CCM Opera presents Handel’s Agrippina, a biting political satire

The dark comedy runs February 16-19 in the Cohen Family Studio Theater - tickets on sale now

Story by CCM Graduate Student Lucy Evans

CCM Opera continues its season with Agrippina, Handel’s early masterpiece. Fueled by political intrigue, historical characters and a dogged pursuit of power, the razor-sharp satire runs in the Cohen Family Studio Theater on Feb. 16-19, 2023. Tickets are on sale now through the CCM Box Office.

In the court of Roman Emperor Claudius, just about everyone is in pursuit of their own interests, no matter the cost. Claudius’s wife Agrippina is the opera’s titular anti-hero. Power-hungry and a master manipulator, she’ll stop at nothing to get what she wants: her son Nero, from a previous marriage, seated on the throne. When news spreads that Claudius has died in a shipwreck, Agrippina gleefully seizes her chance—but she is quickly thwarted by the revelation that her husband is alive. Even worse, he’s named his favorite general Otho as his successor. Never one to give up easily, Agrippina must deftly maneuver through a minefield of egos, desires, and ulterior motives to achieve her goal.

The events of the opera are fictionalized, but the characters are all historical figures. Agrippina the Younger was one of the most influential women in the Roman Empire and played a crucial role in crowning Nero emperor. In life as in art, rampant ambition often has dire consequences: Nero infamously had his mother killed after he rose to power. The opera, however, does not cover that dark page of history. Instead, Handel and the librettist, Vincenzo Grimani, play up both the absurdity and the tension of this archetypical power struggle to wryly satirize the political machinations of their (or any) era. Though it originally premiered in 1709, “the psychology and humor of this piece are incredibly modern and relatable to a contemporary audience,” says director Alison Pogorelc.

To draw the connection between the political maneuverings of the first century AD and the present, Pogorelc updates the action—reimagining the Roman Forum as a contemporary board room. Pogorelc and scenic designer Samantha Tamulonis were drawn to the creative opportunities presented by the intimate, 120-seat Cohen Family Studio Theater. “We wanted to take [that intimacy] even further in our design, so we created a semi-thrust style seating arrangement--placing the audience further into the action--which is unique to our production,” says Pogorelc. Though opera audiences may be accustomed to attending shows in a traditional proscenium theater, Pogorelc sees innovative staging as a mode of better understanding the centuries-old material. “This production will challenge any preconceived ideas about what early opera means,” she continues. “Opera often has a reputation for its formality and traditionalism. But I urge everyone to go into this production with an open mind about how we tell stories through this medium.”

Though deftly balancing dark humor, high stakes, passion and plot twists is no easy task, Pogorelc believes that the heart of the opera shines through its complexity. “At its core, this opera tells a story about human nature and the desire for fulfillment, seen through each character's quest for power, revenge, or love,” she says. “In some moments, their actions are less than moral, but we see these characters as we see ourselves: imperfect.”

Agrippina’s estimated run time is 2 hours and 15 minutes, including intermission. The opera will be sung in Italian with English supertitles. CCM's production runs Feb. 16-19, 2023 at Cohen Family Studio Theater; tickets are available through the Box Office.


Music by George Frideric Handel
Libretto by Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani

Brian McCann, conductor
Alison Pogorelc, director

  • Conductor | Brian McCann*
  • Director | Alison Pogorelc*
  • Scenic Designer | Samantha Tamulonis*
  • Lighting Designer | Krista Billings
  • Sound Designer | Brenden Freidel*
  • Production Stage Manager | Roza Ruthie Gavriilidis*
  • Props Manager | Melanie Reitman *
  • Musical Preparation and Vocal Coach | Andrew Crooks
  • Intimacy Choreographer| k. Jenny Jones
  • Intimacy Captain| Dinithi Fernando
  • Special thank you to Kelly Yurko and CCM Wig and Make-up for their contributions to the show.

*CCM Student

  • Agrippina | Lucy Evans, Tess Klibanoff,
  • Nero | Rachel Kobernick*, Isabel Lee^ 
  • Pallante |  John Potvin*, John Mburu^
  • Narciso | Jaeyoon Choi*, Sarah Scofield^
  • Ottone | Salleigh Harvey*, Chuanyuan Liu^
  • Poppea | Su Hyeon Park*, Kaylyn Baldwin^ 
  • Claudio | Atticus Rego
  • Supers | Dinithi Fernando, Katie Griffith

*Performs on Thursday/Saturday 
^ Performs on Friday/Sunday 

Note: Lucy Evans performs the role of Agrippina on Thursday/Friday/Sunday. Tess Klibanoff performs the role of Agrippina on Saturday.

Performance Times

  • 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16 
  • 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17 
  • 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18 - SOLD OUT
  • 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19 


Cohen Family Studio Theater, CCM Village 
University of Cincinnati

Purchasing Tickets

Single tickets are $23.50. Student discounts and group rates are also available. Tickets can be purchased in person at the CCM Box Office, over the telephone at 513-556-4183 or online now through our e-box office.

Learn about additional ticket options for current CCM students.

Directions and Parking

CCM is located on the campus of the University of Cincinnati. For detailed driving directions, visit

Parking is available in UC's CCM Garage (located at the base of Corry Boulevard off Jefferson Avenue) and additional garages throughout the UC campus. 

CCM OnStage patrons can add pre-paid parking to their checkout carts when purchasing tickets. Pre-paid parking is date/performance specific. CCM Garage parking rates for a performance or special event is usually available for $10-15.

Learn more about parking at UC's CCM Garage.

For additional information on parking at UC, please visit

Louise Dieterle Nippert Trust
Scholarship and Resident Artist Sponsor
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship Sponsor
The Corbett Endowment at CCM
Dance Department Sponsor
All-Steinway School Sponsor
Louise H. & David S. Ingalls Foundation, Inc.
Community Partners
The Joseph and Frances Jones Poetker Fund of the Cambridge Charitable Foundation, Ritter & Randolph, LLC, Corporate Counsel
Visiting Artists & Thinking About Music Sponsor
CCMpower: Friends and Alumni Fueling the Future of the Arts 
The Strader Fund at the Greater Cincinnati Foundation
CCM Digital Sponsors
Dr. & Mrs. Carl G. Fischer 
Greg Mathein 
Gary & Barb Cummins 
Jim & Linda Miller 
George & Carroll Roden
Musical Theatre Department Sponsors
Genevieve Smith
Opera Production Sponsor
Rafael and Kimberly de Acha
Opera D’Arte Sponsor
An Anonymous Donor
Estate of Mr. William A. Friedlander
Mrs. William A. Friedlander
Dr. Randolph L. Wadsworth
Judith Schonbach Landgren and Peter Landgren
Mr. & Mrs. Harry H. Santen
Elizabeth C.B. Sittenfeld
Mr. & Mrs. Thomas E. Stegman
Mrs. Theodore W. Striker
Mrs. Harry M. Hoffheimer
Ariel Quartet Sponsors
Jan Rogers
Willard and Jean Mulford Charitable Fund of the Cambridge Charitable Foundation
Choral Studies Sponsors
  Classical Guitar Sponsor

Mr. & Mrs. Joseph W. Hirschhorn
Orchestral Sponsor
Dorothy Richard Starling Foundation
Starling Pre-Collegiate Sponsor
Starling Strings Sponsor
Dr. Timothy E. and Janet L. Johnson
Thom Miles and Roberta Gary
Organ Department Sponsors
Keyboard Club of Cincinnati
Louis and Susan Meisel
Piano Department Sponsors
Kevin and Nancy Rhein
   Wind Studies Sponsor

Edward Donovan and Cheryl Carter
Jeff Thomas Catering
The Castleberry Family
Paula Boggs Muething & Brian Muething
Patti Myers & Alan Flaherty
Trish & Rick Bryan
Graeter’s Ice Cream 
eat well celebrations and feasts 
The Summit Hotel
Event Sponsors
Buddy Rogers Music
LINKS Sponsor
Sponsors listed as of August 30, 2022

Featured image at the top: Agrippina promotional artwork by CCM Graphic Designer Mikki Graff.

Headshot of Lucy Evans

Lucy Evans

CCM Graduate Assistant, Marketing + Communications

Lucy Evans is a master’s student studying Vocal Performance at CCM. She is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, and was recently an Apprentice Artist with the Santa Fe Opera.

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