This activity requires no preparation other than attendance at the Live in HD transmission of Agrippina.
- To review students’ understanding of Handel’s Agrippina
- To encourage students to develop and express their opinions about Agrippina’s story, music, and staging
- To inspire students to think critically about the relationship between an opera’s history, plot, and production
COMMON CORE STANDARDS
Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.
Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Students will enjoy starting the class with an open discussion of the Met performance. What did they like? What didn’t they like? Did anything surprise them? What would they like to see or hear again? This discussion should be an opportunity for students to review their performance activity sheets and express their thoughts about the visual design of the Met production, the singers’ performances, and Agrippina’s music and story.
Agrippina: An Empress for Our Time
Agrippina offers a terrific opportunity to explore the relationships between opera, narrative, performance, and history. Begin by asking the class a (seemingly) simple question: When does Agrippina take place? Students will likely come up with two answers: the first century (when the historical Agrippina lived), and the 21st century (when Sir David McVicar’s production is set). In fact, both of these answers are not only valid but also essential to understanding this performance. The following questions will help clarify the distinction between these two answers and invite students to think more broadly about staging an opera:
- When did the real-life Agrippina live? (For more on Agrippina’s life, see the sidebar Agrippina and Nero: Rulers of Rome.)
- When was the opera written?
- When Handel and Grimani wrote this opera, when did they intend for the story to take place?
- In Sir David McVicar’s production at the Met, when does the story take place?
- Why did McVicar choose to set Agrippina in a different era than the one Handel and Grimani imagined? What statement(s) do you think he wanted to make about the modern world?
- Can you think of any politicians today who are putting their children in positions of power? Why might this be antithetical to the norms of a democratic society?
- What if somebody in the year 2420 watched this production? Would they understand the references? Why or why not?
Invite your students to imagine they have been hired to craft a new production of Agrippina. When would they set it? Why?