Berkshire Opera Festival Announces 2024 Season: FAUST And Anthony Davis's THE REEF

The Mount's March 21 virtual book club will be dedicated to The Reef (the novel) and BOF's workshop production. 

By: Feb. 21, 2024
Berkshire Opera Festival Announces 2024 Season: FAUST And Anthony Davis's THE REEF
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Berkshire Opera Festival announces its 2024 season in Great Barrington, MA and New York City.

For its 2024 season, BOF mounts a mainstage production of Charles Gounod's FAUST, which comes to the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on August 24, 27, and 30. 

This spring, they'll also travel to New York City to give a workshop performance of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Anthony Davis's THE REEF, a new opera written in collaboration with librettist Joan Ross Sorkin, on April 10 at Merkin Hall. 

FAUST

Music by Charles Gounod
Libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré
Saturday, August 24, 1pm
(Free pre-performance talk with dramaturg Cori Ellison at 12pm)
Tuesday, August 27, 7:30pm
Friday, August 30, 7:30pm
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, 14 Castle Street, Great Barrington, MA
Approximate running time: 2 hours, 45 minutes including one intermission
Sung in French with projected English translations
Tickets start at $20

CAST
Tenor DUKE KIM - Faust
Soprano RAQUEL GONZÁLEZ - Marguerite
Bass-baritone Justin Hopkins - Méphistophélès
Baritone JARRETT PORTER - Valentin
Mezzo-soprano SUN-LY PIERCE - Siébel
Mezzo-soprano ABBEGAEL GREENE - Marthe Schwerlein 
Baritone KYLE DUNN - Wagner

and featuring the
BERKSHIRE OPERA FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS

CREATIVE TEAM
Conductor BRIAN GARMAN
Stage Director JONATHON LOY
Scenic Designer Stephen Dobay
Costume Designer BROOKE STANTON
Lighting Designer Alex Jainchill
Hair and Make-up Designer BECKIE KRAVETZ
Choreographer Andrea Beasom
Assistant Conductor and Chorus Master GEOFFREY LARSON
Principal Coach and Rehearsal Pianist TRAVIS BLOOM
Supertitles Author CORI ELLISON
Production Stage Manager CINDY KNIGHT

On the BOF mainstage this year is a new production of Charles Gounod's FAUST, the story of tragedy and redemption that stands at the summit of French romantic opera. Surging with memorable and timeless music, it has remained one of the world's most popular operas ever since its premiere and is considered Gounod's masterpiece. Based on Goethe's play, the story introduces the original "Faustian bargain"—old Dr. Faust sells his soul to the devil to be young again—but his decision has devastating consequences. 

Of BOF's new production, Stage Director and BOF Co-Founder Jonathon Loy says: “I’m very excited to produce Faust this summer, BOF’s first time ever presenting a French opera. Gounod’s romantic music is exquisite, and everyone will be familiar with the tale of the old man, Dr. Faust, who sells his soul to the devil, for a chance to be young and fall in love, just one more time. You won’t be surprised that this deal does not work out so well for the mortal parties involved.”

The production will also use a newly created orchestral version of the score, made by Artistic Director and Co-Founder Brian Garman, who will also conduct. Of the score, he says: "Like many companies that perform in small to medium-sized theaters, BOF sometimes has to perform with slightly reduced orchestrations so that all our (roughly 35) musicians can fit in the space.  There weren't any published reductions that pleased me, so I wrote a new one which best suits our needs."

Three performances take place at Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington. All artists in the esteemed cast are making their BOF debut. In the title role is tenor Duke Kim, 2021 winner of the Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition. Kim also performs with Seattle Opera (Il Barbiere di Siviglia) and Pittsburgh Opera (La Traviata) this year, following Glimmerglass last summer (Roméo et Juliette). In the role of Marguerite is Raquel González, whom Opera News called a “true artist," and is a returning roster member of the Metropolitan Opera. She sings with Houston Grand Opera (Madama Butterfly) this season, and previously Lyric Opera of Chicago and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Méphistophélès will be played by Justin Hopkins, whose bass-baritone was described by the Los Angeles Times as "beautifully focused." His recent engagements include La Monnaie, Grand Théâtre de Genève, Bard Music Festival, and Austin Lyric Opera. Jarrett Porter, described by Opera News as "a supple, vibrant lyric baritone" and who will perform in five operas at Oper Frankfurt this year, will play Valentin. In the role of Siébel is Sun-Ly Pierce, who recently wowed audiences and critics in Rodelinda at Hudson Hall. Pierce also stars in productions at Houston Grand Opera (Suzuki in Madama Butterfly), Des Moines Metro Opera (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), and makes her Metropolitan Opera debut in La Rondine. In the role of Marthe Schwerlein is mezzo-soprano Abbegael Greene, who received a Master's degree in voice performance from Bard College Conservatory. Kyle Dunn, 2024 Apprentice Artist at Sarasota Opera and a graduate of Peabody Institute, sings Wagner.

THE REEF

workshop performance of a brand new opera
Wednesday, April 10, 2024 at 7:00pm
Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center, 129 West 67th Street, New York, NY
Music by Anthony Davis
Libretto by Joan Ross Sorkin
Adapted from the novel by Edith Wharton
Approximate running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Sung in English
Tickets from $10-50
The performance will be followed by a Q&A with the opera’s creators.
Premium ticket holders are invited to a post-show reception
with the creators and artists sponsored by The Mount, Edith Wharton's home.

Featuring an exciting cast of young artists

Composer Anthony Davis
Librettist Joan Ross Sorkin
Conductor GEOFFREY LARSON
Pianist and Principal Coach CURTIS SERAFIN
English Diction Coach Lynn Baker

The Reef, a new opera by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Anthony Davis (The Central Park Five; X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X) and librettist Joan Ross Sorkin (Strange Fruit), adapts Edith Wharton's 1912 novel and tells the suspenseful story of a young widow and her former lover’s attempt to rekindle their romance. The tension is heightened in Davis and Sorkin’s retelling, which underscores the inequalities of race and social class on a sugar plantation on Martinique. Berkshire Opera Festival is proud to present Act One of this two-act opera for the very first time in a workshop performance featuring an exciting cast of emerging artists, including current students and recent alumni of some of the area’s notable conservatories and music schools.

Having completed eight operas, it is clear that Anthony Davis is an artist unafraid to spotlight society’s most pervasive problems. Opera News called Davis "a national treasure" for his strides in composing operatic, choral, and chamber works, which build from his work in improvised music and jazz to form distinctive, unique visions.
 
Joan Ross Sorkin is a New York-based musical theatre bookwriter and lyricist, opera librettist, and playwright. Of The Reef she says: "It’s been a great joy reimagining for the opera stage the most autobiographical of all of Edith Wharton’s novels. Thank you, Berkshire Opera Festival and The Mount for believing in The Reef, and for helping us give voice to the extraordinary work of the first female Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who had the vision to probe the human heart, as well as explore the obstacles to love imposed by the conventions of society."

Adapted from the Edith Wharton novel of the same name, the story of the opera has been reset at Les Alizés (Trade Winds), a wealthy French sugar cane plantation on the Caribbean island of Martinique in 1911. The opera tells the tale of unrequited love, doomed by the strict conventions of society that breed intolerance based on race and class. Anna Leath, an American widow, is trapped on the plantation with her aristocratic French mother-in-law and falls in love with an American diplomat whom she knew in New York. Unbeknownst to her, he has had an affair with her young daughter’s mixed-race nursemaid. Anna’s stepson is also in love with the island girl, who cares more for the diplomat. The mother-in-law forbids the union with her grandson, and although Anna supports the marriage, the toxic fumes of prejudice bend even her will. When Anna discovers the nursemaid is carrying the diplomat’s child, she knows her love is forever tainted. After the accidental death of her stepson, Anna chooses propriety over passion by sending her lover away, consoled only by the thought of keeping his yet unborn child in her care.
 
Throughout the opera, the collective conscience of the island is represented by the “Invisibles,” a Greek chorus of islanders who observe the action through a lens magnified by the inequalities of race and class between the island workers and the aristocratic plantation owners. In addition to providing social commentary of those in the “Great House,” they echo the thoughts, fears, and desires of the characters. They also represent the forces of nature that govern the island—water, wind, heat, and light, the oppressors and disruptors of life and love.
 
This special performance is supported in part by a National Endowment for the Arts ArtWorks grant. Additional support provided by Ken and Susan Kramer,
and The Mount, Edith Wharton's home (Lenox, MA).

Related Free Event:

The Mount's March 21 virtual book club will be dedicated to The Reef (the novel) and BOF's workshop production. 

Event link is HERE.

Librettist Joan Ross Sorkin and Conductor GEOFFREY LARSON will attend and discuss the source material for the opera, the changes Joan and Anthony Davis made for their adaption, and what will be presented during BOF's workshop performance. 




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