Handel's Agrippina Reconstructed

New life is breathed into Handel's opera.

Composer: Handel

Repertoire: Agrippina

Artists: Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin/ René Jacobs
Rating: 4/5

Genre: Opera

Label: Harmonia Mundi HMC 952088/90

The Music: Agrippina was Handel’s first operatic triumph, and it caused a sensation when it was premiered in Venice in 1710. Employing a higher number of shorter arias than subsequently became his practice, he tells the racy story of a Machiavellian schemer anxious to make her son ruler of the Roman empire.

The Performance: For the opera’s premiere, in line with contemporary practice, Handel altered his initial intentions to suit the singers’ demands. He added customary ‘exit’ arias and even inserted a number from a religious cantata even though all these revisions slowed the pace. In this studio recording, based on a production in Berlin in 2009, René Jacobs reconstructs the rejected original version, and the result is a work of much speedier dramatic flow than usual. Soprano Alexandrina Pendatchanska is outstanding in the meaty title role, and Jacobs’s conducting is full of pep.

The Verdict: Even though some of the
voices are not as great as others, the performers (mostly from the Berlin production) interact with each other in a detailed and lively fashion, creating a sense of exciting dramatic depth.

Want More? Jacobs brings an equally fresh approach to Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito (Harmonia Mundi, HMC 901923).