Virginia Opera to Premiere Production of Handel’s ‘Agrippina’

Posted: January 23, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Agrippina image

The curtain rises in Norfolk on Virginia Opera’s production of George Frederic Handel’s “Agrippina” on Jan. 26, marking the first performance in Virginia for this classic comic opera. Then, the engaging production will move to Mason’s Center for the Arts for two performances on Friday, Feb. 9, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 11, at 2 p.m.

Empress Agrippina, wife of Claudius, was the granddaughter of Caesar Augustus, first emperor of Rome; and sister to the infamously perverse Caligula. When Claudius is reported to have met his demise, Agrippina contrives to have her son, Nero, appointed to the throne. When the court discovers that Claudius did not die, a series of political and sexual imbroglios unfold.

The opera is, according to returning stage director Lillian Groag, “a satirical look at a seizure of power, all told in the span of one day and with all the high jinks of a French bedroom farce.”

This is the fourth Virginia premiere Groag has directed for the company. In a review of New York City Opera’s 2002 “Agrippina” production directed by Groag, The New York Times wrote that she “helped the singers develop well-defined characters, sympathetic even in their scheming.”

“With two of our favorite leading ladies engaged in a fiery vocal contest of wills, combined with the unique voices of our two countertenors, and set amidst a finely-crafted staging by one of our most detail-oriented directors, ‘Agrippina’ is bound to be the comedic success of our season,” says Virginia Opera artistic director Peter Mark, who will conduct all performances.

Returning to Virginia Opera from her home in South Korea to perform the title role is soprano Sujung Kim, a veteran of the Handelian repertoire who starred in Virginia Opera productions of “Julius Caesar” (1997), “Orfeo and Euridice” (1999), “Rodelinda” (2000) and “La Traviata” (2001).

Also returning, following her leading role last year as Susanna in Virginia Opera’s highly-acclaimed production of “The Marriage of Figaro,” is soprano Jane Redding as Poppea – the palace beauty combating Agrippina’s schemes with her own clever ruses. Returning tenor Jeffery Halili, last seen here as Gastone in “La Traviata” (2005), sings the role of Nero.

The debuts of countertenors David Walker as Ottone and Jeffrey Mandelbaum as Narciso mark a rare opportunity for Virginia audiences to hear male voices soaring into the soprano range as the pair fills roles that were, in the 1700s, sung by that era’s famed castrati. Also making his company debut as Pallante is bass-baritone Matthew Burns.

Pre-performance discussions, free to ticket holders, will be held 45 minutes prior to each curtain on the hall’s Grand Tier. Before the Friday evening performance, audiences are invited to a free wine and cheese tasting beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Concert Hall lobby.

“Agrippina” is sung in Italian with Digitext SuperTitles projected above the stage.

Tickets are $86, $72 and $44 (Friday) and $90, $76 and $48 (Sunday). Charge by phone at 888-945-2468 or visit www.tickets.com.

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