Paul O'Dette / Stephen Stubbs

Agostino Steffani: Niobe, Regina di Tebe

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This recording of Agostino Steffani's opera Niobe, Regina di Tebe (Niobe, Queen of Thebes) comes mostly from a live performance at the 2011 Boston Early Music Festival; some music cut from the live production was added back in later. The performance was lavish, and the production, unlike most renderings of Baroque opera, made an effort to duplicate the scale and luxury that Steffani's audiences would have experienced in Munich in 1688. The opera isn't a great piece of drama; the libretto, loosely based on an episode from Ovid's Metmorphoses, is filled with ill-differentiated extraneous characters, poorly integrated comic episodes, and a hodgepodge of musical styles. But it has a gleeful exuberance that makes it easy to see why it succeeded. There are glittering pieces for the countertenor role of Anfione, the king of Thebes, and the mastery of these by Philippe Jaroussky, at the top of his powers, is worth the considerable price of admission by itself. He's beautifully matched by the big, multi-hued voice of soprano Karina Gauvin as Niobe, and by the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra under co-directors Paul O'Dette (who also plays the archlute) and Stephen Stubbs; the orchestra gets that it is part of a dramatic presentation and not playing orchestral suites. For O'Dette, one of the pioneers of early music in the U.S., this production and recording must represent a triumph brought about by years of work. For those who've heard Cecilia Bartoli's collection of Steffani arias and want to try out a whole opera, it will not disappoint.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Niobe, Regina di Tebe
1 2:29
2 2:18
3 3:18
4 1:33
5 2:48
6 1:25
7 2:18
8 0:43
9 1:15
10 0:39
11 2:48
12 0:39
13 1:03
14 0:44
15 0:23
16 0:38
17 1:50
18 1:38
19 1:15
20 1:30
21 1:41
22 0:50
23 1:48
24 1:43
25 1:32
26 2:00
27 0:31
28 2:27
29 3:09
30 4:51
31 0:34
32 2:15
33 1:18
34 1:03
35 2:46
36 0:36
37 2:04
38 0:35
39 1:23
40 0:59
41 2:17
42 1:45
43 3:01
44 0:16
45 0:41
46 1:14
47 1:49
48 2:16

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Niobe, Regina di Tebe
1 2:16
2 1:50
3 1:19
4 2:34
5 0:43
6 2:13
7 1:48
8 2:10
9 1:45
10 1:51
11 1:48
12 1:11
13 2:09
14 3:06
15 1:23
16 0:19
17 1:53
18 1:39
19 1:46
20 4:38
21 1:43
22 1:14
23 2:36
24 1:15
25 0:43
26 1:52
27 2:07
28 2:37
29 0:26
30 3:23
31 2:23
32 1:51
33 1:52
34 0:57
35 1:11
36 0:36
37 3:26

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Niobe, Regina di Tebe
1 0:52
2 2:04
3 2:41
4 1:36
5 1:43
6 0:57
7 2:11
8 0:25
9 2:36
10 5:43
11 0:48
12 0:50
13 4:20
14 0:33
15 0:55
16 2:59
17 4:03
18 0:48
19 0:56
20 3:14
21 0:58
22 1:29
23 1:22
24 2:05
25 2:05
26 0:08
27 0:38
28 0:29
29 1:32
30 0:25
31 1:34
32 1:13
33 1:29
34 2:14
35 4:00
36 2:53
37 2:17
38 0:56
39 2:07
40 0:50
41 1:42
42 2:40
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