* Maria Anne Purciello ( is an Assistant Professor at the University of Delaware. Her research centers on the operatic and vocal repertories of seventeenth-century Rome and Venice.

[1] The most recent productions include the Nederlandse Opera’s Ercole amante (Ivor Bolton, music director; David Alden, stage director; published by Opus Arte, 2010); Teatro Malibran’s La virtù de’ strali d’Amore (conducted by Fabio Biondi, stage direction by the Faculty of Design and the Arts IUAV of Venezia; recorded live October 14, 2008, at the Teatro Malibran, Venice; published by Naxos, 2011); and the Vlaamse Opera’s Il Giasone (conducted by Federico Maria Sardelli; Mariame Clément, stage director; recorded live May 16, 18, 20, 2008, at the Vlaamse Opera, Antwerp; published by Dynamic, 2012).

[2] Elena Tamburini posits that there was an earlier, 1629 performance of Sant’Alessio in Rome, citing a 1629 letter by Lelio Guidiccioni. See Tamburini’s “Per uno studio documentario delle forme sceniche: I teatri dei Barberini e gli interventi Berniniani,” in Tragedia dell’onore nell’Europa barocca, ed. Maria Chiabò and Federico Doglio (Rome: Centro Studi sul Teatro Mediovale e Rinascimentale, 2002), 255–75. Idiosyncrasies in Guidiccioni’s handwriting have since led to some discussion among scholars as to whether or not his letter was, in fact, dated 1629 as Tamburini proposes, or 1632.

[3] Romain Rolland, “La Première représentation du San Alessio de Stefano Landi en 1632, à Rome, d’après le journal manuscrit de Jean-Jacques Bouchard,” Revue d’histoire et de critique musicales 2 (1902): 31. The seductive allure of such performances was largely the result of seventeenth-century perceptions of the body and understandings of sexuality. These perceptions and their implications for early opera are discussed in detail in Roger Freitas, “The Eroticism of Emasculation: Confronting the Baroque Body of the Castrato,” Journal of Musicology 20, no. 2 (Spring 2003): 196–249.

[4] This perception stems largely from the fact that many modern-day productions cast sopranos and mezzo sopranos in the roles of women. The only times that male performers are used to perform the roles of women occur either when they are cast in the comic role of nurse or when the act of cross-dressing itself acts as an important device of plot.

[5] Dominique Fernandez, DVD Liner Notes for Stefano Landi, Il Sant’Alessio (EMI Records Ltd./ Virigin Classics, 2008), 8.