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Dramma per musica in three acts
Libretto: Vincenzo Grimani
First performance: 26 December 1709 (Venice - Teatro San Giovanni Crisostomo)
CLAUDIUS, Roman emperor
AGRIPPINA, Claudius's wife
NERO, Agrippina's son from a previous marriage
POPPEA, a Roman lady
OTHO, commander of the imperial army
PALLAS, a henchman
NARCISSUS, a henchman
LESBUS, servant of Claudius
JUNO, the goddess
Place and Time:
Rome, around the middle of the first century
Agrippina's private apartments
Nero, my beloved son! This is the moment
for you to seize fortune
by the locks and stop her motion.
Today, propitious destiny
holds out to you the crown of the Caesars.
To you alone I reveal what is, as yet, known by none.
Take this, read! And you shall both see
and know that which my mind
plans for your future good.
reading the document
''With sorrow in my heart and tears in my eyes,
regal Augusta, I send you this letter.
In dire peril on the stormy seas
the Roman Eagle was submerged,
and Claudius, your husband
and the god we both honour, met his death."
Claudius is dead? What news is this?
The throne of Lazio is empty, and to replenish it
my mind labours on your behalf.
Now ripe for empire, you have arrived today
at the threshold of your twenty-first year.
On this fateful day I intend that Rome
shall wreathe your brow with the imperial laurel.
What must I do?
Keep secret what you know,
put aside your pride and assume humiIity.
Go amongst the crowds, and with a modest glance
greet every one; distribute to the poor
the gold you hold in secret;
sympathise with their lot.
And if within your heart
revenge smoulders, or love burns,
cover the one and hide the other;
consider not inward deception serious.
If you would reign,
you must master your desires,
for laws bow before the desire to rule.
Your sound advice
shall always be my guide, mother.
Go then, delay no longer! Straightway arrange
the scheme my love has hatched.
One moment lost
can destroy a great undertaking.
With your wise counsel
I shall ascend the throne.
Less an emperor than a son,
you, mother, I will adore.
Let all be set in motion
for this great work.
Well do I know
that Narcissus and Pallas,
inclination or self-interest,
harbour a hidden desire
to conquer my heart;
let that which I despised
now be artfully welcomed.
Ho there, send for Pallas!
A page sets off.
May cunning and deceit
assist me now.
She seats herself in a melancholy attitude.
Upon your sovereign command
behold your faithful Pallas.
(She sadly hides her lovely face,
and lost in thought replies not to me?)
You have proof, Augusta, of my heart's
obedience to your decrees,
and well you know how faithful it is,
and how constant.
Ah Pallas, Pallas!
Why ever does Agrippina sigh?
I would it were in my power
to ease your suffering.
Ah Pallas, Pallas!
(What does this signify? It must be bold!)
Your own Pallas am I,
one whose heart
is yours to command…
Yes, yes, my heart, o queen,
and with my faithful hear
whatever it pleases you...
Yes, yes, your meaning is clear:
like your heart, your sword is at my service.
My sword, my arm, my very soul…
Your loyalty is pleasing to me.
Ah, if only
I could speak my mind!
Speak then, reveal your thoughts.
I fear to …
Do not be afraid.
(I must be cunning.)
For long have t nurtured
a love that devours me,
but natural respect …
No more, you have said enough.
I seek pardon for my love, my fair one.
Let it suffice that I have heard and pardoned you.
Further discussion must be deferred until a later time.
Pallas, you shall know
that which is hidden from all others.
Claudius is dead.
The fate of his successor will be settled
by the army and the people.
Go you to the Capitol,
gather our supporters,
and at the moment
when Caesar's death is made known,
acclaim Nero immediately.
If my son comes to power,
Pallas will reign with Agrippina.
descends today from the stars.
through you to me.
For through you alone,
my lovely adored one.
my star shines on me.
making glorious my faithfulness.
Now that Pallas is conquered,
let's vanquish Narcissus too.
Ho there, call Narcissus!
A page sets off.
He who knows how to pretend
obtains what he wants.
A suppliant at your feet …
Enough of that!
To impart a dark secret
I call Narcissus aside;
you alone do I appoint today
to be the doer of a great deed,
and to your confidence entrust
what I have hid until now.
You may always rely
on my confidence.
Yet what your true feelings are
I know not: reveal them to me.
Ah, sovereign Augusta,
that which I would speak is forbidden
All shall he allowed to you.
Then if I am free to speak my mind,
I shall tell you that I love you.
And can you make so bold?
A suppliant at your feet
I beg …
What would you ask?
That you turn your gaze towards me with pity.
Rise, and let it be a mark if my clemency toward you
that I comprehend your desires and forgive you.
Now that you are aware of my love,
I am happy.
How well I trust you,
read and discover
Heavens, what do I read?
Now is the moment
to ensure that the sceptre
remain in Agrippina's hands.
Go straightway to where
the populace and soldiers are gathered;
there wait till I have revealed
the fateful news, then subtly introduce
the name of Nero amongst the crowd.
If heaven today allots the throne to Nero.
Narcissus shall reign with Agrippina.
I hurry away, my heart light
at the prospect of happiness.
I shall fly from place to place
on the wings of love,
and with passionate fervour
shall do your bidding.
As much as destiny's decrees
can do, so can I do, myself!
Let nothing be overlooked.
To work, to work!
All praise to him
who deceives in order to reign.
Amidst the tempest
my soul hopes to reach its port.
So well have I armed
my breast with constancy,
that with fair land in sight,
even the most baleful storms
seem objects of comfort.
The square in front of the Capitol
surrounded by the populace, distributing gifts
What pleasure it affords a kind heart
to bring relief to the wretched!
Here, you must have some too.
Yet it grieves me to see
that amidst all these crowds
you have no zealous supporter
to commiserate your state.
My friends, I clasp you to my ***;
oh, with what pleasure
I would take your cruel poverty
(May cunning and deceit serve my ends!)
This is the man who shall soon
be emperor of Rome.
(One must win his affection.)
(One must bug his favour.)
In these acts, sir.
your virtue shines out.
Your tender mercy, here displayed.
is such as to win hearts glory and renown.
Ah Pallas, ah Narcissus!
It pans me that miserly fate
constrains my wishes.
I would help all those in need - for compassion
is the virtue most pleasing to the gods.
(Mother, I hold to your precepts,
dissembling in order to become emperor.)
by people of every rank,
Some weighty matter brings her.
Perhaps you know of it?
What it may be, I do not know.
(Agrippina made known all to me alone.)
(This is the day on which
my destiny will be decided.)
(Soon I shall reyel in her lovely features.)
She goes to seat herself on the throne.
You who with love,
wisdom and strength
direct the I fortunes
of lofty Rome, to you I am come,
the unhappy bearer
of dread tidings.
My friends. Claudius is dead;
the treacherous sea,
envious that such a treasure
should be left onland,
has snatched it from us,
and of the throne of Rome
has made a widow.
She comes down from the throne.
Lei the authority residing in you
choose another emperor for the throne,
and let him be just, merciful and pious,
as Rome deserves,
and as my heart desires.
Your son …
Your offspring …
… alone deserves sceptre and crown;
long live Nero!
Long live Nero!
Come, my son,
ascend the throne.
Come, o emperor of Rome!
My soul rejoices within me.
Now I shall reign,
now I shall wreathe my locks with laurel.
Agrippina and Nero ascend the throne.
But what sound of joyous trumpets do I hear?
O joy! Rejoice!
Claudius is arrived
at the port of Anzio;
Otho subdued the vaunting pride
of the ocean, that wished him drowned.
What do I hear?
O cruel heavens!
Is there anyone in the world so wretched as I?
My son, do not allow the slings and arrows
of outrageous fortune to trouble you;
you shall ascend the throne
from which you dismounted.
(If ever cunning were needed,
let it now be employed.)
Oh what contentment, my friends,
is born within my afflicted heart:
Claudius is risen from the dead,
and risen with him
are the fortunes of Rome.
At such happy news
let general joy spring gladly forth!
Long live Claudius!
(Oh lost happiness!)
(My hopes are dashed!)
(Pitiless heaven, do you betray me thus?)
My lady, to you is come the valorous Otho,
who dragged Caesar from the ocean's maw.
and restores him to land.
AGRIPPINA, NERO, NARCISSUS, PALLAS
(Here comes the main cause of my affliction.)
(Swiftly I shall fly to Poppea, a messenger of love,
to reveal to her the feelings Claudius nurtures in his breast.)
To kneel before you, o Augusta,
fortunate amidst misfortunes, I return.
No sooner had the Britains been defeated,
and while the sea yet bore
our great and swollen triumph,
than, still envious,
the ocean tried with storms
to plunder it from Rome.
Too weak to bear their loaded cargoes,
our ships gave way before the storm clouds
that shattered us between rocks,
and submerged us beneath the waves;
nor did the treacherous billows
respect the emperor more
than the common plebeian,
but dragged him down into themselves,
till all believed him dead.
But, thanks to kindly fate, in the general wreck,
my strong arm brought him forth from death.
For such a great deed,
Claudius, Rome and Agrippina
are all in your debt,
and from the soul of a Caesar
the greater reward shall be more fitting.
Already has a grateful monarch's reward
surpassed my deservings;
appoints me to the throne.
(Oh heavens, what do I hear!)
(Alas, what anguish!)
At break of day
Rome will marvel at her Claudius triumphant,
and he will then make known
to the people and the Senate
the honour he bestows upon me.
An honour well deserved.
Then Otho shall be …
He shall be Caesar?
(Over my dead body!)
(Alas, what jealousy I suffer!)
If you will permit, my lady,
I would reveal to you a weighty secret,
on which alone depends
all that is most dear to my heart.
(Let us listen with circumspection.)
And you others may leave.
Confide in me, tell me
what is your heart's desire?
(What a turn of events!)
(Alas, treacherous fate!)
Nero, Narcissus and Pallas leave.
O Augusta, I love Poppea:
throne and sceptre I heed not,
if I am deprived of the adored one,
to whom my life is subject;
on you my fate today depends.
Let feelings of love
for the admired beauty
then sustain your heart,
for mine wil be ready
to grant you assistance.
O great and magnanimous
bestower of favours and of blessings,
how much, how much do I owe you!
(Claudius loves Poppea, that I already know;
I hope that my plan willl not come to nought.)
Right worthy are you
of the laurel.
(My heart meanwhile
is aflame with anger.)
For the one
who inspires your love
a gentle flame
burns in your breast.
O fortune you grant me
the very summit of happiness!
To make me blessed,
love today unites the gift of the throne
with that of a countenance
both god-like and beloved.
O flattering hope,
deceive not my heart!
do not change your countenance!
before the mirror
You precious pearls,
you choice flowers,
adorn my brow!
Increase the rarity
of my beauty.
To awaken love in men's hearts
I have in mine a ready desire.
Otho, Claudius and Nero
have all revealed their passion.
Each one is flattered by his own ardour;
they no longer know
whether I speak the truth,
My lady, oh my lady!
(Here is Claudius's servant:
let love's deceptions and cunning be maintained.)
O faithful servant, what comfort
the sight of you brings me!
And what happy news
do you bring me from Claudius?
In his peril on the ocean,
worse than the loss of his own wife,
thoughts of you made Claudius wretched.
Each one called on his gods for help;
he called on Poppea.
Ah, dear Lesbus, I cannot find words
to describe the terribIe sorrow
which such a painful separation
brought to my heart.
Not a moment went by
but he was in my thoughts.
(My heart, well you know
what a liar my tongue is.)
Then I am the bearer of happy news.
(That servant is here,
let's see what he has to say!)
And what is it, pray?
Alone, in silence and in secret,
this very night
will Claudius come to you.
(Heavens, what do I hear!)
But what about Agrippina?
Have no fear, my lady.
I shall keep careful watch
Whatever shall I do?
The hour is at hand:
he awaits me in the palace close by.
A single moment's delay
is painful to a loving heart.
Then let Claudias come,
but he must understand
that my heart, even if it is his,
is ever constant in its purity:
I welcome him as sovereign, not as lover.
I ask not that much: I go, farewell!
(Fate seconds my wishes!)
Why does dear Otho not come,
instead of Claudius?
He would be more welcome
to the heart that loves him;
but what one longs for
is always slow in arriving.
Love is a fire
that enters the heart.
But how? No one knows.
It ignites very slowly,
but then grows larger
and burns you up completely.
(But herer comes Agrippina.
Whatever shall I do if Claudius arrives.
Ah, what a problem!
Poppea, you know that I love you,
and care for whatever concerns you -
whether for good or ill.
(If Claudius arrives I shall cry on heaven to help me.)
(I hope to see an end to this little intrigue.)
Tell me without blushing, are you in love with Otho?
Ah, Agrippina, I dare not say!
Confide in me
your heart's feelings.
Then it's true, I love him madly.
Then know that he betrays you;
aware that Claudius
looks longingly on your beauty,
he undertakes to do you a terrible wrong.
Giving way to the stirrings
of secret ambition in his heart,
he gives you up to Claudius,
in order that, as enthroned Caesar,
the joyous Capitol may today acclaim him.
Can all this be true?
It is most true, I do assure you,
and to confirm what I say,
learn that this very night
Claudius will come to you
hidden by the darkness.
(Agrippina knows all about it!)
Claudius will be here soon;
let you prepare your revenge.
What should I do?
that jealousy enters Claudius's heart;
say that proud Otho,
emboldened by his new rank,
insists that you not see Claudius,
and himself desires you.
To keep Claudius off,
use flattery and tricks,
and if he declares his love,
promise love in return,
weep, sigh, and beg.
Concede nothing, however,
until he first bow to your wishes.
That much I am ready to do; but if he yield,
the fruit of my promises he will want to enjoy …
and I here all alone and undefended …
How can I ward off so great a danger?
Follow fearlessly my advice.
There is something in my heart
which instead of sorrow
prompts me to joy;
but I accustom my heart to fear
the voices of pleasure.
Either it no longer listens,
or due to the mind's trickery
the heart perhaps believes them.
All heavens, what strange events
disturbmy peace of mind!
Otho, Otho, are these your promises, your vows?
Do you thus deceive the heart
which in well-bred resignation bore for you
the pangs of love? Do you thus betray
for vain splendour's sake the sincere loyalty
you owed me, and, rashly,
to satisfy your ambitious presumption,
offer me in sacrifice to your wishes?
Do what you will,
I shall not suffer
Within my breast
I shall awaken scorn and vengeance.
The coast is clear. My lady, Claudius is here.
Fear not, you shall be safe: silence lies all around,
not even the sighing of the breeze can be heard here;
and I, Argus-like, will stand guard over your pleasures.
Once again I behold you in wonder,
my pretty eyes, my stars of love;
never tired of worshipping you
I offer in tribute my soul and my heart.
But, heavens, why so sad and upset,
with nothing to say to me?
What thought troubles you?
You have already witnessed
sincere proofs of my love.
Then why hide your heart's sorrow from me?
Speak, my dear, speak!
If you want me to uncover the reason
for the suffering within me, then know …
But, o god,
She pretends to weep
these heartfelt sobs, intermingled with weeping,
scarcely allow the words to form
on lips that have known bitterness.
(Revenge teaches me to lie thus.)
Do not hide your grief;
you may dispose of whatever lies within my power.
Then ask what you will,
all shall be granted to you by my love.
Alas, then, that I am no longer allowed to love you!
And who forbids you?
Who has tied your tongue?
Tell me, my dear!
Yes, Otho, who, full of pride,
tries to force my affection.
Tell me all; whatever do I hear!
A long time ago
he revealed his secret desires to me,
but to no avail:
my constancy in loving you
obliged me to reject him,
until at last he learnt to his annoyance
the reason of my firmness.
Now proud and haughty.
he boasts that tomorrow
his brow shall be adorned with the sacred laurel.
Boldly he commands, impudently he threatens me,
if I cast a single glance on you, my dearest.
Is not this reason enough for my great sorrow?
Does he dare to make so bold?
Deprive, Caesar, deprive an overweening man
of the hope of reigning, and then you will see
the proud one sufficiently humbled
never to dare lift his gaze to me again.
Leave it tome. Don't cry, dear heart!
Is that a promise?
I swear it.
Then Otho shall no longer be Caesar?
No, no, my dear.
This very night I wish to show you
the proofs of my faith and love.
Come, let me take you in my arms;
joined in a sweet embrace,
our love promises us yet sweeter pleasures.
(The moment of crisis is come: where is Agrippina?)
Give your hand to him who loves you!
Delay no longer in bringing consolation to my love!
looking around again
(The danger increases,
and still no Agrippina.)
What are you staring at, my love?
Guarded by the faithful Lesbus
are the royal thresholds. Come then,
my dear, assuage my desire!
(No sign of Agrippina. Ah, what torment!)
She turns and looks around again.
Come, my dear,
so that in a tight embrace
love may prepare
our sweet delight!
(Whatever shall I do!)
A chaste woman sometimes wants the excuse
that she is taken by force.
Do not fight me off, my heart!
My lord, my lord,
we must flee immediately!
Here comes your wife Agrippina.
Do not delay!
(My, troubles are over!)
Lesbus, lock the door!
There isn't time.
you're lost as well as I.
Leave, sir, if you love me!
And be deprived of my pleasure?
No time for arguing!
(Agrippina arrives just in time to save me.)
And when, my lovely, shall I enjoy your love?
Whenever you wish!
Let's go, my lord!
Claudius and Lesbus leave.
At last he has gone! This very day
my happy heart will see the traitor punished.
O my liberator,
how much I owe you, and how eagerly
I await the results of your good advice!
Hidden, I heard all.
Today we shall be two happy companions
witnessing our, rather than Caesar's triumph.
I embrace you, my dear. Confide everything to me.
Trust in my heart, which loves you, dear.
(This tangled web unwinds to a happy ending.)
Augusta, my very will depends on you.
This soul of mine hangs suspended from your love.
My heart exists only to love you;
I shall always be your friend.
With pure and sincere affection
I bind myself to your breast:
may trickery, deception and cunning
never come between us.
If Otho has deceived me, and if the ingrate
spurns the sweetness of love for pomp,
the vengeance of my betrayed heart is just.
If something vexatious
wounds the heart,
love changes to fury
in the breast.
He who offends
neither loves, nor follows Cupid;
so the heart defends itself
from a momentary passion.
A street in Rome next to the imperial palace,
decorated for Claudius's triumph.
So we have been tricked?
My friend, what I told you is true.
And what I told you is not to be doubted.
Let us then keep faith with one another,
as is needful in subterfuge.
If Agrippina mocks us,
we must use cunning against her.
Yes, yes, our pretence shall uncover her deception,
and whatever she asks of you, do you tell me straightway,
just as I promise to reveal to you truly
whatever she asks of me.
Let our right hands he pledge of our fidelity!
But here is Otho.
He that is to be Caesar!
Already he receives universal homage.
Crowned with the laurel wreath
shall I be, on the Capitol.
But greater still is my desire for the beauty I adore
than for either crown or throne.
More than your triumph, sir,
today Rome honours your virtue.
The country bows down before your lofty valour.
I would wish to own virtue and valour enough
to see Lazio's dominions happy,
her enemies overthrown.
But see, from on high
Poppea descends with Agrippina
to meet with Caesar.
The goddess and queen of my heart is come!
Agrippina, Poppea and Nero descend from the palace with their retinues.
(Here is that haughty man!)
(Here is the traitor!)
(I behold my rival,
and feel my heart fill with anger.)
aside, to Poppea
(Poppea, let us be cunning!)
(Let us be cunning!)
Most lovely Poppea,
at last I may gaze in wonder
on those beloved eyes.
aside, to Poppea
How treacherous he is!
(Thus he would deceive me!)
(How troubling is this sorrow within my breast!)
Agrippina will already have told you
what lies in store for me …
I understand your wishes,
and what the fates have arranged in your favour.
I have told her of your desires.
aside, to Poppea
He wants me to excuse his misdeeds.
(Ah, the traitor!)
That which Agrippna has revealed
is my heart's desire, and you will understand
that without you the pleasures of the throne
would be a penance.
Here comes Claudius.
(He comes in good time,
to allow my stratagem to remain undiscovered.)
POPPEA, NERO , AGRIPPINA, OTHO, NARCISSUS, PALLAS, LESBUS
To the joyous clamour of trumpets and drums
our festal day resounds on every side!
Rome cheers on its great ruler.
Long live triumphant Claudius!
upon a triumphal chariot
In conquered Britain
a new realm I bring to Rome
in fetters, and in vain, to frustrate the enterprise,
were let loose all the storms the sea can muster,
all the earth's monsters; since not even the powers of hell
shall prevent that which the destiny of Rome has ordained.
He descends from his chariot.
Let the subject world itself
become the foundation of the Roman throne.
For what a happy realm
is that subject to the Capitol!
My lord, how my heart rejoices
to look on you! And these arms
which, when denied your embrace,
brought me such suffering,
make now a sweet chain of love.
let me clasp you once more to my ***,
to this most constant and loving of hearts.
As a consort I embrace you, and as a lover.
Caesar, I too honour your great triumphs.
I am grateful for your words.
aside, to Poppea
You know how I adore you.
I offer tribute from faithful devotion.
My so, be sure of my love.
Your glory I worship in deep humility.
And the immortal fame of your triumphs
spreads far and wide.
I am aware of the tender thoughts
of Narcissus and Pallas.
At your feet, great Caesar,
behold your faithful Otho lying,
who from the ocean …
What do you want?
In faith, my lord,
I humbly await my promised reward.
And you have the temerity to appear before me?
Of what fault am I guilty?
You are a traitor!
NERO, NARCISSUS, PALLAS
(What is this I hear?)
(Rejoice, o my heart!)
I a traitor?
Who braved mortal dangers fearlessly
to pluck you from death? I a traitor?
Enough! For your transgression
death is the proper reward.
Heavens, what do I hear!
(But to he who saved my life, his life will I give back.)
Agrippina, come to my aid!
Expect no help from me,
Dazzled by splendour,
was your vicious crime
not apparent to you?
And you, Poppea, my beloved?
Your beloved is the throne,
I am she no longer.
Therein lies your happiness,
and, for my part,
I am very happy for you!
Help me, Nero, for pity's sake!
Protected by the laurel on your brow
misfortune and ruin
surely cannot dismay you?
Even the thunderbolt respects
the foliage which today is chosen
to adorn your head.
I am destiny's plaything. Narcissus, my friend,
do you share the grief that encompasses my breast?
A friend remains true only as long as Fortune does.
Will you at least take pity onmy tormented soul!
He who is Caesar's enemy, is also Pallas's.
Faithful Lesbus, weep you with me for my grief!
Lesbus scorns to give ear to a traitor.
O Otho, what dreadful thunderbolt is this!
Ah, ungrateful Caesar, faithless friends, unjust heaven!
Yet how much more unjust, ungrateful and unfaithful than heaven,
Caesar or friends, is Poppea!
I, a traitor? I, a monster of unfaithfulness?
Ah, heavens, ah, wicked fate!
Could any suffering be worse than mine?
You who hear my complaint,
share my grief with me.
I lose a throne, which I despise,
but my beloved, whom I prize so greatly,
ah! what torment it is to lose her,
unmanning my very heart within.
A garden with fountains
How lovely it would be
to find my beloved innocent.
I feel an urge within me
to be merciful.
Otho's torment torments me too;
I should like to hear his explanation.
But here he comes, sad and thoughtful,
perhaps to unburden his heart's bitter pain.
It seems that love is the cause of his suffering;
the better to uncover the truth,
I'll pretend to he asleep.
Unseen by Otho, she seats herself by a fountain, pretending to be asleep.
Pretty streams that, murmuring the while,
wind along your grassy way...
He sees Poppea.
But what do I see, o heaven?
Poppea takes her rest amid the flowers,
while I find no respite from my dreadful suffering …
You sleep, o lovely eyes,
and peace refreshes your heart.
pretending to talk in her sleep
Otho betrayed me!
Even sleep, o god! deceives you,
since you think me unfaithful!
Tell me, at least, what fault
engenders your coldness?
Otho a traitor!
She appears to wake up.
(She wakes; let me hear what she says!)
He withdraws to one side.
Now wide awake, she appears to talk to herself.
O illusions, still you disturb my peace?
You present to me as suppliant
the image of that unworthy traitor?
What could he say in his own defence?
Could he perchance deny that he had ceded
his love, all his promised faith, to Claudius,
so that Rome might see him a Caesar
on the Capitol's throne this day?
(Heavens, what is this I hear?)
Tell me, unfaithful one, if you will betray me?
Imperial Agrippina shall bear witness to your transgression,
for your wickedness could not be so brazen
as to gainsay a royal tongue.
(I can hear no more.)
Behold at your feet …
Poppea makes as if to leave, Otho holding her back.
You run from me? Stay, my dearest!
(Ah, what anguish!)
At least hear me!
I will hear you no more.
Leave me alone!
Take this dagger I place in your right hand,
and if you find me guilty,
then kill me, and I will be content.
She takes the dagger and points it towards Otho.
Speak, then, but be warned
that the punishment for your crime is already ordained.
If you have betrayed me,
you shall fall a mortal victim on this very spot.
Unknown to me, yet understood
is the appalling accusation
that provokes you to anger.
That I would give you up to another?
That I would let you go, my very sun,
for a single ray of blind ambition?
Who could ever believe this, who maintain it?
For sceptre and laurel I care not:
my heart has always been turned towards you,
for your lovely face is worth a thousand worlds.
I don't know whether you are to be believed.
What I know was revealed to me by Agrippina.
What do I hear?
That treacherous, wicked woman, the cause of my suffering!
Hear, o Poppea, how black her heart is.
Otho, now is not the time, nor the place secure.
Come to my apartments; I shall lay aside my coldness.
If you are guilty, I shall he merciless:
but if innocent, you will find me compassionate.
I would have you just, not meiciful,
my darling, in judging me.
I am completely innocent:
if then you find my heart has lied,
I shall forgive your condemnation.
Of what a tangled skein of lies am I the victim?
Now at last do I perceive your impostures, Agrippina!
To *** from Otho Caesar's laurels, you deceived me.
The overweening scheme that tempts you to advantage Nero
is uncovered. I shall not give way to grief.
If I don't have revenge, I am not Poppea!
Deceived just once
I can be - but not more.
When it trusts, the heart listens;
but once deception is uncovered
it makes itself deaf, and no longer hearkens
to the one who lied the day before.
At last I find you!
Claudius, impatient to see you again, sends me to you,
requesting a private interview with you
in your apartments.
How shall I decide what to do?
Beautiful lady, he bold,
for the more ardent the love,
the more pleasure lit gives.
(Destiny offers me a fine opportunity for revenge.)
I accept Caesar's favour.
Then he may come?
Yes, let him come.
I fly to bring my lord such welcome news.
(Heaven assist me in my plan!)
Today I hope for a worthy recompense for my labours.)
I put myself in no small danger, it's true;
but he who knows no fear has his revenge.
The desire to pursue it inspires me to a daring plan.
Now I would wish Nero here.
I'm here, my darling.
(Oh how propitious fate seconds my desires!)
Listen, Nero! You have sworn to me
the merit of your love and your faith thousands of times.
I was doubtful of your sincerity,
since men are wont to deceive women,
and esteem our frailty only to treat it with disdain.
Have no fear, my dearest!
To receive from you sufficient proofs
this place is not sale enough.
Come alone to my apartments;
there, if you can persuade my heart,
as love's reward, you may expect love.
Oh, my adored one!
Do what I say, but be discreet:
love made public brings cares instead of pleasure.
(I hope my little scheme comes off.)
Against the weight of your love
measure your pleasure
and your hope.
If you heart is faithful,
it hopes for pleasure,
and your hope is well founded.
Fate offers me
a pleasure I have longed for!
Today I hope to kiss that lovely face!
When a woman invites her lover,
love's pleasure is close at hand.
When she says: "Come straightaway,''
it's a way of saying: ''Come and enjoy yourself!"
How you torment me, my restless mind!
May heaven aid my plans!
Let my son reign, smile upon him, you gods!
The scheme I labour for lies in great peril.
Believing Claudius dead,
too much I confided in Narcissus and Pallas.
If my stratagem is uncovered,
Otho has the mettle and Poppea the courage
to undo the damage.
Surrounded as I am by so many enemies,
now is the moment, my cunning wiles, to summon you up.
Ah, do not abandon me!
How you torment me,
my restless mind!
Though my unfriendly fate
smiles not upon my vows,
yet your faithful Pallas's heart
is ever constant in your service.
Then let it be constant
in continuing to serve me willingly.
And in what manner can I obey your orders?
Command me, my lovely one!
Narcissus and Otho are my enemies.
I wish to see both of them dead.
You understand what a risk I expose you to.
In serving you, Agrippina, there is no risk
that is not transformed into glory.
But what will become of my love?
You must hope, PalIas!
(This woman has the heart of Megaera!)
With a mild ray of hope
my constancy constancy leads me on.
So my heart seeks no more
than her faith and compassion.
My will does not despair of reaching its goal.
But is this Narcissus? Let's be bold!
Now is the time, Narcissus, to bring matters to a conclusion.
United, Pallas and Otho are our joint enemies.
If you feel love for me, and if you are courageous,
our outlook is secure.
What must I do?
Kill them both.
I shall do all,
but what shall be my final reward?
Trust me, and you may hope for everything!
(What a hard heart this woman has!)
Then I shall hope,
since these lovely lips tell me to, o regal one.
And if I hope to he happy,
such hope is reasonable.
To bring peace tomy heart
I sow the seeds of war and hatred.
In Claudius lies the end of my labours.
Here he comes. Prepare to deceive him, my, heart!
I come to gaze, my sweet,
on these rays of love from your beautiful eyes.
I would I had
the mighty advantage of beauty
to recompense your love;
but where it lacks, my heart,
which beats for you alone, atones.
But, o god, an inner pain
stirs within my breast, tormenting me,
and bringing perturbation to my soul.
What fear assails you? Reveal it, my dearest!
I sense the very security
of your being in peril, and seem to hear
the clash of weapons on every side.
And what bold upstart
could plot betrayal in Rome?
Ah, my dear one,
Otho rages with indignation,
and makes known to all the grave wrong done him.
If one does not with all despatch
stifle a small flame,
a mighty, ruinous blaze will be born.
What is your counsel?
It is needful
to pIuck a poisonous root out of the ground.
Since Otho still hopes to leap onto the throne,
his arrogant heart will hatch schemes,
lies and stratagems;
he will seek out supporters
motivated by self-interest, and the common herd,
dazzled by gold,
will wish to see his brow crowned
with the sacred laurel.
Confound his schemes,
forestall his subterfuges,
acclaim a new Caesar;
at a stroke shall Otho be abandoned.
for all will worship the rising sun.
But whom could I place on the throne
without fearing that, in love with power,
he would be ungrateful for my kindness?
For jealousy is the companion of authority.
Do you believe, Claudius, that I love you?
Of your love I am certain.
Then grant my son Nero
be made Emperor of Rome!
He will be ever obedient to your wishes.
His respect for me, his mother,
will make his heart submissive to you, as a father.
I commend your proposal, a wise notion.
(Courage, my heart! We're close to our goal.)
Then do not delay.
Let me think awhile
on this important matter.
The danger is acute!
I will do all, but leave me to …
Ah, he who hesitates
aside, to Claudius
My lord, Poppea …
aside, to Lesbus
What did you say?
aside, to Claudius
She awaits you.
A moment's delay
puts you in peril.
Doubt not, you shall have your wish.
aside, to Claudius
Come quickly, my lord!
aside, to Lesbus
It shall be soon. Farewell!
Another matter calls me away.
No, no, you shall not go,
unless you first promise me this.
aside, to Claudius
aside, to Lesbus
Very well, so be it: I promise.
This very day,
Nero shall be emperor, seated on the throne?
This very day.
(I ask no more.)
It is enough for you to ask
for me to give,
my pretty lips.
As soon as I see you,
my heart is lost,
my pretty cheeks.
Fate smiles favourably on me today,
provided that my beloved son is Caesar,
I can meet any danger.
Whatever wind blow him to port,
no matter how fiercely threaten the tempest,
the mariner spreads wide his sails.
If my son reign, my one hope,
let the stars show however dismal an aspect,
yet will I look on unconcerned.
Poppea's room, with a facing door and two others, one on each side.
I pushed dear Otho to the very brink,
but premeditated trickery,
planted within me a desire to avenge myself
by outwitting her who outwitted me.
Ah my Poppea! I pray you,
do not think me guilty
of this vile betrayal.
That wicked woman tricked me, when, at my pleas,
she offered sympathetic protection
to my faithful love.
I am love's follower, heeding naught else,
and to you, my beloved, I swear eternal faith.
And I, with whatever heart I have within me,
my dearest, accept it.
I have made ready the means
of our revenge, and if I was the cause
of harm, it is meet for me to repair it.
Now hide yourselfl here, and stay silent.
Doubt not my faith, nor be jealous
of what I may say or do.
For a little while you must suffer grievous torment,
which shall result in another's punishment,
and your content.
I will be silent,
as long as you truly love me.
I will endure,
though your coldness
towards me be cruel.
He hides in a doorway behind a curtain.
I still await Nero and Claudius.
My, spirit has become impatient
to avenge the offence.
I arrive breathless, my darling,
to receive the reward of my true faithfulness.
I see full well in your delay
that ardour has not spurred you on.
That happy time appointed you
is already past; it is necessary
to delay the suffering heart's cure.
But, o god. I am afraid …
That Agrippina may come here, and discover us.
She looks around.
My mother may come here?
And very soon.
But so that you may discern my feelings,
see what proofs of them I give you:
I want you to hide yourself here,
and wait till she leaves.
Then you will see how much Poppea,
her fears once set aside, loves and adores you.
How sweet the pleasure I feel in my breast already!
(My cruel torment grows moment by moment.)
May your dear heart's passion
make the moments pass more quickly!
For my love is already quite ravenous
for its satisfaction.
He hides in a curtain-draped doorway opposite to the one in which Otho is hidden.
Kindly heaven, second my plan.
I'm sure that Otho' heart is bursting with anger:
but he who loves must always suffer.
There is no one here, my lord;
love will heal the wound in your heart.
Claudius, you flatter me,
but do not really love me.
What? Can you still doubt my love?
My dear, you saw what I did for you!
Tell me, then, what you did.
More brazen and daring than ever is he
who disturbs my peace.
Perhaps the impudent man
does not consider the punishment adequate?
What punishment is that?
Can one thrown off the throne
still harbour such audacity?
I do not understand, my !ord;
more than ever he hopes to ascend the throne.
Could Otho harbour such effrontery?
Otho? What are you talking about, my lord?
Ah, Claudius, at last I comprehend
my fatal ill-luck and my misfortune.
She pretends to weep.
You weep, my lovely? Tell me, what must I do!
Give me your orders!
As I promised you before,
the laurel shall he plucked from Otho's brow.
(If only I could hear what they are saying!)
(I suffer this, and do not die?)
From Otho's brow?
Yes, that bold man who lays down
laws for your love.
That wasn't, my lord, Otho.
But who then?
It was Nero! Of Nero I complained,
who forbade me to gaze on you ever again.
What? You said Otho!
I said Nero, my lord. You can't have understood.
Nero? And all that talk of Otho's desire to reign,
to wield the sceptre and sit on the throne?
You have deceived me, Poppea!
I deceive you? My lord, perhaps you know not
that before you reached Rome
at Agrippina's wish Nero was raised to the throne,
and acclaimed Caesar? Or are you just pretending?
(Oh heavens, if only he would leave!)
(The pain is killing me!)
What strange things you tell me!
But did you not say Otho? Come on, answer me.
My lord, perhaps you mixed the two names up.
Nero and Otho sound mach alike.
I don't know what I did; how confusing this is.
Do you still doubt me?
Trust me, and if you like. I will prove to you
that he who lays unwelcome siege to my heart
is Nero alone. What will you do then, my lord?
You promise me?
I swear it.
Exactly as I hoped.
You will see whether my heart is honest or deceitful.
Come this way, my lord, and stand there.
Poppea leads Claudius within the central door, and then goes over to Nero.
(Has Claudius left?)
(This waiting is unbearable!)
Nero, where are you?
I'm here, my dear.
You presumptuous, impudent lout!
(Heaven help me!)
Within the very palace itself, you arrogant boy,
you brazenly and indecently
insult the virtue of blameless maidens?
Hear me, my lord!
(Well and good.)
(Rejoice, my heart!)
Leave my presence,
nor ever dare to appear before me again!
As Nero leaves, Poppea approaches him.
aside, to Nero
Go to Agrippina, and tell her...
(Alas, cruel fate!)
… that he who seeks to deceive shall be deceived.
From her imperial spirit, you wicked creature,
await what comes. Agrippina knows how to have revenge.
Now Claudius, what do you say?
I am convinced.
Now the sincerity of my heart is revealed.
(I must be cunning to rid myself of Claudius.)
But Agrippina, alas, will let loose all her furies.
Nero runs to his mother in a temper.
Ah, I see myself beset by problems!
Fear nothing, my dear; dry those eyes.
Your love has placed me in great danger.
This is not the time, o Caesar, my mind is disturbed
and bent on anything but pleasure.
Agrippina will soon be here: what torture!
No, she shall not come.
Ah, leave me!
You shall obtain nothing from me.
Then shall my love be ever unhappy?
First moderate the anger of your consort.
Make me safe from her fury:
then ask, and you shall know what my heart feels.
I am the Jupiter of Rome,
and share my power with none.
Around the foot of my throne
flit the ambitions of others.
looking around to make sure that Claudius has gone
At last he's left!
How sweet revenge delights the heart!
Claudius has gone. The trick has surely worked.
Now to free may darling from his unhappy vigil.
She opens the door where Otho is hiding.
Well, Otho. what do you say?
You see Nero made a fool of,
and my heart have its revenge on Agrippina.
You see that I scorn the ruler of the world,
and for you alone, my darling,
live enveloped in love's fetters.
Most lortunate fetters,
that bind us together in eternal knots
which, touched by love's hand,
make of two hearts one single heart.
Then can I place my trust
in your sincere faithfulness?
I shall die a thousand times, beloved,
before failing you.
And join to that promise an oath:
may heaven rain down thunderbolts upon me, if I lie.
But if Claudius …
I do not care.
Agrippina, Nero …
I despise them.
The splendours of the throne?
So long as I may clasp you to my breast,
all will I give up.
My love, I am entirely yours.
So long as I may clasp you to toy breast,
my sweetest love, I am happy.
But without you, my own heart,
I am nothing but pain and torment.
Then fold your wings, my Cupid,
to repose within the sweet nest of my heart
To enjoy faithful love
is true pleasure!
It brings the heart contentment.
Beauty's splendour has no worth
unless its source is a faithful heart.
The imperial hall.
Poppea dared do this?
Just as I told you,
she enticed me, invited me, welcomed me,
and then betrayed me to Claudius!
He was furious, she laughed, and I, terrified,
came running to you, mother, to save me
from Claudius's anger and the danger that threatens.
After all, he is your husband,
you my mother, and I your son.
Ah! Rash Nero,
just when I am employing every possible stratagem
to raise you to the throne,
you pursue a blind and foolish love
to the very edge of doom?
It is true, I made a mistake.
But Poppea has now uncovered your stratagems and spoils.
"Go" - she said - "to Agrippina, and tell her
that he who deceives shall be deceived.''
Yet not on that account
shall my hope quite wither away.
My son, smother this base passion within your breast.
Look on Poppea as an enemy.
Think no object worthy but empire alone.
As a cloud flies from the wind,
I renounce her despised face.
The fire now cold within my breast,
my heart has already loosed its chain.
Was ever a wornan more wicked?
And what greater coldness
could be nurtured within a heart?
What shall we do?
We must reveal all to Claudius:
his goodwill towards us
exceeds that he bears to all others.
Let the accusation be forestalled,
and Agrippina excuse what we have done
In our great danger
your advice seem to me good.
But here comes Caesar.
This is a favourable moment
to advance our plan as you suggest.
Leave it to me, but back me up.
Agrippina, Nero, Otho and Poppea
trouble my peace of mind
in accusing one another.
Nor do I knew who is telling the truth and who lying,
to punish with severity the guilty one.
At your imperial feet, sir,
behold the unhappy Pallas fall.
To save his life, Caesar,
Narcissus asks for your help.
My loyal friends, whatever may be the conspiracy
plotted against you, reveal it!
Meekly, and by way of exculpation, my lord,
I render the accusation, since from Agrippina alone
comes the threat of utter ruin upon us.
How is this?
Before you reached Rome,
she placed Nero as Caesar on the throne.
She availed herself of out labours -
but he who acts through being tricked,
should not be held at fault.
Our belief that you had died is our excuse.
Agrippina dared do this?
What Poppea told me is here confirmed.
Within the very palace lie my secret enemies;
yet fear engenders rightful suspicion in me,
and it the midst of confusion they are confounded.
You are loyal men, and my mighty arm
shall be your shield. Fear no more!
My adored husband, now is the moment
when I await the outcome of your promises.
Let Nero be crowned with laurel this very day,
and you shall see every rebel
prostrate at your feet.
Not so fast, Agrippina.
(He is angry with me.)
Your danger is now known to you,
and its certain remedy obvious.
My lord, why delay further?
Forthwith make good the imminent ruin,
stop your enemies …
(It's useless to pretend,
with Narcissus and Pallas present:
I shall have to brazen it out.)
(What a poisonous look Agrippina gives me!)
From your tone I suspect
the malicious arts of your and my enemies.
Speak, then, speak,
what is the reason for your anger?
Caesar will speak and Nero shall know.
Ah! Claudius, I realise now
that a good deed can sometimes be a crime.
(What will she say now?)
(Let's hear her excuse.)
You call it a good deed brazenly
to attempt to usurp my throne?
And, seizing the opportunity of my absence,
to set Nero upon it?
What excuse can you put forward
to justify your behaviour?
A heart that's sincere does not make excuses.
What you say, my lord, is perfectly true.
So you confess your error, you audacious woman?
To save your throne and your life was no error.
How happy I am
that Narcissus and Pallas are here present.
(What steady nerves!)
(How cool she is!)
It was falsely (thank heaven!) rumoured abroad
that in the fatal shipwreck
your very life had perished.
The army, the people and the Senate were already
minded to rebel in favour of your successor.
I foresaw that a proud spirit, raised to the throne,
with that aspect of novelty which always pleases,
would do great damage to our interests.
To ward off the danger
I had my son proclaimed.
He ascended the throne - but solely
to preserve it for you, my dear husband!
In defending your life, and maintaining your throne,
am I then an enemy, a rebel?
(How crafty she is!)
Let Pallas and Narcissus bear witness to my deeds.
Did I not ask you to help me in my task?
Say, then, whether upon the news
that Claudius's life was saved,
Nero did not humbly dismount the throne,
and whether he, at one with my wishes,
did not cause the whole of Rome
to cheer at the very name of Claudius?
Let each of you speak frankly.
Well speak up!
My lord, it is perfectly true.
And who but my own son,
having once reigned,
and made proud by popular approbation,
would have resigned the sceptre?
In defending your very Iife,
in maintaining your throne,
and I then an enemy, a rebel?
(Agrippina has outwitted me;
her own accusers defend her!)
(I am amazed!)
(Her own crime brings her her reward!)
Of your loyalty and love, my dear, I have no doubt.
But, dear god, I am certain
neither of your loyalty, nor your love.
I believe that I am guilty in your eyes
because your heart listens to …
It pains me only
that her deceit is not apparent to you.
Their reveal it.
This woman, desired by Otho …
Agrippina, you are deceived: it was Nero.
Ho there! Send for Otho, Nero and Poppea immediateiy.
You will see whether I am lying or she guilty.
(I have already foreseen the outcome.)
With such turns of events
I must know who resists my authority.
I want peace and tranquillity to reign in our hearts.
If you want peace, my handsome lover,
chase vile hatred from you!
See in me, my worshipped and adored one,
love and loyalty.
(Here comes my hated rival.)
(Here is the shameless cause of much unhappiness.)
(Whatever will become of me?)
(Heavens, what will happen?)
See, Agrippina, your son,
that unruly boy, who dares to insult
the honour of blameless maidens
in the palace itself.
You are deceived, Caesar.
No, I am not deceived, he confesses his error.
Did I not find you hidden in Poppea's apartments?
Heavens, what do I hear?
(I'd better say nothing.)
His silence accuses him.
You can witness this, Poppea, sincerely.
As you saw, my lord, it is all too true.
(Her schemes shall still be thwarted.)
(How cleverly Poppea has had her revenge!)
Such a blatant crime
should have exemplary correction.
(My heart is still hopeful.)
(How I am enjoying this!)
Let sweet ***'s illustrious kno
join Nero and Poppea.
(Whatever is this?)
(What do I hear?)
Your graciousness, sir, quite conquers me.
Behold, o Caesar,
Otho prostrate with grief!
Henceforth be appeased,
I am disabused of your guilt!
I promised you the laurel wreath,
and Caesar you shall be.
(I hear this and do not die!)
I refuse the laurel,
for I care not for power;
all I prize is my dear Poppea.
If fate ordained that I should save your life,
in depriving me of my beloved,
you bring about my death
Now see who it is whose soul is the blacker,
whether it be Nero or Otho that loves Poppea.
And you Nero, what say you?
I will abide by your wishes,
but my punishment is a double one:
to be deprived of empire, and given a wife.
And you have nothing to say to me?
Let Nero have all the sceptres, power and empires
that he will, I shall be none other's but Otho's.
I wish to make a trial of your desires.
If you give up beauty for the laurel wreath,
if you disdain Rome itself for love,
to posterity, you shall be right worthy heroes,
of love, and of empire.
Let Nero be Caesar, while you, Otho,
shall clasp your faithful Poppea!
(My heart is freed, if she is another's lover.)
How happy I am!
Grief no longer torments me.
(Now that Nero is emperor, I can die happy.)
Let hatred be at an end,
and let Rome greet the longed-for day,
that brings contentment and good fortune to all.
At Caesar's behest,
to honour this auspicious wedding of the lovely Poppea,
Juno, goddess of marriage,
in her magnificence attends.
Now she descends, and let Rome
entwine the laurel to Nero's brow.
Juno descends with her retinue.
May the happy Tiber curl its waves
beneath the new laurel's glitter,
and may the god of love
disport himself gaily to the shore!
To celebrate the joining of Otho and Poppea
Juno descends from heaven to scatter lilies,
and from the bridal bed the happy goddess expects
new vassals for Claudius, new sons for honoured Rome.
The starlight lights our torches,
which shine the more brilliantly
in honour of such faithfulness.
There follows a dance of Juno's followers.