Opera Scotland

Agrippina

Music

George Frideric Handel (born Halle, 23 February 1685; died London, 14 April 1759)

Text

Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani.

Source

Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius.

 

Premières

First performance: Venice (Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo), 26 December 1709.

First UK performance: Abingdon (Unicorn Theatre), 27 June 1963.

First performance in Scotland: Ledlanet, Kinross-shire, 29 Sept 1964.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.

 

Background

Events in one of the more notorious periods of the Roman Empire are treated with a mixture of great seriousness of character and a wit that has parallels with bedroom farce. Since several of the characters also appear in Monteverdi's Coronation of Poppea, it might be fun to see the works played in sequence.  Agrippina was Handel’s last operatic enterprise before he moved from Italy to London, and was a great success.

 

Main Characters

Agrippina, wife of Claudius (soprano)

Poppea, a Roman lady (soprano)

Nerone, son of Agrippina (soprano)

Ottone, commander of the imperial army (alto)

Claudio, Roman Emperor (bass)

Narciso, a courtier (alto)

 

Plot Summary

Agrippina, wife of the Emperor Claudius, wants her son Nero, from an earlier marriage, to succeed as emperor. When news comes of the Emperor’s drowning, she sets her plans in motion. However Claudius was saved by Otto, who has been declared his successor. Otto loves Poppea, and Agrippina takes advantage of this to suggest to Poppea that Otto may have gained the succession by offering Poppea to Claudius. Poppea then works to separate Claudius from Otto, and when Agrippina continues the process, Claudius transfers the succession from Otto to Nero. Poppea realises that Agrippina has tricked her. She therefore tells Claudius that it is Nero he should distrust, not Otto. She then reveals that Nero has been eavesdropping behind a curtain. Claudius dismisses him in fury. At the denouement confusion reigns as Agrippina tries to persuade Claudius that her actions were for the good of Rome. Claudius decrees that Nero will marry Poppea and Otto succeed as Emperor, but Otto objects to this. He wants Poppea, even if it means doing without the empire. Nero is duly restored to the succession.

The Cast

Agrippina
 wife of Claudius
Claudio
 Emperor of Rome
Giunone
 Juno
Lesbo
 a servant of Claudius
Narciso
 a freedman
Nerone
 son of Agrippina
Ottone
 commander of the imperial army
Pallante
 a freedman
Poppea
 a Roman lady

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