The Coronation of Poppea
Fortune, Virtue and Cupid argue over who is the most powerful.
Cupid claims his superiority will be proved by the ensuing story.
At Poppeas Palace, Otho (Ottone), who loves Poppea, discovers that she is sleeping with the emperor Nero (Nerone). The guards on duty complain of Nero and Poppea's adulterous behaviour.
The two lovers enter and bid each other a fond farewell. Arnalta, Poppea's nurse, warns her to be careful. At the emperor's palace, Nero's wife Octavia (Ottavia) is filled with despair by her husband's actions ("Disprezzata regina").
The philosopher Seneca arrives and tries to console her. The goddess Pallas Athene warns Seneca of his impending death, which he stoically welcomes.
Nero arrives and informs Seneca that he wishes to divorce Octavia: Seneca tries to dissuade him. Nero's anger is calmed by Poppea, who suggests that Seneca be killed.
Otho attempts a reconciliation with Poppea, but she scorns his advances. He thinks of killing her, but instead turns his attention to Drusilla, who has long been in love with him. Otho swears his love to Drusilla, but he still loves Poppea.
Seneca is told that he must die. Ignoring the pleas of his friends, he orders them to prepare the bath in which he will kill himself.
Nero and the poet Lucan celebrate Seneca's death.
Octavia tells Otho that he must disguise himself as a woman and kill Poppea. Drusilla agrees to lend him some of her clothes. Otho attempts to murder Poppea as she sleeps, but is stopped by Cupid. The awakened Poppea thinks the fleeing Otho is Drusilla. Cupid sings of his success.
Drusilla celebrates the expected death of Poppea, but is arrested for attempted murder and is sentenced to death. She protests her innocence, but when Otho begins to confess his guilt, she changes her story and both admit the plot. Nero banishes them, along with Octavia, whose complicity he has discovered.
Nero tells Poppea that she will be crowned empress the same day. Octavia makes her final, grief-stricke appearance and Arnalta triumphs in her mistress's success. Poppea is crowned empress and as the opera ends, Nero and Poppea sing of their love.