Notes and Editorial Reviews
An amusing and respectful yet inventive account of ancient Rome.
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.
The mood is light, ironic and, as in all good comedies, with a darker side as well. Against a minimalist set, above and even on which French surtitles are, disconcertingly, sometimes visible, the costumes are exaggeratedly 18th-century. Poppea’s yards of chiffon conceal two suitors simultaneously in a scene that anticipates L’heure espagnole. Nero, with rouged cheeks, sports an aubergine wig; the wigs of the other characters include various degrees of red, with a striking raspberry shade for Poppea. Otho wears no wig, perhaps to distinguish his genuine emotions from the buffoonery of Nero, Pallas and Narcissus.
In the accompanied recitative ‘Otton, Otton’ and the aria ‘Voi che udite il mio lamento’, with its aching suspensions in the strings, Thierry Grégoire gives moving expression to Otho’s melancholy. As Claudius, Nigel Smith looks comically put out as Poppea fails to notice his preening, but strikes the right lyrical note with ‘Vieni o cara’. To decorate the opening of ‘Cade il mondo’ and leave the da capo penny plain is surely to get things the wrong way round.In the castrato role of Nero, Philippe Jaroussky shows an astonishing agility at soprano pitch. The penultimate aria, ‘Come nube’, is a tour de force with solo violins, cellos and oboes. Ingrid Perruche has a nice lightness of touch for Poppea, as do Bernard Deletré as Pallas and Fabrice Di Falco as a mincing Narcissus. To Véronique Gens fall two of this delightful opera’s best numbers: the heartfelt ‘Pensieri’ and the jaunty ‘Ogni vento’; her performance is sharp and amusing.
-- Richard Lawrence, Gramophone [1/2005]
Subtitles: Italian, English, French, German, Spanish
Duration: 72 minutes
Works on This Recording
Agrippina, HWV 6 by George Frideric Handel
Thierry Gregoire (Countertenor),
Fabrice Di Falco (Countertenor),
Alain Buet (Bass),
Philippe Jaroussky (Countertenor),
Nigel Smith (Baritone),
Véronique Gens (Soprano),
Bernard Delétré (Bass),
Ingrid Perruche (Soprano)
La Grande Ecurie et la Chambre du Roy
Written: 1709; Venice, Italy
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