Agrippina is an opera seria in three acts by Händel, from a libretto by Vicenzo Grimani.
It tells the story of Agrippina, the mother of Nero, who plots the downfall of her husband,
the Roman Emperor Claudius, and the installation of her son as emperor. Grimani’s li-
bretto is considered an anti-heroic satirical comedy filled with topical political allu-
sions. Händel composed Agrippina at the end of a three-year visit to Italy. It pre-
miered in Venice on December 26th, 1709, and was an immediate success. From its
opening night it was given a then-unprecedented run of 27 consecutive performances,
and received much critical acclaim. Observers were full of praise for the quality of the
music—much of which, in keeping with the contemporary custom, had been borrowed
and adapted from other works, including some from other composers. Despite the evi-
dent public enthusiasm for the work, Händel did not promote further stagings. When
Händel’s operas fell out of fashion in the mid-18th century, Agrippina was generally
forgotten. In the 20th century, Händelian opera began a revival which, after produc-
tions in Germany, saw Agrippina premiered in Britain and in America. Modern critical
opinion is that Agrippina is Händel’s first operatic masterpiece, full of freshness and
musical invention, which has made it one of his most popular operas. The fact that
Agrippina is a work that, unlike later operas of Händel’s, originates in Italian tradition,
makes it atypical and unique.
Agrippina will be performed at the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb under
the auspices of the University of Zagreb’s Academy of Music.