Stephen Stubbs

Stephen Stubbs

Lute

• Born 1951

Biography

A leading figure in the performance of early music, Stephen Stubbs has helped re-establish the art of the plucked string continuo instruments of the Baroque. With existing early music ensembles and ensembles he's founded, he has performed and recorded major productions of Baroque operas.

Stubbs was born in 1951 in Seattle. He was raised with an innate love of music and music-making. Initially, his passions lay equally in early music and the 20th century avant-garde. He attended the University of Washington, studying harpsichord and composition. At this time, he began to specialize in the principal Baroque accompanying instruments, the harpsichord and lute. These specialties led him to further study in Europe and a 1976 debut at London's Wigmore Hall. By this point, Stubbs' career in early music -- both as an active scholar and a performing musician -- was in the ascendant. His research and performances on the lute, citarrone, and Baroque guitar helped re-establish these plucked continuo instruments within the soundscape of Baroque music; in 1980, they also landed Stubbs a post as professor of lute (and of performing practice) at the Hochschule der Künste, Bremen.

1987 was a watershed year in Stubbs' life and in the history of the early music revival. For that year's Bruges Early Music Festival, Stubbs directed a production of Stefano Landi's opera La Morte d'Orfeo. The success of this production launched Stubbs as one of the most called-upon directors of early opera performances and spun off the highly successful ensemble Tragicomedia. The group at its outset consisted of Stubbs and two others of the best early continuo players in the world: harpist Andrew Lawrence-King and lirone virtuoso Erin Headley. Tragicomedia formed the core of major productions of all three surviving operas of Monteverdi, Francesca Caccini's Ruggiero, Sartorio's L'Orfeo, Landi's La Morte d'Orfeo, and the opera Orfeo of Luigi Rossi. Their performances have included every major European and American early music festival and have used collaborations with such performers as Paul Hillier and Theatre of Voices, William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, and a new partnership with lutenist Paul O'Dette (who later joined the group). The ensemble received an Edison Award in 1994 for a Monteverdi madrigal program.

In 1996, Stubbs founded the late-Baroque orchestra Teatro Lirico. The first release for Teatro Lirico was Love and Death in Venice on Virgin Veritas. Stubbs began co-directing operas for the Boston Early Music Festival in 1997; the first, was a production of Rossi's Orfeo. He was later named artistic co-director for the festival in 2003, once again working alongside O'Dette. In 2006, Stubbs moved back to Seattle, and the following year created a new program called Pacific MusicWorks, which incorporates early music with contemporary performance. The group's first performance was a multimedia production of Monteverdi's The Return of Ulysses, staged by William Kentridge. The ensemble's first album, Total Eclipse: Music for Handel's Tenor, featuring tenor Aaron Sheehan, was released on Naxos in 2019.

Stubbs has recorded as a solo lutenist and conductor for the CPO, ATMA Classique, and Teldec labels, among others. His 2014 album Charpentier: La Descente d'Orphée aux Enfers; La Couronne de Fleurs won the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording, and his 2019 release Charpentier: Les Plaisirs de Versailles; Les Arts Florissants was nominated for the same.

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