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Francesco Cavalli was successor to Monteverdi and the most influential opera composer in Venice during the mid-17th century. His dramma per musicaIl Xerse, was innovative for the period, with a tangled plot of affections and relationships based on history rather than mythology. Its enormous success was due in no small part to Xerse’s bizarre and overblown character and his famous declaration of love for a tree, ‘Ombra mai fu’. Cavalli’s Il Xerse is commedia dell’arte theatre that creates an exotic world aimed at inspiring awe in its audiences, enhanced with music that conveys an avalanche of emotions.