Semiramide and Musical Transvestism

Wendy Heller

in Emblems of Eloquence

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2004 | ISBN: 9780520209336
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520919341 | DOI:
Semiramide and Musical Transvestism

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This chapter investigates the musical transvestism in the operatic representation of Queen Semiramis. It also considers the operatic representation of a far less virtuous and more unconventional warrior woman, Semiramis, the queen of Assyria, as presented in Pietro Ziani and Matteo Noris' La Semiramide, first performed at the Teatro SS. Giovanni e Paolo in 1670. Despite Semiramide's brilliance and the complexities of her mythological reputation, she was unable to overcome the assumptions about female speech and song that ultimately controlled her musical representation. Semiramide's usurpation of Nino's birthright, identity, and gender is eventually resolved in a manner that manages the problem of female power, regardless of distortions in myth and legend. Semiramide, despite her extraordinary personality and historical legacy, proves once again that it is female virtue that paves the way to rhetorical prowess.

Keywords: musical transvestism; Semiramide; Queen Semiramis; Pietro Ziani; Matteo Noris; Nino; female virtue; female power

Chapter.  13123 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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