The Boston Early Music Festival (BEMF) is universally recognized as a leader in the field of early music. Since its founding in 1980 by leading practitioners of early music performance in the United States and abroad, BEMF has promoted early music through biennial Festivals featuring newly revived baroque operatic masterpieces, concerts by the world's leading soloists and ensembles, scholarly symposia, performance masterclasses, and fringe concerts by emerging artists. Through its programs, BEMF has earned its place as the nation's premier presenting organization for conservators and performers of music of the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods and has secured Boston's reputation as "America's early music capital" (Richard Dyer, Boston Globe.)
The biennial Festival & Exhibition continue to be the heart of the Boston Early Music Festival. BEMF has broken new ground by bringing together the field's preeminent performers and scholars to continue its mission of presenting performances of the highest quality while exploring historically informed approaches to singing, orchestral playing, costume and set design, dancing, and staging. The thirteenth Festival--June 13-19, 2005-- featured the theme "East Meets West: Germany, Russia and the Baltic States - Music in the Maritime World of Northern Europe", highlighted by the world premiere of Johann Mattheson's Boris Goudenow (1710). Following the artistic leadership of Paul O'Dette and Stephen Stubbs, BEMF continues with a unique project to identify and produce the most important examples of undiscovered Baroque operas, which began in 1997 with Rossi's Orfeo (1647) and continued with a series of triumphs marking a deliberate march through time, including Cavalli's Ercole Amante (1662), Lully's Thésée (1675), and Conradi's Ariadne (1691). As BEMF searched for a significant opera to represent the first decade of the 18th century, the extraordinary rediscovery of Mattheson's Boris Goudenow in 1998 came to light. In addition to bringing together the Russian and pan-European history of Baroque opera, Boris contains all of the widely appealing features that BEMF audiences especially cherish: a rich and beautiful score, memorable arias, small ensemble and large choral pieces, and plenty of dance, all supported by our trademark, world-class and sumptuous continuo orchestra.
In addition to the Festival & Exhibition, BEMF produces an annual concert series as a means of meeting the increasing demand for year-round performances by an international array of early music luminaries as well as the next generation of superstars. Recent highlights have included the North American début of Bach Collegium Japan and the Netherlands Bach Society, a medieval feast with the Orlando Consort, and a special performance of Charpentier's Messe de Minuit with Les Arts Florissants.