legend. Semiramide, despite her extraordinary personality and historical legacy, proves once again that it is female virtue that paves the way to rhetorical prowess.

Keywords:   musical transvestism, Semiramide, Queen Semiramis, Pietro Ziani, Matteo Noris, Nino, female virtue, female power

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