After a successful thirty-year career in Europe, Stephen Stubbs returned to his native Seattle in 2006 as one of the world’s most respected lutenists, conductors, and baroque opera specialists. Before his return, he was based in Bremen, Germany, where he was Professor of Lute and Performance Practices at the Hochschule für Künste. Stephen also spent a lot of time on the road as a guest conductor and performer. Together with Erin Headley he started the ensemble Tragicomedia in 1987, which toured throughout Europe, Japan and the US, as well as recording numerous CD’s for various recording companies. Tragicomedia has also been the continuo team for the Boston Early Music Festival since 1997. Stephen is the Festival’s permanent artistic co-director along with his long time colleague Paul O’Dette. Stephen and Paul are also the musical directors of all BEMF operas under the brilliant leadership of BEMF’s stage director in residence Gilbert Blin. BEMF’s recordings of Conradi’s Ariadne, Lully’s Thesee, and Psyché were nominated for Grammy awards in 2005, 2007, and 2009 respectively.
In 2007 Stephen established his new production company, Pacific MusicWorks, based in Seattle. Pacific MusicWorks reflects his lifelong interest in both early music and contemporary performance. PMW’s first staging in spring 2009 reflected both interests, presenting Claudio Monteverdi’s 1641 opera The Return of Ulysses in a staging using life-sized puppets designed and brought to life by the Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa, and projections designed by the world-renowned graphic and performance artist and stage director William Kentridge. This inaugural production was universally lauded by critics and public alike.
Subsequent productions have included a successful collaboration with Seattle Chamber Players/On the Boards for a double bill of Heiner Goebbel’s Songs of Wars I have seen and Monteverdi’s Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, a collaboration with Seattle Dance Project and Anna Mansbridge performing staged 17th Century madrigals for three sopranos and three dancers, as well as performances of the Monteverdi Vespers with Concerto Palatino, described by the Seattle Times as “utterly thrilling” and “of a quality you are unlikely to encounter anywhere else in the world”.
The 2013-14 season included a special collaboration with the Seattle Symphony in the form of what was called “the Passions Project” in which the Symphony presented the St. Matthew Passion, and then (with the same group of vocal soloists) PMW presented our first performance of the St. John Passion with our own baroque orchestra.
In addition to his ongoing commitments to Pacific MusicWorks and the Boston Early Music Festival, other engagements have recently taken Stephen to Bilbao’s opera house in Spain to conduct Handels’ Giulio Cesare and Gluck’s Orfeo. In 2007 he returned to the Netherlands Opera, Amsterdam, where he directed Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo. 2011 saw his debut conducting the Seattle Symphony Orchestra performing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and he returned in 2012 to conduct Handel’s Messiah. In 2011-2012 he conducted Monteverdi’s Poppea with Opera UCLA as well as Charpentier’s La Descente d’Orphee in Boston with co-director Paul O’Dette for BEMF. Other recent appearances included Handel’s L’Allegro and Mozart’s Magic Flute for the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo for BEMF, Handel’s Il Trionfo del Tempo, and an evening of Bach Cantata’s for Pacific MusicWorks. He made his conducting debut with the Edmonton Symphony performing Handel’s Messiah in 2012, and conducted Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in Denver with the Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado. In 2014 he made his debut with Opera Omaha conducting Handel’s Agrippina in a production by his frequent collaborator James Darrah.
Stephen has an extensive discography as conductor and as a solo lutenist of well over 100 CDs, many of which have received
international acclaim and awards.
In the summer of 2013 Stephen led performances of Handel’s first opera Almira at the Boston Early Music Festival, then headed to Bremen with the BEMF team to record CDs of BEMF’s productions of Handel’sAcis and Galathea, and Charpentier’s La Descente d’Orphee. He then returned to Hawaii to conduct Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte for the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival. In November he returned to Bremen with the BEMF team to record their production of Steffani’s Niobe, followed by a live performance of the opera for ARTE television which was streamed for six months and became the most watched production on their site.
Also in 2013, Stephen Stubbs was appointed Senior Artist in Residence and faculty member of the School of Music at the University of Washington. The first collaboration between the University and Pacific MusicWorks was Handel’s Semele in May 2014. For that production Stephen was joined by his colleague, stage director James Darrah. The same team will present Mozart’s Magic Flute in May 2015.
A full discography and detailed performance calendar can be seen at stephenstubbs.com. Stephen Stubbs is represented by Schwalbe and Partners (schwalbeandpartners.com).