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Theatre / L Incoronazione Di Poppaea

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The Coronation of Poppaea is a three-act opera by Claudio Monteverdi which premiered in 1643.

The story follows the adulterous Emperor Nero's plans to divorce his wife Ottavia and have his ambitious mistress Poppaea crowned Empress in her stead.


This work contains examples of:

  • Ambition Is Evil: Poppea wants to become empress of Rome... so she seduces the emperor Nero, breaking her previous lover's heart, then gets Nero to divorce his wife and drive his old teacher to suicide.
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  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Of Love, Virtue, and Fortune. The three observe and are implied to meddle in the affairs of the characters. During the prologue, Love claims that the entire story is his attempt to prove his superiority over the latter two (see The Power of Love below).
  • Artistic Licence – History: The librettist took great liberties with his historical source material, condensing the events of several months into a single day, omitting several characters, adding others etc. He was quite candid about this, simply stating that 'here we represent these actions differently'.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Poppea and Nero are the most reprehensible characters in the opera... and they're also the ones who ride off into the sunset at the end.
  • Disguised in Drag: Ottone when trying to murder Poppea.
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  • Driven to Suicide: Seneca.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: According to Seneca, who relishes his moments of quiet repose with his books, away from the "arrogant, haughty chatter" of the Senate.
  • Lonely at the Top: Invoked by Seneca.
  • The Mistress: Poppea to Nero.
  • Mood Whiplash: The sexual escapades of Octavia's servants come directly after Seneca's suicide scene, and Octavia's lament as she goes into exile is immediately followed by Arnalta gloating that she and Poppea are about to move up in the world.
  • The Philosopher: Seneca, naturally.
  • The Power of Love: The theme of the opera. In the Prologue, the god of love asserts his superiority to both Fortune and Virtue, and by the end of the story Poppea and Nero are married in spite of all obstacles. Of course, since they mess up pretty much everyone else's lives in the process, it's more like 'The Power Of Petty Lust', really.
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  • Psychopathic Manchild: Nero.
  • Social Climber: Noblewoman Poppea wants to be royalty, and her nurse Arnalta is excited about bathing in her mistress' reflected glory.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Nero's effective response when Seneca attempts to dissuade him from marrying Poppaea.
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