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Incoronazione di Poppea

Incoronazione di Poppea

As in every operas written by the composer Claudio Monteverdi, it is necessary to transcribe the musical part from the manuscripts we have, where, as tradition wanted, there are only the vocal parts and the basso continuo, except for the instrumental “refrains”. There are two versions of L'Incoronazione di Poppea; the oldest one is preserved in Naples and the other one, more simple and revised by Francesco Cavalli is in Venice. Of this opera there are modern versions too, included the critical edition by Alan Curtis of 1990, inspired to philological criteria followed also by Harnoncourt, Malgoire and Jacobs looking for sounds more tuned with the time, compares to the existing versions, including those by Malipiero, Benvenuti and Ghedini.

Synopsis Incoronazione di Poppea

PROLOGUE
The goddesses of Fortune and Virtue are unable to contradict Amore, the goddess of love, to have the most power over mankind and submit to her control over history.

ACT I
Rome during Nero’s rule. Ottone, recently returned from war, looks forward to a reunion with his lover, Poppea. When he notices two imperial guards outside her house, he realises that Poppea must have taken Nero, the Emperor, as her lover and leaves in despair. Poppea and Nero enter as Poppea begs him not to leave her but the Emperos has to return to his wife, the Empress Octavia; however, he vows to return as soon as possible and confirm his love for her. Poppea’s nurse Arnalta warns her of Nero’s reputation and reminds her that very often great men will desert those to whom they are professing love and leave them in shame and scandal. However, Poppea’s ambitious and fearless. Octavia laments over being dishonoured as the consort of Nero and her nurse suggests her to seek revenge by taking her own lover. A page brings the philosopher Seneca to Octavia; he advises her to bear her misfortune with dignity and restraint, encouraging her to allow constant virtue to strengthen her noble purpose. Octavia ignores the advice from Seneca claiming that his words are empty and that they offer little comfort to her human sorrow. Seneca is forewarned of his death by the goddess Athena, but he says he will welcome this end as an entrance to a place of more splendid enlightenment. Nero explains his decision to Seneca of renouncing Octavia in order to marry Poppea. Seneca encourages him to honour his wife’s feelings but Nero reaffirms his intentions. Poppea convinces him that Seneca is being disloyal and Nero orders his execution. Ottone complains to Poppea of her infidelity; she tells him that it is Fortune’s doing and she must follow her fate. Drusilla, a woman at court in love with him, wonders why he continues to be faithful to the fickle Poppea. Ottone claims to be free now to love Drusilla, even if he's still in love with Poppea. Seneca receives the death sentence and bids a dignified farewell to his friends.

ACT II
Nero celebrates the death of Seneca. Octavia persuades Ottone to kill Poppea and he borrows some of Drusilla’s clothes as a disguise. Poppea talks to Arnalta in her garden of her excitement about her impending wedding and promises to keep Arnalta as her confidante when she is Empress. Ottone enters the garden disguised in Drusilla’s clothes, but the goddess of love protects Poppea from the murder attempt.

ACT III
Drusilla is suspected and arrested; despite her protests is about to be executed when Ottone discloses his guilt and Octavia’s plot. The Emperor orders his banishment, and Drusilla announces that she will share his exile. Nero banishes Octavia from Rome. Poppea learns of the plot and rejoices that Nero has a reason to repudiate Octavia. Amore elevates Poppea to the rank of goddess. Nero and Poppea exultantly celebrate the power of love at Poppea’s coronation.

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