A serious challenge for my scholarly readership

Over the years I have developed an obsession for a piece of music by Monteverdi * that ends his opera Coronation of Poppea written in 1642.

Here it is. I love this recording, but it is 1 min 18 seconds into this video


What (I think) I know about this piece (no serious scholarship ever undertaken), and what makes it so fascinating to me is as follows: –

1. It is a love duet between Nero and his prostitute wife Poppea after she has contrived to ascend the throne of Rome leaving a trail of blood and misery. It is based on real events recounted by Tacitus.

2. The opera is framed by various goddesses, in articular ‘Amor’ the God of Love is set against the goddesses of Fortune and Virtue or Wisdom (I think). Amor intervenes directly in the action.

3*. It is said that this duet may have been the work of one of Monteverdi’s pupils (don’t think dopey nerd who knows a few power chords though). Cavalli is mentioned.

4. It is thought that the audience would both have known the story of the real events and may have also known that subsequent to the marriage Nero kicks Poppea to death in a jealous or drunken rage.

So my questions relate to the following possible scenarios

1. Audiences of the time just wanted a good happy ending and did not care about the story – so Monti provides just that.

2. Monteverdi was being incredibly modern and ironic in not musically hinting at us what a couple of bastards we have here.

3. The fact that ‘love trumps all’ is sufficient to justify an ending of such beauty and thus negates any need for musical subtext

4. Monteverdi’s pupil had not read the story and just churned out a crowd pleaser

5. Monteverdi lost the plot – he was very old

This duet seems to me like an ending unlike any other in the canon of the time (not that I know sod all – Charles help please) in so far as evil is truly triumphant, there is no moralising summation, no irony, no attempt to hint at anything other than a deep loving joy proclaimed by two of the nastiest characters in all opera.

Anyone prepared to do the reading necessary, listening, viewing to find out? I would really love to know what the most likely scenario was.

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