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Ann Hallenberg’s latest recital disc introduces three Agrippinas from the same imperial Roman family. Most (in)famous of the trio is Julia Agrippina, Nero’s murderous mother, already familiar to us as the titular anti-heroine of Handel’s 1709 operatic masterpiece. Hallenberg has unearthed five other baroque operas (by Graun, Magni, Mattheson, Orlandini and Perti) in which she appears, three more (by Legrenzi, Porpora and Telemann) that feature her mother, Julia Vipsania Agrippina, plus one (by Sammartini) about her aunt, Vipsania Agrippina.

All three women met tragic ends, although the latter pair were sympathetic characters, allowing Hallenberg to select arias that run a gamut of emotions, from the profound pathos of Julia Vipsania’s lovely ‘Rimembranza crudel’ (from Telemann’s Germanicus) to her daughter’s bravura ‘rage aria, ‘Mi paventi il figlio indegno’ (from Graun’s Britannico), which Hallenberg sings with thrilling virtuosity, accompanied by a pair of fiercely braying horns.

Other highlights include three Handel arias, two from Porpora’s debut opera, the 1708 L’Agrippina, and a second Graun aria, the enchanting and sinuous lament ‘Se la mia vita, o figlio’. Hallenberg’s research has uncovered a treasure-trove of little-known baroque operas—12 of the 16 arias on her disc are world-premiere recordings—but it’s the dashing vivacity and assurance of her singing, superbly supported by Il Pomo d’Oro, that make this a release to cherish.

Graham Lock Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2015 - ©Rhinegold Publishing