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The Monteverdi Trilogy

In a project of unprecedented artistic ambition, the Boston Early Music Festival performed groundbreaking operas by Monteverdi. Now WCRB brings you these performances, on-demand.

Every couple of years, the opera productions from the Boston Early Music Festival inevitably generate some of the most memorable moments on the concert calendar. For the 2015 festival, organizers multiplied the excitement by featuring not just one operatic centerpiece, but three: The Monteverdi Trilogy, including Orfeo, L’incoronazione di Poppea ("The Coronation of Poppea"), and Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria ("The Return of Ulysses to His Country").

Experiencing these three productions in performance was thrilling, almost like traveling back in time. Picturing the astonishment of those first audiences in Mantua and Venice, who had never seen nor heard such a combination of musical and dramatic genius, wasn't difficult. The emotional power of Monterverdi's vision resonated with an equal relevance for the BEMF audiences at the BU Theatre on Huntington Ave., the narratives and artistic expressions touching on aspects of humanity that have remained constant through the centuries.

Hear these stellar performances on-demand and a preview with BEMF Co-Artistic Directors Stephen Stubbs and Paul O'Dette and cast members:

Download program notes for the Monteverdi Trilogy

Watch a preview of The Monteverdi Trilogy at the 2015 festival:

Aaron Sheehan as Orfeo
Image courtesy of Boston Early Music Festival





Aaron Sheehan, Orfeo
Mireille Asselin, Euridice


Orfeo was the first great opera. Not just Monteverdi’s first opera – the first great opera by anyone! Imagine a time when the very idea of actors singing their parts was a novelty, a brand new theatrical experience! That’s the way the audience saw things in 1607. It tells the age-old story of Orpheus, the greatest musician who ever lived, who endures the tragic death of his beloved Euridice, and travels to the underworld to plead for her return. Tenor Aaron Sheehan is Orfeo, and soprano Mireille Asselin plays Euridice.

Download cast and libretto for Orfeo

Colin Balzer as Ulysses
Image courtesy of Boston Early Music Festival


The Return of Ulysses to His Country


Colin Balzer, Ulysses
Mary-Ellen Nesi, Penelope

The Return of Ulysses to His Country, first produced in 1640, tells the story of the Greek hero Ulysses and his return to Ithaca after the fall of Troy. His ever-faithful wife, Penelope, has been besieged by suitors, hoping to cash in when she finally concludes that he isn’t coming back. But, bad luck for them, he does return, and with a vengeance! Our BEMF performance features tenor Colin Balzer as Ulysses and Mary-Ellen Nesi as Penelope.

Download cast and libretto for Ulisse

Amanda Forsythe as Poppea
Image courtesy of Boston Early Music Festival

The Coronation of Poppea


Amanda Forsythe, Poppea
David Hansen, Nerone


Monteverdi’s final opera, The Coronation of Poppea, has a convoluted plot that’s worthy of one of today’s political thrillers (think House of Cards), set in ancient Rome. The Emperor, Nero, is in love with the beautiful Poppea, and longs to marry her and put her on the throne. If only he could get rid of his wife, and Poppea’s pesky boyfriend, all would be well! Countertenor David Hansen plays Nerone and soprano Amanda Forsythe is Poppea in this stunning production.

Download cast and libretto for Poppea

These concerts are no longer available.