One of the central problems of the opera is the problem of the hero, the question of the embodiment of the image of a person. Drawing a certain picture of life, the opera recreates it primarily through the world of man and human relations as the world of actors with their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Thus, original portraits of heroes are formed in the opera.
The opera reflects the three main layers of human nature, which presents the battle of human passions. The first – cruelty and meanness, is mainly associated with the image of the extravagant emperor Nero, which is manifested in the murder of Seneca. The second is sensual-erotic, which is represented by the Nero-Poppea line. The third is psychological, depicting the ambitious and cunning intriguer Poppaea and the cruel and cowardly Nero. It is noteworthy that there are no absolutely positive or negative characters in the opera. Thus, the bloodthirsty despot Nero is capable of inspiration in expressing sensual passion, and the young poetic Drusilla, courageous and selfless, ready to die for the sake of her beloved, is able, without hesitation to help in the treacherous murder of her rival. These are the characters that I like the most.
Coronation of Poppea presents a depraved, immoral, and repulsive world. However, the viewer does not have to sympathize with the characters and empathize with them to enjoy the opera. Geyer notes that the action unfolding on the stage makes the viewer understand what terrible path humanity has passed over many centuries, how it fell into the abyss of hell, represented primarily by Nero and Poppea. However, even though the heroes of the work induce contempt in the viewer, the opera causes admiration and pleasure. It is largely since the heroes reveal those timeless moral problems that are both topical and eternal in all eras.
Thus, one of the outstanding works of the Baroque era, The Coronation of Poppea, is a biting satire demonstrating a look at oneself through history. Gods and allegorical figures symbolize with Shakespearean contrasts and volume the struggle of human passions; immorality is shown without judgment as a given. The heroes of the work will not leave anyone indifferent since the plot remains relevant through the centuries to the present day.
Geyer, Helen. “Aspects of Period-Turns.” Ethics, Society and Politics: Themes from the Philosophy of Peter Winch, edited by Lynette Reid and Michael Campbell, Springer International Publishing, 2020, pp. 117-133.