Magazine article Musical Opinion

ENO's Agrippina

Magazine article Musical Opinion

ENO's Agrippina

Article excerpt

The holy triumvirate of Handel, David McVicker and Sarah Connelly came down to earth again so that we might worship at their shrine in the Coliseum on 5 February. The three last came together for Guilio Cesare at Glyndebourne in 2004. This time, no less successful, was another Latin tale, also plundered from Plutarch, of the scheming Agrippina's efforts to shoehorn her son Nero, here called Nerone, on to the Roman throne in place of her husband Claudius, here Claudio. A new production for ENO, this actually dates from 2000 in Brussels.

Handel wrote Agrippina at the tender age of 24 when in Italy on the Grand Tour. It was the launch pad from which his illustrious career began. The libretto used is much the same as Monteverdi's The Coronation of Poppea (for which ENO will stage a new production in October), though here penned by Cardinal Grimaldi, hence perhaps the atmosphere of real politik. At almost four hours, a long-haul opera, it is a testament to all concerned that past the first 30 minutes, which was slow going indeed (the fault is Handel's rather than ENO) the evening flew by in a succession of witty and innovative scenes.

Sarah Connelly, for once cast as a female character, was superb throughout. Playing for laughs, she portrays Agrippina as a drunken cross between Cherie, Evita and Imelda Marcos. Her son Nerone, an all but unrecognisable Christine Rice, was a dysfunctional, coke snorting, black leather clad, chain wearing punk; and very believable too.

The undoubted star of the evening, however, was Lucy Crowe as Poppea. …

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