L’ incoronazione di Poppea (1642) – Claudio Monteverdi
The scene at the end of the opera in which Poppæa is raised to the rank of Roman empress by her marriage to Nerone (Nero) marks the end of the long path she has travelled to reach the imperial marriage bed. Her goal has been threatened by the numerous incidents that have arisen along the way – intrigues, betrayals and banishments – but each time she has emerged victorious. The opera makes no attempt to idealize the process or prettify what history tells us about the two characters: that Nero was an irascible despot and Poppæa an ambitious, unscrupulous courtesan. Thus the love between Nerone and Poppea is depicted first and foremost as the fruit of lust and ambition and for this very reason the opera often takes on a farcical tone, interspersed with elegant, lyrical arias.