The Fisher Center at Bard Unveils SummerScape 2024 Programming Featuring Theater, Opera, Dance & More

This season, The Fisher Center will present work from Urban Bush Women and Elevator Repair Service, plus much more.

By: Feb. 13, 2024
The Fisher Center at Bard Unveils SummerScape 2024 Programming Featuring Theater, Opera, Dance & More
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The Fisher Center at Bard has revealed its SummerScape 2024 programming, running June 20 – August 18, 2024. The festival brings eight weeks of live music, opera, dance, and theater to the Hudson River Valley. It also serves as an incubator for adventurous works that often go on to have extended lives and make significant impacts on the performance landscape in New York and around the country and world. This season, The Fisher Center presents work from two iconic New York companies—Urban Bush Women and Elevator Repair Service—that continue to push their distinct styles to new heights in milestone performances. 
 
Every production at SummerScape has been commissioned, developed, and is premiering at the Fisher Center, giving audiences an opportunity to catch pivotal works in the idyllic setting where they originate. Praised by The New York Times as “a hothouse for the creation of uncompromising, cross-disciplinary and sometimes hard to describe hits,” in recent years, the Fisher Center has developed large-scale works whose momentous journeys were launched from their SummerScape birthplace, including Justin Peck’s arresting music theater interpretation of Sufjan Stevens’ Illinoise, currently at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater before its run at the Park Avenue Armory; Pam Tanowitz and David Lang’s Biblical poem-inspired Song of Songs, which recently was presented at New York City Center, and Tanowitz’s take on T. S. Eliot’s masterpiece Four Quartets, which traveled to the Barbican Centre, CAP UCLA, and BAM; and Daniel Fish’s universally acclaimed reconsideration of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, whose life continued at St. Ann’s Warehouse and on Broadway and the West End, as well as a U.S. national tour. 
 
Both Urban Bush Women’s (UBW) and Elevator Repair Service’s (ERS) new works for SummerScape 2024 are, themselves, theatricalizations of staggering journeys. Dance, music, and text drive the performance of SCAT!, UBW’s 40th anniversary production and celebrated founder Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s farewell work with the company (June 28–30), the visionary choreographer reunites with frequent collaborator, composer Craig Harris. This work conceived, choreographed, and directed by Zollar explores in movement, music, and words, the interlaced histories of the Great Migration and jazz. Here, Zollar tells a story of our country through a “biomythography” (in the vein of Audre Lorde) of her parents.
 
Zollar says of wanting to develop and premiere this landmark work—which also features Bard alumna Roobi Gaskins ’19—at SummerScape, “We’re iterative, we’re process-based. I am working with Craig Harris and others who need to work with people who really get that, and are excited about and comfortable with the unknowns of process-based work, and in investing in the artist and where their journey is going to go. That’s what I felt with The Fisher Center, and it’s more unique in this country than it should be.” 
 
Gideon Lester, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the Fisher Center at Bard, says, “SummerScape has a history of presenting superb contemporary artists at the height of their game in collaborations with virtuosic ensembles. With SCAT!, Jawole continues to expand her exuberant art in a profoundly moving farewell to working with her company. Combining social dance with music and storytelling, SCAT! is a reflection of a crucial chapter in American history and a search for justice told with a sense of joy, energy, and celebration. It is equally a reflection of a crucial chapter in New York performance history: that of Jawole’s 40 years of creation with the company built from her vision.”
 
Elevator Repair Service has mastered the art of staging modernist literature with their highly-acclaimed productions Gatz, The Sound and the Fury, and The Select (The Sun Also Rises). In their latest work, they take on one of the most daunting masterpieces of the Western Canon: Ulysses, James Joyce’s epic approach to the quotidian, Dublin-traversing journey of Leopold Bloom. Directed by John Collins, with co-direction and dramaturgy by Scott Shepherd, Elevator Repair Service’s Ulysses (June 20 – July 14) was presented in two preview performances in Fall 2023 but was halted when COVID interrupted the production. Now, as a centerpiece of SummerScape, Ulysses receives a much longer run than originally programmed for 2023.
 
Lester says, “We got so excited by what ERS had developed and by the way audiences responded in those two preview performances that we really wanted to give it a bigger platform. This ensemble work is a loving response to Joyce and his sense of invention, fun, and bawdiness. It is wild, imaginative, highly theatrical, and feels like taking a bath in Joyce’s language. The disappointment of that initial postponement has actually led to a major opportunity: to continue to offer ERS time and resources to develop the work, and to put much more of a spotlight on it in the Festival this summer.”
 
In another production capturing the contemporary resonances of large-scale artistic visions from the past, director Christian Räth (Die schweigsame Frau, 2022 and Das Wunder der Heliane, 2019) returns for a third SummerScape for another bold staging of a grand opera: Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Le prophète, with a libretto by Eugène Scribe and Émile Deschamps. Räth’s production of this 1849 opera about a false prophet highlights this work’s timeless commentary on how religion and any ideology can be used to manipulate people and societies. Supported by the American Symphony Orchestra and Bard Festival Chorale under Leon Botstein’s leadership, Le prophète runs July 26 – August 4. 
 
SummerScape this year reconsiders another 19th-century classical legacy in the 34th Annual Bard Music Festival: that of French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz. Drawing music and sound into dialogue with a wide range of cultural, political, scientific, and sociological currents, the impact of Berlioz’s musical thinking and innovations is felt to this day. Across two weekends—Revolutionary Spectacle and Romantic Passion (August 9–11) and Music and the Literary Imagination (August 15–18)—Berlioz and His World interlaces performances, lectures, and panels to explore the many strands of Berlioz’s contributions as well as his crucial role in the musical life of nineteenth-century Europe and of today. 
 
Over 11 concert programs, the festival will present seminal works by Berlioz, among them the Symphonie fantastique and The Damnation of Faust, as well as highlight rarely heard gems such as the Te Deum and a wide selection of songs. The soundscapes of cosmopolitan Paris and the places he encountered on his travels will be explored through works by composers such as Carl Maria von Weber, Anton Reicha, Luigi Cherubini, Franz Liszt, Gioachino Rossini, Niccolò Paganini, Georges Bizet, Pauline Viardot, Louise Farrenc, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Joachim Raff, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and others. Berlioz’s wide-ranging writings inspire not only programs exploring the transformation of the world of sound he initiated, but also events that look at the role of literature and criticism in the formation of the Romantic musical canon.
 
Throughout the entirety of SummerScape, the Spiegeltent—the majestic handmade mirrored pavilion and platform for cutting-edge performance—will brim with music, dance, and more. The tent, which has enchanted guests since its introduction to the festival in 2006, returns for its 17th year. Spiegeltent programming, curated by Caleb Hammons, will be announced at a later date.  
 
Bard Summerscape 2024 Highlights Descriptions and Schedule
 
[THEATER]

Ulysses

Elevator Repair Service
SummerScape Commission/World Premiere
 
Created by Elevator Repair Service
Directed by John Collins
Co-Direction and Dramaturgy by Scott Shepherd
Text: Ulysses by James Joyce
June 20 – July 14

 
James Joyce’s Ulysses has fascinated, perplexed, scandalized, and/or defeated readers for over a century. Building on a rich history of staging modernist works—Gatz, The Sound and the Fury, The Select (The Sun Also Rises)—Elevator Repair Service (ERS) takes on this Mount Everest of twentieth-century literature in their Fisher Center debut. Seven performers sit down for a sober reading but soon find themselves guzzling pints, getting in brawls, and committing debaucheries as they careen on a fast-forward tour through Joyce’s funhouse of styles. With madcap antics and a densely layered sound design, ERS presents an eclectic sampling from Joyce’s life-affirming masterpiece.
 
An opening night pre-show event will take place on Saturday, June 22; on Wednesday, June 26, there will be a talk immediately following the performance; on Sunday, July 14, at 1 pm, there will be a pre-performance talk. Round-trip transportation from New York City will be available for the July 14 performance. 
 
 
[DANCE]

Urban Bush Women

SCAT!

A New Jazz Club Spectacular
SummerScape Commission/World Premiere
 
Conception, Direction, and Choreography by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar
Original Music Composed and Performed by Craig Harris
June 28–30
 
Building upon a repertoire of bold, life-affirming dance works, Urban Bush Women celebrates their 40th anniversary with a new dance-driven jazz club spectacular that  tells the story of two people making their way through a journey from the Great Migration to Kansas City to the present. Urban Bush Women founder Jawole Willa Jo Zollar grew up performing in floor shows in Black neighborhoods in a segregated Kansas City in the mid-20th century—an era when Black businesses were booming, and there was great hope of upward mobility post-WWII. Performed with a live band to an original jazz score by Craig Harris, this world premiere tells the powerful journey of the Zollar family and what happens when dreams encounter the harsh realities of American life in the 1940s & 50s.
 
There will be a post-performance party celebrating Urban Bush Women’s 40th Anniversary on Friday, June 28, and a pre-performance talk on Sunday, June 30, at 2 pm; round-trip transportation from NYC will be available on Sunday, June 30.
 
[OPERA]

Le prophète

by Giacomo Meyerbeer
New Production
Sung in French with English supertitles
 
Libretto by Eugène Scribe and Émile Deschamps
Directed by Christian Räth
American Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leon Botstein
July 26 – August 4
 
Featuring
Robert Watson, tenor as Jean de Leyde
Jennifer Feinstein, mezzo-soprano as Fidès
Amina Edris, soprano as Berthe
 
Religion, power, ego, and manipulation collide in composer Giacomo Meyerbeer’s glorious psychodrama. Shepherded by a trio of sinister Anabaptists, the simple innkeeper Jean de Leyde is persuaded into proclaiming himself king of Münster. Armed with charismatic leadership, Jean mobilizes the masses into a tumultuous religious uprising, denouncing his mother, Fidès, and antagonizing his beloved Berthe along the way. Director Christian Räth (Die schweigsame Frau, 2022 and Das Wunder der Heliane, 2019) returns for a third SummerScape to lead a visionary new production of a grand opera with colorful vocal passages, inventive orchestrations, and a catastrophic end.
 
A premiere party will take place Friday, July 26, at 5 pm in the Spiegeltent; the July 26 performance will feature an opening night intermission toast. On Sunday, July 28, at 12 pm, there will be a pre-performance talk with Maestro Leon Botstein; round-trip transportation from New York City will be available on Sunday, July 28, and Sunday, August 4.  
 
[BARD MUSIC FESTIVAL]

The 34th Bard Music Festival

Hector Berlioz and His World
 
Weekend One: Revolutionary Spectacle and Romantic Passion
August 9–11
 
Weekend Two: Music and the Literary Imagination
August 15–18
 
A singular composer, writer, and conductor, Hector Berlioz (1803–1869) is the definitive Romantic composer. Drawing music and sound into dialogue with a wide range of cultural, political, scientific, and literary currents, the impact of his musical thinking and innovations is felt to this day. The 2024 Bard Music Festival will explore the many strands of Berlioz’s contributions and his crucial role in the musical life of nineteenth-century Europe and of today.
 

Weekend One: Revolutionary Spectacle and Romantic Passion
 

Program One: Staging the Musical Imagination
Friday, August 9
Sosnoff Theater 
7 pm Performance 
 
Hector Berlioz (1803–69)
Symphonie fantastique: Episode de la vie d’un artiste, Op. 14 (1830)
Lélio, ou Le retour à la vie, monodrame lyrique, Op. 14b (1831–32)
 
Panel One: A Revolutionary Life in a Revolutionary Era 
Saturday, August 10
Olin Hall
10 am –12 noon
 
Program Two: Anxieties of Influence: Models, Teachers, and Classmates
Saturday, August 10
Olin Hall
1 pm Pre-Concert Talk
1:30 pm Performance
 
Hector Berlioz (1803–69), Le montagnard exilé (1822–23); other songs
 
Anton Reicha (1770–1836), String Quartet in C Minor, Op. 49, No. 1 (1803)
Carl Maria von Weber (1786–1826), Invitation to the Dance, Op. 65 (1819)
 
Works by Jean-François Le Sueur (1760–1837); Gaspare Spontini (1774–1851); Ambroise Thomas (1811–96)
 
Program Three: The Sounds of a Nation: Patriotism and Antiquity
Saturday, August 10
Sosnoff Theater  
6pm Preconcert Talk
7 pm Performance 
 
Hector Berlioz (1803–69), Hymne de Marseillaise (arr. 1830); selections from Les Troyens (1856–58); Te Deum, Op. 22/H.118 (1849)
           
Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714–87), Overture to Iphigenia in Aulis (1774; arr. R. Wagner, 1847)
Daniel-François-Esprit Auber (1782–1871), Overture to Fra Diavolo (1830)
 
Program Four: Chansons, romances, et mélodies: Vocal Music from Cosmopolitan Paris
Sunday, August 11
Olin Hall
11 am Performance with Commentary
 
Hector Berlioz (1803–69), Irlande, Op. 2 (1830); songs
 
Songs and arias by Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791–1864); Gioachino Rossini (1792–1868); Franz Liszt (1811–86); Richard Wagner (1813–83); Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921); Georges Bizet (1838–75); Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924); and others
 
Program Five: Women in Berlioz’s Circle
Sunday, August 11                              
Sosnoff Theater  
2:30 pm Preconcert Talk
3 pm Performance
 
Hector Berlioz (1803–69) Le mort d’Ophélie, Op. 18, No. 2 (1842)
 
Pauline Viardot (1821–1910), Le dernier sorcier, operetta (1869)
 
Works by Louise Farrenc (1804–75); Luise Bertin (1805–77); Marie de Grandval (1828–1907); and others
 

Weekend Two: Music and the Literary Imagination

 
Program Six: Sacred Music in France
THURSDAY, August 15 at 7pm, and FRIDAY, August 16 at 3pm
Episcopal Church of the Messiah, Rhinebeck
 
Hector Berlioz (1803–69), La fuite en Egypte: Mystère en style ancien (1850)
 
Works by Luigi Cherubini (1760–1842); Gioachino Rossini (1792–1868); Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921); Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924); and others
 
Program Seven: Berlioz: The  Composer as Writer
Friday, August 16
Sosnoff Theater 
6:30 pm Preconcert Talk
7 pm Performance 
 
Hector Berlioz (1803–69), Harold en Italie, Op. 16 (1834; arr. Liszt)
 
Works by Niccolò Paganini (1782–1840); Fromental Halévy (1799–1862); Adolphe Adam (1803–56); Johann Strauss Sr. (1804–49); Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst (1812–65); and others
 
Panel Two: Romanticism and Literature
Saturday, August 17
Olin Hall 
10 am – 12 pm 
 
Program Eight: Literary Romanticisms
Saturday, August 17
Olin Hall
1 pm Pre-Concert Talk
1:30 pm Performance 
 
Hector Berlioz (1803–69), Rêverie et caprice, Op. 8 (1841)                                                                   
Works by Felix Mendelssohn (1809–47); Robert Schumann (1810–56); Franz Liszt (1811–86); Ferdinand Hiller (1811–85); Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829–69)
 
Program Nine: An Evening with the Orchestra
Saturday, August 17
Sosnoff Theater 
6 pm Pre-Concert Talk 
7 pm Performance
 
Hector Berlioz (1803–69), Waverly Overture, Op. 1 (1827)
 
Gioachino Rossini (1792–1868), Overture to William Tell (1829)
Louise Farrenc (1804–75), Symphony No. 3 in G Minor, Op. 36 (1847) 
Joachim Raff (1822–82), Symphony No. 10 in F Minor, “In Autumn,” Op. 213 (1879) 
 
Program Ten: Berlioz’s Transformation of the World of Sound
Sunday, August 18
Olin Hall
11 am Pre-Concert Talk 
11:30 am Performance 
 
Works by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908); Claude Debussy (1862–1918); Richard Strauss (1864–1949); Edgard Varése (1883–1965); Olivier Messiaen (1908–92)
 
Program Eleven: Faust and the Spirit of the 19th Century
Sunday, August 18
Sosnoff Theater 
2 pm Pre-Concert Talk
3 pm Performance
 
Hector Berlioz (1803–69)
La damnation de Faust, Op. 24 (1846)
Book launch on Saturday, August 10 at 4:30 pm (location TBA)
Round-trip transportation from NYC is available for Program 11 on Sunday, August 18
 
 
[SPIEGELTENT]

Live Music – Performance – Dancing

June 28 – August 17
 
A magnificent Spiegeltent returns to SummerScape for its 17th year. This year’s Spiegeltent programs are curated by Caleb Hammons, who previously served as the Fisher Center’s Director of Artistic Planning & Producing from 2020–2023 and Senior Producer from 2013–2020.
 
Sumptuous evenings of dazzling performances, drinks, and dancing await you! Sign up for the Fisher Center’s e-news to be the first to hear about the programming. 
 
 
[SPECIAL EVENTS]
 
This summer, three special celebrations offer unique opportunities to socialize with world-class SummerScape artists and fellow arts enthusiasts in wholly unique settings on the Bard campus. 
 
Sunday, June 30

SUMMER KICK-OFF

4:30–6:30 pm Ticketed Party ($90)
Spiegeltent
 
With this celebration of the official start of summer in Annandale, the Fisher Center kicks off its annual festival of premiere productions that include music, theater, opera, and dance. Join us in the iconic Spiegeltent for a light meal, and raise a glass with the world-class Urban Bush Women and Elevator Repair Service companies.
 
Friday, July 26

PREMIERE PARTY

OPERA OPENING NIGHT
5–6 pm Ticketed Party ($90)
Spiegeltent 
 
Before the curtain rises on the much-anticipated new production of Le prophète, join like-minded opera aficionados for a sip with some savories and sweets, and insights from the creative team behind the grand spectacle.
 
Saturday, August 17

SUMMER SOIRÉE

3:30–6:30 pm Ticketed Party ($100)
Blithewood
 
As SummerScape ends and the Bard Music Festival draws to a close, there is one more chance to come together and celebrate. Nestled perfectly between Bard Music Festival Program Eight: Literary Romantics and Program Nine: An Evening with the Orchestra or just before the final night in the Spiegeltent, this annual affair includes performances, signature cocktails, light fare, and a guaranteed good time.
 

SummerScape Tickets
 

Early ticket access to Fisher Center patrons begins February 20. Fisher Center Member access begins February 27. Tickets go on sale to the general public on March 6.
 
For complete information regarding tickets, series discounts, and more, visit fishercenter.bard.edu. or call Bard’s box office at (845) 758-7900.
 

Photo credit: Peter Aaron




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