Male soprano stars in "forgotten" Italian opera

Fri Sep 24, 2010 9:07am EDT
 
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - A rarely performed baroque opera starring the first male soprano to sing at Covent Garden made "Niobe, Regina di Trebe" a considerable gamble for the Royal Opera House.

Early reviews of Thursday night's opening performance suggest it may have paid off.

"Steffani's Niobe ... is revealed as nothing short of a masterpiece," Barry Millington wrote in the London Evening Standard in a five-star review.

"The person responsible for bringing this enthralling show to Covent Garden deserves a medal."

Niobe, by Italian composer Agostino Steffani, was first performed in 1688, but was largely forgotten before being rediscovered by conductor Thomas Hengelbrock and director Lukas Hemleb who staged it at the Schwetzingen Festival in 2008.

The same production is being performed at Covent garden with Veronique Gens in the title role of the Queen of Thebes who angers the gods and is punished with the death of all her children.

The music is provided by specialist orchestra The Balthasar Neumann Ensemble.

"UNIQUE" RANGE   Continued...