First seen at the Bayerische Staatsoper earlier this year, Barrie Kosky’s staging of Handel’s Agrippina premiered at London’s Royal Opera House this week, with powerful performances from five AH artists.
Joyce DiDonato triumphs in her first fully-staged portrayal of the power-hungry empress, bringing “tragic intensity” and “zinging coloratura” to the title role, while Lucy Crowe and Iestyn Davies bring “oases of pure loveliness” to Poppea and Ottone. Franco Fagioli delivers “powerful vocal and dramatic clarity” as a punk, tattooed Nerone, and Andrea Mastroni’s “resonant young bass” impresses as Pallante.
Maxim Emelyanchev conducts the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, with Gianluca Buratto, Eric Jurenas and José Coca Loza completing the specialist cast.
“DiDonato gives one of her finest performances, wonderfully voiced and acted, and keeping us just the right side of empathy throughout. Pensieri, Voi Mi Tormentate, when the mask drops to reveal lacerating self-doubt, has tragic intensity.” TIM ASHLEY FOR THE GUARDIAN
“Joyce DiDonato is absolute mistress of the title-role, singing with authority, grandeur and high style … [Franco Fagioli’s] punk, tattooed Nero is delivered with powerful vocal and dramatic clarity. Lucy Crowe and Iestyn Davies both offer oases of pure loveliness as the lovers Poppea and Ottone” RUPERT CHRISTIANSEN FOR THE TELEGRAPH
“you will wait a long time to hear those musical riches more grippingly sung or played … the power, beauty and pungent character of the singing constantly sends shivers up the spine.” RICHARD MORRISON FOR THE TIMES
“Mocking, Machiavellian, manipulative, DiDonato’s Agrippina dominates the stage from the start, a series of side glances at the audience giving away her ambitious plans as she pits characters against each other … Vocally, she was on outstanding form, zinging coloratura runs tossed off with ease” “Lucy Crowe was equally wonderful as the preening Poppea, her soprano agile and florid, revelling in her role as temptress.” “Iestyn Davies‘ gorgeous, plangent tone impressed, especially in “Voi che udite”” “Andrea Mastroni’s resonant young bass made much of Pallade [sic]” “[Franco Fagioli] camped up Nerone to perfection” MARK PULLINGER, BACHTRACK
“DiDonato presents a complex character: ambitious but tormented, seductive but lacking the capacity to love. Her performance, combining tonal radiance with showstopping bravura, is a tour de force. So is Crowe’s, who matches her for exotic changes of costume, and similarly alternates skirt-whirling, hair-tossing sex appeal with exquisitely floated lyricism. Fagioli’s tone throbs with Nerone’s decadent lust, but he too has a stunning technique.” BARRY MILLINGTON FOR THE EVENING STANDARD