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Seventeenth-Century Opera and the Sound of the Commedia Dell'Arte$
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Emily Wilbourne

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226401577

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226401607.001.0001

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Penelope and Poppea as Stock Figures of the Commedia dell’Arte

Penelope and Poppea as Stock Figures of the Commedia dell’Arte

(p.130) Chapter Four Penelope and Poppea as Stock Figures of the Commedia dell’Arte
Seventeenth-Century Opera and the Sound of the Commedia Dell'Arte

Emily Wilbourne

University of Chicago Press

This chapter considers the prima and seconda female roles of Monteverdi’s two surviving Venetian operas: Penelope and Melanto from Il Ritorno d’Ulisse (1641), and Poppea and Ottavia from L’incoronazione (1643). Two types of donne innamorate are identified, and linked to commedia dell’arte precedents. The “adamant” woman, typically characterized by betrayal and lament, is steadfast in her rejection of love or in her commitment to an unfaithful lover. The “ardent” woman, typically associated with aria forms, is excited by the prospect of love and happily engages in the forms of flirtation and love making. These stock character types are mapped onto Monteverdi’s heroines. Contemporary pedagogical texts for actors are read for their commentary on the actor’s voice and expressive sound. The author suggests that the commedia prototypes on which Monteverdi’s women are based would have evidenced similarly distinctive aural profiles.

Keywords:   commedia dell’arte, opera, sound, voice, Claudio Monteverdi, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse, L’incoronazione di Poppea, innamorate, Il corago, Andrea Perrucci

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