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Written by George Frideric Händel, this opera in three parts tells the tale of the mother of Nero as she plans to make him Emperor and bring about the downfall of Rome. The opera was composed for the Venice Carnevale season of 1709-10 and was premiered at the Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo on Boxing Day, 26th December 1709. Many critics today think that the opera is Händel's first masterpiece and it is one of the most popular pieces in the ongoing revival of his works. It has been [u]performed to great acclaim and given a modern makeover[/u] in London and New York.


The three part opera takes place in Rome and tells the story of the mother of Nero as she plans to secure the Emperor's throne for him after hearing of the death of her husband, Claudius. She will stop at nothing to achieve her ambitions and when she hears that Claudius is not dead she uses his love for Poppaea to make him denounce Otho, who is also in love with her, as a traitor and allow Nero to become Emperor. A fine comedy with many unique pieces.

Act 1

When Agrippina hears that Claudius has been lost at sea, she enlists her two freedmen Pallas and Narcissus in support of her son by a previous marriage, Nero and sets about making him Emperor of Rome. As she is about to ascend to the throne in front of the senate with Nero, she is stopped when Lesbus, Claudius servant rushes in with the news that he is not dead and was saved by Otho. She knows that both Claudius and Otho are in love with Poppaea and uses her knowledge to come between them and make Claudius denounce Otho, his chosen successor as a traitor.

Act 2

Pallas and Narcissus turn against the evil mother of Nero when they realise that she has tricked them. Poppaea tries to convince Claudius that Otho is innocent but his plotting wife manages to convince him that he should abdicate in Nero's favour. He agrees because he wants to be with Poppaea again.

Act 3

Poppaea and Otho are reconciled and she has hidden him in her bedroom when Nero comes to profess his love for her. She manages to trick him into hiding too when Claudius arrives. She tells him that it was in fact Nero and not Otho who had coerced her into rejecting Claudius. Nero leaves. Otho and Poppaea tell Claudius of their love. Pallas and Narcissus reveal Agrippina's plot to Claudius so he announces that Poppaea and Nero will be married and that Otho will be Emperor and accuses his wife of treachery. Nobody is happy so in a change of heart, Claudius makes Nero his successor and allows Poppaea and Otho to marry.


Agrippina, wife of Claudius, mother of Nero - soprano
Nero - soprano castrato
Otho - contralto
Poppaea - soprano
Claudius, Emperor of Rome - bass

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