L'incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea)


Writers: Claudio Monteverdi Giovanni Francesco Busenello


Show Information

Number of Acts
First Produced
Historical/Biographical, Drama
Multiple Settings, Period
Time & Place
Rome, 60AD
Cast Size
Orchestra Size
Ideal for
Professional Opera, Large Cast, Ensemble Cast, College/University
Casting Notes
Mostly male cast
Includes young adult, adult, mature adult, elderly characters


The beautiful Poppea has caught the eye of the emperor Nerone (Nero), and he has fallen devotedly in love with her. He believes his wife, Ottavia, is barren, and the coldness she offers him is in such opposition to Poppea’s open warmth and affection. The decision is easy: he intends to make Poppea his wife, making her empress of Rome. Carrying out this task simply means removing any obstacles in his way, like his wife, and the old moralising philosopher, Seneca.

But, Poppea had a lover before Nerone. Ottone (Otho) has been away for several years, and returns to find himself replaced by the emperor. No amount of pleading with his beloved Poppea will make her remember her feelings for him: her ambition to become queen is far too strong. Ottone tries desperately to forget her, even starting a relationship with Drusilla instead. However, when Ottavia gives Ottone the order to kill her husband’s lover, Ottone cannot go through with it. No matter how much it hurts, he still loves her, and for that love he finds himself in exile, by order of the emperor. Ottavia’s crime is also discovered, and she is banished from the kingdom, leaving Poppea to become the new empress of Rome.

L’incoronazione di Poppea continues to delight audiences with its distinct presentations of real human emotions, and its unusual outcome: morality is punished whilst immorality reigns.

Lead Characters

L'incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea) guide sections