Venice's mythic empires: Truth and verisimilitude in Venetian opera

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

8 Scopus citations


The notion that works of art have some sort of relationship to the society that creates them is perhaps axiomatic. The difficulty, however, is untangling the numerous threads that link these cultural products to the people and institutions that produce and consume them. Inevitably, this task is made simpler when a work seems to express the ideology of a single patron or a centralized power base. Wealth and prestige, for example, might be demonstrated simply by opulence, grandeur, and spectacle – only the magnificent can produce magnificence. Ostentation can sometimes be imbued with simple, yet effective, messages: “benevolence and wisdom are noble attributes”; “duty is more important than physical love”; “reason and restraint are better than desire” – or any number of precepts that might exemplify the virtues of whichever ruler is at the helm. Occasionally, seemingly contradictory ideals are melded together in ways that resist easy analysis. This is the case, for example, with L'incoronazione di Poppea (1643), in which Busenello's poetic fancy and Monteverdi's incomparable music create an ambivalent moral frame. For example, we still can't decide whether Seneca is a pretentious buffoon (Act I) or a worthy citizen and martyr to the Stoic cause (Act II), or whether the ambivalence is simply part of the game – as well as a demonstration of Monteverdi's unmatched ability to trip us up on our search for meaning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationOpera and Society in Italy and France from Monteverdi to Bourdieu
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780511481734
ISBN (Print)0521856752, 9780521856751
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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