Opera Director & Designer

Octavia

Reinhard Keiser (1674 –1739)

Gilbert Blin will direct Keiser’s Octavia, which serves as the Centerpiece Opera at the 2025 Boston Early Music FestivalOctavia stands as a captivating testament to the mastery of Baroque opera composer Reinhard Keiser. Born in 1674 in Teuchern, Germany, Keiser left an indelible mark on the opera world with his innovative compositions and dramatic storytelling. Octavia, one of his lesser-known works, premiered in Hamburg in 1705, weaving together a tale of political intrigue, betrayal, and the complexities of power.

Reinhard Keiser, Octavia
View of the ruines of the Castellum Aqua Martiae, by Jan Goeree. Collection Gilbert Blin.

Octavia and Nero

Set in ancient Rome, Octavia revolves around the tumultuous reign of Emperor Nero and his ill-fated wife Octavia. The opera sets the historical events of 65AD, the Pisonian conspiracy, and of 66 AD, when Nero crowned the Armenian King Tiridates in Rome. The plot revolves around the infatuation of Nero for Ormonea, queen of Armenia and his various attempts to get rid of his wife Ottavia.

Boston Early Music Festival

Cutler Majestic Theatre, Boston

June 2025 (dates t.b.a.)

Artists

Paul O’ Dette & Stephen Stubbs, Musical Directors

Gilbert Blin, Stage Director

Robbert Mealy, Concert Master

Melinda Sullivan, Dance Director

Anna Kjellsdotter, Costume Designer

Alexander McCargar, Set Designer

Kelly Martin, Light Designer

Score and characters

Keiser’s score for Octavia is a masterpiece of Baroque music, characterized by its intricate ornamentation, emotive melodies, and dynamic orchestrations. From the haunting lamentations of Octavia to the fiery outbursts of Nero, Keiser’s music brings each character to life with unparalleled depth and nuance. Central to the opera’s success is its richly drawn characters, each grappling with their own desires and moral dilemmas. Octavia emerges as a figure of resilience and dignity, despite the cruelty inflicted upon her by Nero. Nero, portrayed as a tyrant consumed by his own ambition, is both compelling and repulsive in equal measure. The Roman elite is pictured satirically.

At its core, Octavia is a cautionary tale about the corrupting influence of power and the consequences of unchecked ambition. Through its vivid portrayal of love, betrayal, and redemption, the opera invites audiences to reflect on timeless themes that resonate across centuries.

While Octavia may not enjoy the same level of recognition as some of Keiser’s more famous works, its significance within the operatic canon cannot be overstated. As one of the earliest German-language operas to achieve widespread acclaim, Octavia paved the way for future generations of composers to explore new artistic possibilities within the genre.

Timeless tale

Today, Octavia will continue to captivate audiences with its timeless tale of love of power, and power of love, reminding us of the enduring ability of music to transcend the boundaries of time and space. In a world fraught with political turmoil and moral ambiguity, Keiser’s masterpiece serves as a poignant reminder of the eternal truths that bind us together as human beings. 

 

Boston Early Music Festival about Octavia ⇒