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Agrippina Box set, CD+DVD, Special Edition

2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Performer: Alexandrina Pendatchanska, Sunhae Im, Bejun Mehta, Marcos Fink, Neal Davies, et al.
  • Orchestra: Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
  • Conductor: René Jacobs
  • Composer: George Frideric Handel
  • Audio CD (3 Oct. 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Format: Box set, CD+DVD, Special Edition
  • Label: harmonia mundi
  • ASIN: B005HO1W74
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 185,196 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Agrippina, HWV6 - Various Performers

Product Description


There are few more rigorous scholar-performers than Jacobs, and even fewer capable of communicating the drama and vitality of baroque opera...the singers are fully inside their roles and the ensemble conveys an invigorating sense of stylistic unity from first to last...The recitatives crackle and the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin provides a wonderfully lithe musical foundation. Handel operas are a long haul on CD, but this one really comes alive. --Financial Times, 1/2 October 2011

The joy of this set is the sheer conviction and energy imparted to the performance by cast and orchestra under the direction of René Jacobs. The passion and heat generated along the way is sufficient to have dried up a good proportion of Venice's canals. Face this Agrippina if you dare. --Robert Anderson, dailyclassicalmusic.com, 16 November 2011

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Nico Deloddere on 16 Oct. 2011
Format: Audio CD
Agrippina and René Jacobs go back a long time. I remember a stage production in the Brussels Monnae opera in May 2000, directed by Robert Carsen with Jacobs in the pit. The opera was a revelation with a dream cast: Anna Catharina Antonacci was Agrippina, Rosemary Joshua sang Poppea and Lawrence Zazzo was a youthful Ottone. Very soon after this production, rumours were spread that Jacobs would record Agrippina. It took him 10 years to finally realize this recording and the only one to survive from the 2000 cast is Domique Visse in the small role of Narciso.
In these 10 years, the recording I grew accustomed to was Gardiner's, a model of professionalism with a cast of Baroque specialists. Alas, Jacobs' cast is almost uniformely inferior to Gardiner's. Moreover, Jacobs' extremely dramatic direction often asks for overacting from the singers, which is simply not necessary with a libretto that speaks for itself.
The opera is dominated by Agrippina, sung by Della Jones in the Gardiner recording. She is very cunning and funny in the recitatives, and although her voice is not the most pleasant, she won me over in a completely compelling interpretation.
What to think of Jacobs' Pendatchanska? She is surely a gifted singer, with shrill high notes, but quite some exciting moments. To name one: Jacobs reorchestrated her Act 1 aria 'Tu ben digno' to great effect, Gardiner sounds dull there in comparison.
But, in the recitatives, she does not convince me she is Agrippina. It must be the overacting that spoils it for me and the shrillness of the voice makes listening to her tiresome. A missed opportunity, since Antonacci would have been perfect...
Jacobs cannot image Nerone to be sung by a countertenor, so he choose the mezzo Jennifer Rivera for that role.
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0 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Joyce on 10 Dec. 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Bought this as a requested gift and I have not heard it (and will not - not my type!) Seems to have been well received.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Serious opera of treachery and murder, done correctly 28 Oct. 2011
By R. Gerard - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I admit to having a problem with most Italian opera seria. I am probably more partial to the French school of tragedie lyrique, favoring the operas of Rameau, Lully, Charpentier to those of Vivaldi and Handel. I think this is due in large part to the predictability in form of opera seria, where da capo arias and recitatives strictly alternate with hardly any choruses or ensemble pieces interspersed. When recorded it can make for a rather monotonous experience, whereas the tragedie lyrique flows more freely and more humanly.

The present recording of Handel's first successful opera seria, however, is enchanting and lively. This is Handel's last opera for his stay in Italy and represents a tale of treachery in imperial Rome toward the end of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Agrippina, wife of emperor Claudius, uses her cunning to install her son Nero on the throne at all costs. This opera is cast in the form of opera seria generally, but diverges at times, leaving room for short ensembles and ariettes that do not stifle the drama. For Rene Jacobs this presents treasure trove of interpretive possibility. This recording is not flat, monotonous Italian opera seria. Rather, Jacobs utilizes the full range of dynamics of the period instruments of Akademie fuer Alte Musik Berlin to stunning results. It is a recording of serious opera that you don't find yourself skimming over the recitatives and da capo repetitions in arias. Jacobs keeps the drama flowing even during recitatives, allowing (historically correct) dramatic license for the continuo section as they not only accompany the singers, but comment on the action as well using improvised tone painting. In arias, there is no simple repetition in da capo arias, rather the singers display virtuosic and tasteful improvising when appropriate, as the famous singers of the baroque were documented as having done to thrilling results.

Alexandrina Pendatchanska is the prima donna. I first heard of her on another Jacob's recording in the role of Vitellia in Mozart's opera seria La Clemenza di Tito. This powerful singer has subsequently sung the roles of emotionally conflicted women (Donna Elvira) or conniving villainesses (Elettra and Vitellia). Agrippina fits in the latter category, and in this role Ms Pendatchanska is perfectly in her element.

Sunhae Im is Poppea, consort to the future emperors Nero and Otho. If Ms Pendatchanska is the prima donna, Ms Im is a close second. Having previously taken on lighter roles under Jacobs's baton (Papagena, Zerlina) she is dazzling in the present recording, displaying firework coloratura that I was not expecting from this singer who I had already thought was wonderful.

Marcos Fink plays the aged emperor Claudius. I had not previously heard a bass get more into the character more credibly. For example, the arioso "Vieni, o cara" in Act 1 in which he attempts to force himself of the much-younger Poppea, Mr Fink paints Claudius as the 'senex amans' in such a believable way that it is almost comic.

As for the rest of the cast, there is hardly a weak link. Mr Jacobs previously expressed his belief that attention should be paid to recitatives as well as arias, as they are the primary tool by which opera seria conveys plot. He has urged his singers to act using just the voice when recording, and his Agrippina is perhaps the best example of this practice when applied to Handel's operas. This is human sounding opera seria, hugely dramatic, and for a serious topic of murder and politics, it is, at last, a recording that coneys this topic with justice.

Displays of virtuosity abound by so many of the singers and obligatto members of the orchestra, it is difficult for me to pinpoint standout tracks. This is one recording of opera seria that I can recommend without hesitation.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Handel: Agrippina 31 Aug. 2013
By Bjorn Viberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Handel: Agrippina is a 2011 harmonia mundi recording under the direction of René Jacobs who leads Akademie Fur Alte Musik Berlin. René Jacobs has written the music notes and it also includes a synopsis. Sunhae Im (soprano) does an excellent in the role of Poppea. Truly a splendid recording that I very much recommend. Highly recommended. 5/5.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Handel Agrippina 5 Jan. 2013
By Tony - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I am a Handel lover ,and this performance was magnificent as far as I am concerned. the cast are all wonderful anf rene jacobs is one of my favorite Baroque conductors.
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