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Last night I went to see this as a break from Swan Lakes. What a nice surprise! The text of the opera with the scheming of Empress Cleopatra to enthrone her son Nero after Emperor Claudio is transplanted into a generic modern times wife of a head of state. Now, I'm usually against this in opera, given that the results I've seen 99% of the times are more confusing to the audience than anything and don't particularly benefit the work at all, but this was not the case here. The opera, a long one... starting at 7:30 and finishing at 11:20, truly gained from this twisting of the historical setting, and more interestingly, from its morphing into a dark comedy. As we can tell from the lyrics, this is originally a historical drama, but here it is done with spicy, sexually charged humorous situations that work perfectly. It is a plus seeing how good DiDonato-( in the title role)- gets at comedy. I was truly laughing my heart out at times. 

If you can, do not miss it. You'll have a great time. It has everything... wonderful coloraturas, a countertenor, a GREAT trouser role, a cocaine sniffing Nero, a bar drunk Poppea and lots of intrigue.

Highly recommended.

Edited by cubanmiamiboy
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Thank you for the review. I hope this is televised. I agree that "updating" the setting doesn't work more often than not, so it's good to hear that it was successful here. Interview with DiDonato:


It seems like David McVicar is really aiming to highlight the story’s parallels to today’s world.

A lot of people believe that perhaps the arts shouldn’t be political. But we have all these compositions that were written by the greatest composers in the last centuries that are ultimately, undeniably political. The beauty of that is that politicians haven’t changed, politics haven’t changed, and greed and the hunger for power at any cost is still with us in 2020. So we’re dealing with a very modern opera. We’re dealing with the sense that people want to put other people into power to elevate themselves, because we always want to be close to the source of power. Agrippina is a story of greed, of people being in the seat of power who have no business being there. And they pay the price.



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I 'm sorry, all - I was disappointed. The camerawork did not help – too many closeups of singers’ open mouths – not an attractive look. I understand the director’s need to keep things moving and keep the audience occupied while the da capo arias went on and on, but eventually the disparity between the onstage antics and the music became jarring to me and I started closing my eyes so I could listen to the more striking passages undistracted by mugging, smirking, gaping, hip shaking, twerking, crotch-grabbing…etc. I had an appointment and couldn’t stay for the whole thing, but I wasn’t entirely sorry to leave, especially since I wasn't going to get to hear “Lieto il Tebro increspi l’onda.” I extend my sympathies to Kate Lindsey and my congratulations to Matthew Rose, who rose above what he was asked to do, including a most un-Claudio-like striptease. McVicar seemed to be going for a combination of bedroom farce and political satire, but the former overtook the latter, to the show's detriment.

At the intermission break for which I was present, there was a nice tribute to Mirella Freni and a clip of her singing “Io son l'umile ancella”  from “Adriana Lecouvreur” at the 1991 Met Gala. The best singing I heard that day. RIP.

A new recording of Agrippina has just been released by Erato, with DiDonato. Should be good.


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