Notes & Reviews:
Continuing his 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. Grimani's libretto, considered one of the best that Handel set, is full of topical political allusions. Some believe that it reflects the rivalry between Grimani and Pope Clement XI. From its opening night, the work was given a then-unprecedented run of 27 consecutive performances and received much critical acclaim. Observers were full of praise for the quality of the music - much of which, in keeping with the contemporary custom, had been borrowed and adapted from other works, including some from other composers. Jacobs performs the work in its original version.
"The singers are fully inside their roles and the ensemble conveys an invigorating sense of stylistic unity...The recitatives crackle and the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin provides a wonderfully lithe musical foundation. Handel operas are a long haul on CD, but this one really comes alive." -The Independent
The Irish Times
The singers are engaging, with Bejun Mehta particularly impressive as Ottone. The overall result is exciting, and will be appealing to those who like their Handel in Technicolour
Jacobs directs a larger-than-life performance of crackling theatrical energy... The recitatives make the characters' conspiracies, confrontations and lusts more vividly immediate, abetted by facetious commentaries from the varied continuo group. Purists may throw up their hands, but dull it ain't... This is Agrippina's opera; and Pendatchanska remains a commanding, neurotic presence throughout.
New York Times
Surges with energy, with a stellar cast
Pendatchanska's impassioned acrobatics are just one striking feature of this rollicking Baroque feast... the comedy keeps coming through, partly in the puncturing gestures of Jacobs's instrumental forces, the brilliant Akademie fnr alte Musik Berlin. The play of voices in Jacobs's cast creates its own comedy... Now can we please see the entire production? It's just made for its own DVD.
International Record Review
You can hear its theatrical provenance (although studio recorded) in the crackle and repartee of a cast which clearly works as an ensemble... I'm glad to have heard [Pendatchanska] but I can imagine purists wincing occasionally. The set's most complete success is Bejun Mehta's Ottone, a secondary character which the countertenor transforms into the hero of the performance.
BBC Music Magazine
Jacobs's performance is electric. The Akademie fnr Alte Musik Berlin matches the singers in virtuosity. The casting is luxurious... Deadly and glamorous, Alexandrina Pendatchanska's Agrippina is indefatigable
Classic FM Magazine
Jacobs's conducting is full of pep.
The performance is excellent: the recitatives and arias are deftly conducted, flowing seamlessly together... Bejun Mehta makes for a staggering Ottone, and Alexandrina Pendatchanska, who should stick to Handel rather than Mozart, is gloriously over the top in the title role.
The Flemish conductor's theatricality can't be gainsaid, but purists may demur at the Callas-like chest notes of Alexandrina Pendachanska's Agrippina. The Bulgarian soprano (above) is both virago and subtle schemer, however, a vivid presence. She is outclassed, vocally, by Bejun Mehta's patrician Ottone - he has some of Handel's most ravishing arias - and Marcos Fink's splendidly blustering Emperor Claudius.
Recording information: Teldex Studio, Berlin (07/2010).
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Works DetailsHandel, George Frideric : Agrippina
- Conductor: René Jacobs
- Ensemble: Academy of Ancient Music Berlin
- Notes: Composition written: 1709.
- Running Time: 91 min. 30 sec.
- Period Time: Baroque
- Form: Opera/Operetta
- Written: 1709