Michael Tanner

Patience rewarded

Agrippina is widely agreed among Handelians to be his first major opera. Constituted, to a large extent, of arias from pre-existing works, it does have a strongly distinctive character, and is as precocious a work as any operatic composer has achieved by the age of 24. What makes it still more striking is that it is pitilessly satirical, a portrayal of relationships among the ruling class of ancient Rome showing them to be determined by gross ambition, with long-term ends even further from its characters’ minds than one expects from politicians, and instant sexual gratification vying with vengeance as the...

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