Opera Omaha’s “Agrippina” is Action Packed

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February 12th, 2014

Omaha, NE — It’s musical theatre infused with high doses of drama, passion, and intrigue.

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opera omaha agrippinaThis weekend Opera Omaha brings Handel’s “Agrippina” to the Orpheum Theatre stage. The opera’s conductor, Stephen Stubbs, says the story centers on a power struggle in Rome and the plots of the title character, Empress Agrippina.

“Agrippina was the absolute master schemer, who was behind the scenes, making everything happen at court, and her particular thing was she wanted her son Nero to be the next emperor,” said Stubbs.

He points out that the opera is not just a dry history lesson.

“It had to have everything, and it did, it had drama, comedy, all the things that the Venetian audience expected,” said Stubbs.

Stubbs says that the emotional content of the story contributed to it’s early popularity, as did Handel’s knack for creating great music for very human characters.

“Handel is really a remarkable observer of human emotions and able to give very precise expression of all of the human passions,” Stubbs said, “and that’s what he was known for, he’s the ‘passions guy.’”

Unusually for an opera production, Stubbs and stage director James Darrah cast the “Agrippina” themselves. Stubbs says this allowed them to better realize their vision of the production.

“We thought of the kind of people we wanted in these roles,” Stubbs said, “Not in terms of just saying, ‘what’s the voice type that has exactly this range’ and so on, but ‘who would be the most vivid portrayer (sic) of this particular character.”

The result is a visually dramatic, action-packed production. However, it did require some tweaking to the music.

“The title of the piece, Agrippina, is Peabody Southwell, and that’s one of the cases where she was one of the strongest dramatic presences (sic) that we knew, but her voice type is lower than the original Agrippina. So, in some cases I’ve transposed some of the arias for her,” said Stubbs.

However, Handel himself was known for adapting his music in later productions to better fit different singers.

“He put in place the best singer he could think of for a certain role, and maybe that singer wasn’t the exactly the same voice type as the person he wrote it for originally, he rewrote it,” said Stubbs.

Performances of Opera Omaha’s production of Handel’s “Agrippina” are Friday, February 14 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, February 16 at 2 pm. Both performances are at the Orpheum Theater in Omaha, and for tickets and more information, you can call (402) 346-4398 or visit operaomaha.org.

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