Agostino Steffani (1654 −1728)

Dramma per musica in tre atti

There were few composers who did as much as Agostino Steffani to champion the world of Italian opera in Germany. Niobe, Regina di Tebe, first performed in 1688, was his last opera for the Munich Court and arguably his most important. Even its libretto captures the tremendous weight of the tragedy associated with Queen Niobe of Thebes, whose hubris is punished by the gods when they kill all her children. In her anguish she turns to stone. Her husband, Amphion, kills himself in his grief, and the city, liberated from his tyrant, finally regains its freedom. Steffani’s opera was the sensation of the 2008 Schwetzingen Festival. Thomas Hengelbrock had only just rescued it from oblivion by producing what was the first authoritative performing edition for centuries. Together with the director Lukas Hemleb and his Balthasar Neumann Ensemble, he superintended an acclaimed production of this virtually forgotten pearl of the operatic repertory.


“Far more radical and interesting than the production was the music — at least in the form in which it was presented by Thomas Hengelbrock and his Balthasar Neumann Ensemble, in other words, full of the sort of effects that are associated with the world of Baroque music.” DIE WELT

„Hengelbrock lotet das gesamte Spektrum an Affekten aus und lässt in einer ‚Maßlosigkeit‘ musizieren, die dem Sujet angemessen ist. Seine Sänger tragen diesen Stil der steten emotionalen Verausgabung nach Kräften mit.“ BADISCHE ZEITUNG

“Midnight had struck by the time that a visibly delighted and animated audience acclaimed not only the artists and production team with their long and enthusiastic applause but also — post humously — Agostino Steffani, the undeservedly forgotten composer of this Baroque opera.” GIESSENER ALLGEMEINE

“Thomas Hengelbrock on the podium and the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble in the pit brought the most beautiful tone colours to music which, subtly depicting the characters, is often extremely painterly and illustrates a libretto filled with improbabilities.” STUTTGARTER NACHRICHTEN

“Accompanied by dark-toned strings and punctuated by rests, Amphion’s arias, in which he expresses his grief, have an otherworldly beauty to them. […] When he finds his dead children, chromatic lines reminiscent of a chaconne lead the orchestra down into the abyss. And when he takes his own life, his dying voice dissolves all formal rules. […] Hengelbrock’s Balthasar Neumann Ensemble breathes with the singers, while providing an enormous variety in terms of dynamics and colours.” FAZ


Maria Bengtsson Niobe
Jacek Laszczkowski Anfione
Ana Maria Labin Manto
Peter Kennel Creonte
Lothar Odinius Tiberino
Pascal Bertin Clearte
Delphine Galou Nerea
Tobias Scharfenberger Tiresia
Matjaž Robavs Poliferno
Lukas Hemleb Stage Direction

Balthasar Neumann Ensemble
Thomas Hengelbrock Musical Direction


London, Luxemburg, Schwetzingen