Continuinghis exploration of Handel operas, maestro René Jacobs now turns his attention to Agrippina the first great operatic success of the composer s Italian period. Composed in 1709, Agrippina is an opera seria in three acts on a libretto by Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani. The opera tells the story of Agrippina, the mother of Nero, as she plots the downfall of the Roman Emperor Claudius and the installation of her son as emperor…
Agrippina is brilliant, early Handel. Composed when he was just twenty-four, it was his first big hit in the theatre. It’s full of his fresh, exuberantly inventive music and sets one of the finest librettos Handel worked with. This beautiful production, with an elegant and colorful staging, was recorded at the exquisite Rococo palace theatre in Schwetzingen, built in 1752.
The performance of Agrippina received a guarded welcome on CD from David Vickers (7/04). Frédéric Fisbach’s production gives an amusing account, respectful yet inventive, of librettist Vincenzo Grimani’s look at the shenanigans of ancient Rome.
Agrippina shares three characters with L’incoronazione di Poppea but at an earlier stage of the story, Poppea here being pursued by Otho, Nero and the emperor Claudius. Agrippina, Claudius’s wife, spends the opera scheming to discredit Otho and to get Nero, her son by a previous marriage, designated as the next emperor. She is ultimately successful, but only after Claudius’s first attempt at a solution proves satisfactory to nobody.
– Richard Lawrence, Gramophone [1/2005]