This thesis examines the musical and dramatic representation of female characters in two early Venetian operas: Cavalli's Ormindo (1644) and Cesti's Orontea (1656). Venetian opera is viewed through the lens of three theories of Bakhtin: 1) “polyphonic” or multiple voices; 2) “becoming” as openness to growth and change; and 3) serio-comic genres opposing authority through parody and satire. I argue that a Bakhtinian perspective provides a nuanced understanding of Venetian female characters' "voices" as conveyed in both libretti and music, in their private thoughts and public words. Both drama and music play critical roles in portraying female characters torn by inner conflicts in these operas. I argue that the strong yet flawed women who were the centrepieces of Venetian opera in its first two decades were characters with whom Venetian audience members could identify and played a role in keeping new possibilities for women alive in the social imaginary.