Georg Friedrich Händel
Georg Friedrich Händel
11, 13, 15 February, 2020
The edition of Agrippina's score has been performed by Benjamin Bayl and Gunnhild TØnder for the Oviedo Opera and the Vlaamse Opera, 2012.
The performance lasts about 4 hour 30 minutes, including two intervals.
Intrigue, cynicism and black humour in the splendour of Baroque opera
Intrigue, slander, deceit, treachery… The machinations of power are dissected against the backdrop of a voluptuous score of exuberant song. “Agrippina”, an opera in three acts first performed in Venice in 1709, tells the story of Nero’s mother as she plots the downfall of the Roman Emperor Claudius and the crowning of her son as emperor, in what is considered Handel’s first operatic masterpiece, the culmination of his fruitful sojourn of study in Italy.
Based on a libretto by the diplomat Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani portraying the immorality, cynicism and bloodthirstiness of Nero, one of history’s dreadful tyrants, G. F. Handel (1685-1759) created one of his most successful works. The libretto was a decisive factor in its success -the critic Mariano Acero states it was “probably the best Handel ever used throughout his career.” Inspired by history, cynical and a degree of humour, it tells the story of Agrippina’s plotting to ensure that Nero, her son by her first marriage, be named as the heir to her second husband, the Emperor Claudius, who originally preferred Otho. The amorous passions which Agrippina inspires among the courtiers, and the intrigues, Machiavellian plots, emotional betrayals and treasonous acts which follow, keep the story lively and maintain dramatic tension.
According to Acero, Handel did not have much time to compose the opera -three weeks, according to Mainwaring, his first biographer- although as often occurs with Handel, around 75% of the music is recycled from his earlier works, or even copied from his teacher Keiser, and it is possible that be began working on it after a trip to Naples in 1708, when he met Grimani, the first Austrian viceroy in the Kingdom. The musical quality and dramatic definition of the characters guaranteed a good reception in Venice, where it was first performed in the Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo, the theatre owned by the librettist Grimani’s family, in December 1709. Many experts have interpreted the libretto by Grimani, a diplomat favouring the Hapsburgs in the War of Spanish Succession, as alluding to the political situation of the time in Italy -according to these theories, Emperor Claudius is a caricature of his political enemy Pope Clement XI, who supported France and Spain. In a country like Italy, which was suffering terribly from the consequences of the War of Spanish Succession, the plot of the opera could seem extremely contemporary.
The Teatro de la Maestranza presents this Baroque opera, “Agrippina”, a cynical but humorous study of the immorality of power which enjoyed great success when it was first performed, with 27 consecutive performances. Later it fell from favour, and was not performed until 1950 as part of the general revival of interest in the European Baroque opera. This is a production by the Oviedo Opera and the Opera Ballet Vlaanderen of Antwerp, one of Europe’s most innovative creative centres. The stage direction of this new production is by Mariame Clément (Paris, 1974), she is acclaimed for her creative imagination and avant-garde vision. A well-known specialist in the field, Enrico Onofri (Ravenna, 1967), formerly the leader of Il Giardino Armonico, conducts the Orquesta Barroca de Sevilla (OBS), an outstanding orchestra which has holds the Premio Nacional de Música. The cast includes prestigious Baroque specialists Ann Hallenberg and Xavier Sabata, ensuring that the opera will be as enjoyable for a general audience as it will for aficionados of Baroque music.
EN TORNO A… Agrippina
With Asociación Sevillana de Amigos de la Ópera (ASAO)
SALA DE PRENSA
10 February, 2020
With: Marta del Pozo, Marcos Darbyshire, Alfonso Sebastián
Sala de prensa (Access via the theatre reception entrance)
Free of charge until complete capacity
Agrippina, wife of the emperor Claudius, tells her son Nero the time has come to ascend the throne. She shows him a letter which announces the death of Claudius in a storm at sea. Then, Agrippina, who will stop at nothing to achieve her ends, summons her faithful freedmen Narcissus and Pallas, behind each other’s backs. She is well aware of the secret passion each man feels for her. Agrippina tells each one the news, and in return for her love, asks them to go to the Capitol and hail Nero as the new emperor. The people gather later at the Capitol and Agrippina announces the death of the emperor, she asks those assembled to choose his successor. Immediately, the voices of Narcissus and Pallas are heard. They salute Nero as the new emperor.
Agrippina and Nero are preparing to ascend the throne when Lesbo, the servant of Claudius, suddenly arrives. He exclaims that his master is alive and has disembarked at Anzio, having been saved by the courageous Otho. Otho arrives at the Capitol and tells Agrippina about his fortunate intervention, adding that Claudius has promised him the title of Caesar, a just reward for having saved his life. With this unexpected news, the four conspirators are completely taken aback in their distress. Although, much to the relief of Agrippina, Otho privately confides in her that his love for Poppaea far exceeds that of the throne.
Since Agrippina knows that Claudius also desires Poppaea, she devises a new course of action to ensure the throne for her son. She goes to Poppaea’s residence. Once assured that Poppaea is indeed in love with Otho, Agrippina deceives the girl by saying that Otho has betrayed her. He has yielded his beloved to Claudius in exchange for Caesar’s laurel. Agrippina suggests a way to take revenge; make Claudius jealous by telling him that proud Otho, in his new status, has required her to reject Claudius and come to him. With this information, Claudius will punish Otho by refusing him the throne. Poppaea falls in the trap and when Claudius arrives she follows Agrippina’s exact instructions, obtaining the desired results from the emperor.
Meanwhile, Pallas and Narcissus discover they have been deceived by Agrippina so they decide to form an alliance. Otho arrives, he is apprehensive about the approaching coronation. Claudius is acclaimed by the people as he enters triumphantly in his chariot, then Otho approaches and reminds the emperor of his promise. Claudius rejects him fiercely while accusing him of betrayal. Surprised by this, Otho seeks consolation: first from Agrippina, then from Poppaea and Nero. All three shun Otho and the man is beset with desperation.
Later, Poppaea thinks about the heartfelt torment of Otho and begins to doubt whether he is guilty. She devises a strategy to discover the truth: seeing him approach, Poppaea sits beside the fountain in her garden, as if asleep. Then pretending to dream, she speaks aloud and reveals what Agrippina told her: that Otho had surrendered his lover to Claudius in exchange for the throne. Otho explodes on hearing the plan conceived by Nero’s mother. He declares himself innocent. Poppaea now understands Agrippina’s real motives and swears vengeance.
In the intervening period of time, Agrippina sees that her scheme is not working. She ponders afresh: first she summons Pallas and promises him her love if he kills Otho and Narcissus. Then she calls for Narcissus and asks him to kill Otho and Pallas. This time, however, the two men are not convinced. Agrippina has more success with her husband: she tells Claudius that Otho seeks reprisal for having been denied the throne. She suggests that the emperor avoid all controversy by naming Nero as his successor. Claudius, impatient to see Poppaea, with whom he has arranged a meeting, gives in to his wife in order to get rid of her.
Poppaea wants to make amends with Otho and has an idea: she suggests that her lover hide in her room. No matter what he hears, he must constrain himself and not be jealous. Beforehand, she invites Nero to her chambers. He also loves Poppaea and arrives consumed with desire to possess her. However, Poppaea says that she expects her mother at any moment and makes him hide. Now Claudius comes in and the new intrigue is underway. Poppaea laments that the emperor does not truly love her. Claudius reminds the girl of everything he has done for her but when he mentions Otho’s punishment, Poppaea retorts that he had misunderstood her. It was Nero, not Otho, who betrayed him! Hence, Nero is his true rival. She explains their names do sound somewhat alike. Poppaea then convinces the emperor to hide and calls for Nero, who, convinced that Claudius has left, comes out, anxious to pursue his interests. Claudius interrupts and chases him off furiously.
And so the plan has worked. Having dismissed the emperor on a pretext, Poppaea brings Otho out of his hiding place. Reconciled, the two swear eternal love. Meanwhile, the situation becomes ever trickier. Nero describes the humiliation he has suffered to his mother and begs that she defend him from Claudius’s contempt. For their part, Pallas and Narcissus inform Claudius of Agrippina’s conjuring during his absence. So when Agrippina urges her husband to crown Nero, Claudio responds by accusing her of wanting to usurp his power. She admits having looked for a way to put Nero on the throne but defends herself. Her actions were in Rome’s best interests: with the news of Claudius’s death, the army, the people and the senate were considering who would be his successor. Precisely so as to safeguard the throne for Claudius, she had put forward the forever faithful and obedient Nero. What is more, as soon as he discovered the news about Claudius’s death to be false, her son immediately relinquished the title.
Claudius allows himself to be convinced by Agrippina but then she accuses him of unfaithfulness, telling her husband to stay away from Poppaea. Agrippina says Poppaea is loved by Otho but Claudius corrects her saying it is Nero who desires the girl. When Poppaea, Nero and Otho arrive, Claudius accuses Nero for having hidden in Poppaea’s chambers. Nero cannot deny this. Then, amidst the general confusion and totally unexpectedly, the emperor orders Nero to marry Poppaea and Otho to be his successor. None of the interested parties agree to this solution. Claudius yearns for an end to the conflict so he gives Nero the throne and names Poppaea as Otho’s wife. Finally he calls upon Juno, Goddess of marriage, to bestow happiness on the couple and glory to the empire.
11, 13, 15 February, 2020
PRICE LIST A: Friday, Saturday
PRICE LIST B: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday (except before public holidays)
PRICES: PRICE LIST A / PRICE LIST B
Stalls (Patio) 130€ / 120€
Balcony (1ª Balcón) 125€ / 115€
Balcony (2ª Balcón) 112€ / 104€
Terrace (1ª Terraza) 100€ / 93€
Terrace (2ª Terraza) 87€ / 80€
Slips (1ª Paraíso) 80€ / 74€
Slips (2ª Paraíso) 70€ / 62€
Slips (3ª Paraíso) 60€ / 49€
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