Writers: George Frederic Handel Vincenzo Grimani


Show Information

Number of Acts
First Produced
Drama, Historical/Biographical
Multiple Settings, Period
Time & Place
Rome, 1st century A.D.
Cast Size
Orchestra Size
Ideal for
Star Vehicle Female, Professional Opera, College/University, Mostly Female Cast
Casting Notes
Mostly male cast
Includes adult, mature adult, young adult characters


Agrippina will do anything she can to see her son Nerone as the Emperor of Rome. When she hears that her husband, the Emperor Claudio, has died at sea she wastes no time in mourning, and with Claudio having no blood-heir, publicly announces Nerone’s succession. Her haste causes great embarrassment when Claudio returns, alive and well and proclaiming his rescuer, Ottone, as his successor. More determined than ever, Agrippina will use any means necessary to take down Ottone, and plays on men’s weakness for a beautiful woman. She comes up with a plan to use their affections for Poppea, a beautiful courtesan, to set Claudio and Ottone against each other.

But, Agrippina’s ambition is truly blinding. She has no idea that Poppea’s morality, and love for Ottone, will ultimately ruin her plans to have Ottone killed. She also could not imagine her former slaves betraying her to the Emperor himself. Agrippina manages to avoid Claudio’s wrath by persuading him that she was only acting in his favor, and, being the fair and trusting leader that he is, Claudio makes everyone happy by declaring Nerone as the successor, and giving up Poppea to Ottone.

Telling the story of the Emperor Nero’s rise to power, it is no surprise that Handel’s Agrippina is a story of ambition, betrayal, lust, power, conspiracy, deceit, and revenge; foreshadowing the events of Nero’s reign. This opera is rapidly becoming one of Handel’s best loved works, with its expertly crafted score rivalling his own Giulio Cesare. The 2019 Barrie Kosky production at The Royal Opera, Covent Garden, championed by and starring Joyce Didonato, is still winning audiences with its tagline: ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’.

Lead Characters

Agrippina guide sections