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CONTACT: Kathleen Fay, Executive Director
617-661-1812 |



Cambridge, MA – June 4, 2010 – The Boston Early Music Festival has announced plans for its 2011 Festival operatic centerpiece Niobe, Queen of Thebes by the Italian composer Agostino Steffani (1653–1728). In keeping with BEMF’s internationally-acclaimed tradition of presenting little-known Baroque opera masterpieces, Steffani’s Niobe is “a stunning achievement, blending poignant drama with powerfully beautiful music to tell a story of human strength and weakness” says BEMF Executive Director Kathleen Fay. “BEMF’s international team of artistic directors—each well-respected and innovative leaders in their fields—will recreate the splendor of Steffani’s lavish opera, from ornate and colorful sets and costumes to sophisticated and dynamic period dance and staging.” BEMF will offer five fully-staged performances of Steffani’s Niobe from June 12 to 19, 2011 at the Cutler Majestic Theatre at Emerson College (219 Tremont Street, Boston, MA, USA), followed by two performances at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center (14 Castle Street, Great Barrington, MA, USA) on June 24 and 25, 2011. Tickets will be available through the Boston Early Music Festival starting June 1, 2010 at WWW.BEMF.ORG or 617-868-BEMF.

Niobe will be led by three-time Grammy-nominated BEMF Artistic Co-Directors Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs (USA); along with Stage Director and Set Designer Gilbert Blin (France); Costume Designer Anna Watkins (United Kingdom); Choreographers Caroline Copeland and Carlos Fittante (USA); and Lighting Designer Lenore Doxsee (USA). Past collaborations by members of this artistic team have earned unprecedented critical acclaim, with the 2007 BEMF opera Psyché by Lully, praised as “an exquisite and vibrant realization” (The Wall Street Journal) and “a resounding success” (Opera News), and the 2009 sold-out run of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea declared “a magnificent, illuminating production” (The New York Times) and “theatrically vibrant and musically superb” (The Boston Globe).

Starring in the title role of Niobe will be Boston-based soprano Amanda Forsythe (USA), who has performed in numerous BEMF opera productions, including Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Psyché in 2007 and Claudio Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea in 2009. Having garnered critical acclaim for her “lovely range of vocal colors, gorgeous top notes and terrific agility” (The Wall Street Journal), Ms. Forsythe is a rising star in the international opera and early music fields. Joining her in the role of Anfione, Niobe’s husband, will be countertenor Philippe Jaroussky (France) making his North American stage début. Noted for his virtuosic coloratura and compelling dramatic interpretations of Baroque cantatas and opera, Mr. Jaroussky has already established himself as one of the major singers in the early music world at the young age of thirty-two, having been awarded four “Victoire de la Musique” Awards and the 2008 Echo Award for Best Singer of the Year.

Alongside Ms. Forsythe and Mr. Jaroussky in an internationally-acclaimed cast are Yulia Van Doren (USA) as Manto, Charles Robert Stephens (USA) as Tiresia, Kevin D. Skelton (Canada) as Clearte, Matthew White (Canada) as Creonte, Jesse Blumberg (USA) as Poliferno, Colin Balzer (Canada) as Tiberino, and José Lemos (Brazil) as Nerea. Joining them will be the internationally-acclaimed 34-piece Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra. This production will mark the festival début of the new BEMF Baroque Dance Ensemble. Trained by BEMF Ballet Mistress Melinda Sullivan, this troupe of top Baroque dancers will provide a resource of accomplished artists to participate in BEMF productions for years to come. Following appearances in the 2005 and 2007 Festival Operas, members of the nationally-renowned PALS Children’s Chorus will also perform. In addition to their appearances with BEMF, the young voices of PALS have performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops, Cantata Singers, and Boston Philharmonic among others.

Composed in 1688 while Steffani was employed by Maximilian Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria in Munich, Niobe, Queen of Thebes is composed to a libretto by Luigi Orlandi, inspired by the mythological tale in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. One of the more tragic figures of Greek mythology, Niobe ruled the city of Thebes with her husband Anfione. Niobe considered herself the gods’ equal, and in a moment of arrogance, mocked the god Leto for having a mere two children to her own brood of seven sons and seven daughters. Leto avenged this act of hubris by slaying all fourteen of Niobe’s children. Overwhelmed with grief, Anfione took his own life upon learning of the deaths. With her entire family gone, Niobe turned to stone, from which her tears now endlessly flow.

Steffani’s Niobe will be presented in Boston on June 12 and 19 at 3:30pm and on June 14, 15, and 17 at 7pm. Tickets are priced at $250, $145, $110, $80, $60, and $30 each, and will go on sale June 1, 2010 through BEMF at 617-868-BEMF or online at WWW.BEMF.ORG. Tickets to the Mahaiwe performances on June 24 and 25 at 7pm are priced at $95, $65, and $30 and will also go on sale June 1, 2010 through BEMF.

Described as “heaven…for early music fans” and “a concentrated celebration of everything from period-instrument recitals to Baroque opera” by The New York Times, the Boston Early Music Festival will also feature 17 concert performances by the world’s leading soloists, chamber ensembles, and the Grammy-nominated BEMF Orchestra. Inspired by the operatic centerpiece, the theme for the 16th biennial Festival will be Metamorphoses: Change and Transformation. The Festival’s Artistic Directors and distinguished artists will explore evolution and revolution in music that spans over 1,000 years. Alongside this full schedule of concerts and opera performances will be nearly 100 Fringe Concerts presented by artists ranging from college collegiums to consummate professional ensembles; numerous informative symposia and masterclasses; and the world-famous Exhibition, North America’s largest early music trade show comprised of instrument makers, schools of music, music publishers, societies of historical performance, and the BEMF CD Store.

The 2011 Boston Early Music Festival is presented with support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, ConstellationCenter, WGBH Radio Boston, Harpsichord Clearing House, Zuckermann Harpsichords International, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Gregory E. Bulger Foundation, and U. S. Trust/Bank of America Private Wealth Management. Dates, times, venues, artists, and programs are subject to change.

For more information, images, press tickets, or to schedule an interview, please contact Kathleen Fay at 617-661-1812 or email