Emblems of Eloquence: Opera and Women’s Voices in Seventeenth-Century Venice

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University of California Press, 2003 - History - 386 pages
Opera developed during a time when the position of women—their rights and freedoms, their virtues and vices, and even the most basic substance of their sexuality—was constantly debated. Many of these controversies manifested themselves in the representation of the historical and mythological women whose voices were heard on the Venetian operatic stage. Drawing upon a complex web of early modern sources and ancient texts, this engaging study is the first comprehensive treatment of women, gender, and sexuality in seventeenth-century opera. Wendy Heller explores the operatic manifestations of female chastity, power, transvestism, androgyny, and desire, showing how the emerging genre was shaped by and infused with the Republic's taste for the erotic and its ambivalent attitudes toward women and sexuality.

Heller begins by examining contemporary Venetian writings about gender and sexuality that influenced the development of female vocality in opera. The Venetian reception and transformation of ancient texts—by Ovid, Virgil, Tacitus, and Diodorus Siculus—form the background for her penetrating analyses of the musical and dramatic representation of five extraordinary women as presented in operas by Claudio Monteverdi, Francesco Cavalli, and their successors in Venice: Dido, queen of Carthage (Cavalli); Octavia, wife of Nero (Monteverdi); the nymph Callisto (Cavalli); Queen Semiramis of Assyria (Pietro Andrea Ziani); and Messalina, wife of Claudius (Carlo Pallavicino).
 

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Contents

1
27
Thais Taide Girolamo Ercolani Le eroine della solitudine sacra ovvero vite dalcune romite sacre 1655
44
Paolo Botti La donna dipoche parole commendata 1663
46
Opera and the Accademia degli Incogniti
48
Didone and the Voice of Chastity
82
The Stages of Didos LamentBusenello and Virgil
114
Woman and Empire
136
Chronology of Significant Roman Events a d 4165
140
Annibale Carracci Diana and Endymion engraving ca 1650
189
Annibale Carracci Pan and Diana engraving ca 1650
190
Semiramide and Musical Transvestism
220
Maiolino Bisaccioni La Semiramide in India 1648
230
7
232
Matteo Noris La Semiramide 1671
233
Envoicing the Courtesan
263
Conclusions
295

The Nurses Lessons Lincoronazione di Poppea Act 1 Scene 5
163
The Nymph Calisto and the Myth of Female Pleasure
178
Peter Paul Rubens Jupiter and Callisto 1613
184

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About the author (2003)

Wendy Heller is Assistant Professor of Music at Princeton University.

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