Nero has always been a fascination for composers: Pallavicini, Monteverdi, Handel and Rubinstein all wrote operas about his court. None of them, however, presents the emperor as the protagonist or strives to attain any amount of historical accuracy.


Nero was artistic and musically gifted, had a good voice and adequate training, was fond of horses and circus games. He was, however, insecure of his abilities and needed constant encouragement. He had an obsession to be liked and was, therefore, very generous to the people. He exhibited great stage fright and general nervousness. His claim “the Greeks alone are worthy of my genius” (Suet. Ner. 22) suggests that his artistry was more appreciated in Greece than in Rome. Unwilling to govern, he viewed it as a burden and dreamed of a peaceful life as an artist. His inability to rule well and political mistakes were caused more by stupidity than by ill intentions. He lightheartedly dismissed the rumors that went around about him, not realizing the mob believed in them. And this led to a growing dissatisfaction with the emperor and finally to his deposition.

The Classical Latin libretto, collaboratively written by Mariah Min ’10, Veronica Shi ’11 and Theo Popov ’11, and translated into the original language by Veronica Shi ’11, attempts to capture Nero’s complex character and present him as an artistic and easily manipulated personality. The diverging and selfish interests of the members of the imperial court create an unwilling mechanism of self-destruction which leads to the ultimate collapse of the regime.


  • Nero (37-68AD) – Emperor of Rome and talented artist (baritone)
  • Petronius (27-66AD) – satirist, advisor and friend of Nero (bass)
  • Seneca (4-65AD) – Stoic philosopher, playwright and tutor of Nero (bass)
  • Tigellinus (10-69AD) – depraved man, praetorian prefect and advisor of Nero (tenor)
  • Poppaea Sabina (30-65AD) – beloved wife of Nero (mezzo)
  • Sporus – a boy Nero castrated and then married because he looked like Poppaea (played by same actress as Poppaea)
  • Ghost of Agrippina – mother of Nero (soprano)
  • Epicharis – woman involved in the Pisonian conspiracy (alto)
  • Chorus of the People of Rome
  • Oriental Dancers