Barrie Kosky’s production of Agrippina at the Royal Opera House boasts a phenomenal line-up, led by the US mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato as the the tyrannical mother, Agrippina, of a feeble son, Nerone, sung by the Argentine counter-tenor Franco Fagioli. They are joined by the counter-tenor Iestyn Davies and soprano Lucy Crowe.
Handel wrote Agrippina towards the end of a prolonged stay in Italy. The opera had its premiere in Venice at the Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo in 1709. and was his first notable operatic success.
In it, the Emperor Claudio is reported drowned at sea and his wife Agrippina determines to make her son Nerone the new Emperor. But her plans go awry when Claudio turns up with his military commander Ottone, who saved his life and to whom he has promised the throne.
Counter-tenor Iestyn Davies sings the role of Ottone in Agrippina
Agrippina plots to use the two men’s desire for the beautiful Poppea, sung by Crowe, to create enmity between them and destroy Ottone, sung by Davies. Meanwhile, Nerone becomes seriously smitten with Poppea... And if all that sounds a bit convoluted and serious, anyone who was at the concert performance will tell you Agrippina can be a bundle of laughs, thanks to the extraordinary chemistry between the singers and their personal wit.
Award-winning Australian director Barrie Kosky will direct this opera with characteristic invention. Kosky made his ROH debut in the 2016/17 season directing Shostakovich's The Nose and returned in the 2017/18 season with Carmen, revived twice in the 2018/19 Season.
Agrippina features set designs by Rebecca Ringst and costume designs by Klaus Bruns, lighting design by Joachim Klein and dramaturgy by Nikolaus Stenitzer. The production features the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment conducted by the scintillating young Russian Maxim Emelyanychev, making his Royal Opera debut.
Other cast members include Italian bass Gianluca Buratto, making his ROH debut as Claudio, and Italian bass Andrea Mastroni as Pallante. American countertenor Eric Jurenas and Bolivian bass José Coca Loza make their ROH debut's as Narciso and Lesbo.
Agrippina is sung in Italian with English surtitles. Performances are on 23, 26, 30 Sept; 4, 7, 11 Oct. General booking opens 9AM, Wed 7 Aug
|What||Agrippina, Royal Opera House|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
23 Sep 19 – 11 Oct 19, six performances