Does Handel's Agrippina contain the theme from Rocky?
March 13, 2014 4:23 PM   Subscribe

I was listening to Handel's opera Agrippina I distinctly heard the first few bars of the theme from Rocky. Google does not seem to agree.

Listen to this performance at 30:20.

Compare with "Gonna Fly Now" from Rocky.

Is this a modernization added to the specific performance of Agrippina I'm listening to? Or is it just not notable enough to be easily searchable on Google or Wikipedia? I tried listening to another performance and couldn't find the same part.
posted by big friendly giant to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
To save people cueing time:
posted by zamboni at 4:32 PM on March 13, 2014

Best answer: So for context - this is just before the beginning of Act I Scene X (after the quartet, before the beginning of Scene X).

Well, this was certainly not in what passes for the urtext (I'm using the Leipzeig 1874 version, which you may also study yourself if you'd like - the part you're interested in is at the bottom of page 26). Handel wrote Agrippina only written for strings, winds and continuo.

The real question would be who added the brass, and when? Sir Hamilton Harty arranged many of Handel's famous work in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century (he is the one responsible for the overblown, fanciful and LOUD Messiah that most of us grew up with - whether that makes him a hero or villain in your book depends on your musical preferences...if you'd like to hear the real original Messiah as it sounded like in Handel's day check out John Eliot Gardiner's version - I like both, I have them both on my playlist. Professional musician Mr. Arnicae [source of all the musical arcana] says he only listens to the Beecham version because it is so absurd and fuzzy). I'm not sure whether Harty arranged Agrippina.

It is actually quite rare to hear Handel's original orchestrations - most of what we hear today are his elaborated orchestrations, modernized over the centuries. In fact, adding this sort of thing was quite common even in Handel's time (and Handel himself borrowed heavily from existing literature when he wrote Agrippina).
posted by arnicae at 4:46 PM on March 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It's a quote added for humor, I think. If I've got the scene right, Agrippina and Nero are about to take the throne - the new champeen!* Then Lesbus comes in and ruins everything with the news about Claudius.

* Yes, that's not really what Rocky's about, but whatever.
posted by zamboni at 4:48 PM on March 13, 2014

Best answer: Here's a different version that has the fanfare, and it doesn't sound like "Gonna Fly Now".

(The scene is the transition between "Il tuo figlio/La tua prole"and "Allegrezza! Allegrezza!")
posted by zamboni at 5:02 PM on March 13, 2014

Response by poster: Wow, those answers are great! Thanks. It makes sense that they would have added it in there as a musical reference. To my untrained ears it seemed plausibly like it belonged.

arnicae, thanks for the extra links and education too!
posted by big friendly giant at 5:10 PM on March 13, 2014

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