Bard SummerScape 2014 Features 25th Anniversary of Bard Music Festival, Now thru 8/17

Bard SummerScape 2014 Features 25th Anniversary of Bard Music Festival, Now thru 8/17

The roots of Austro-German Romanticism will be explored at the 2014 annual Bard SummerScape festival, which once again offers a sensational summer of music, opera, theater, dance, film, and cabaret, keyed to the theme of the 25th anniversary season of the world-renowned Bard Music Festival, Schubert and His World.

Held in the Frank Gehry-designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts and other venues on Bard College's idyllic Hudson River campus, the seven-week festival opens on June 27 with the first of three performances of Proscenium Works: 1979-2011 by the Trisha Brown Dance Company, and closes on August 17 with the conclusion of the Bard Music Festival. Complementing the Bard Music Festival's exploration of "Schubert and His World," some of the great Viennese composer's most important contemporariesprovide key SummerScape highlights. These include the first American revival in 100 years of Carl Maria von Weber's opera Euryanthe, as well as a single semi-staged performance of Schubert's rarely performed opera Fierrebras; the world premiere theater production Love in the Wars, an adaptation of Heinrich von Kleist's Penthesilea by the Booker Prize-winning novelist John Banville; and a film series titled "Schubert and the Long 19th Century." Together, SummerScape's offerings help celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the Bard Music Festival which has since its founding in 1990 done so much to revitalize the classical concert experience.

It is the Bard Music Festival that provides SummerScape's creative inspiration. Drawing on recent scholarship, the festival's thematic programming, multi-disciplinary approach, and emphasis on context and reception history make for a depth and breadth of cultural discovery that appeals to classical music novices and aficionados alike. Since its inception a quarter-century ago, the Bard Music Festival has enriched the standard concert repertory with a wealth of important rediscoveries.

The 25th-anniversary season presents "Schubert and His World," an illuminating series of orchestral, choral, vocal, and chamber concerts - as well as pre-concert talks, panel discussions, and special events - all devoted to examining the life and times of Franz Schubert (1797-1828). One of the most revered and influential composers of the Western tradition, the Viennese composer remains paradoxically elusive. His greatest fame rests on music discovered decades after his death, for although in his lifetime he won recognition as the "Prince of Song" and for his two- and four-hand keyboard music, it was only subsequently that the majority of his large-scale chamber, orchestral, and dramatic works came to light. The 2014 Bard Music Festival will consider Schubert both as he was known in his lifetime and as posterity has understood him, through performances of a wide range of his music, from the perennially popular songs to the once-favored, now-forgotten Singspiel Die Verschworenen, and from such posthumously canonized masterworks as the "Unfinished" Symphony and transcendent String Quintet in C to neglected rarities like his opera Fierrabras, which will be heard in a semi-staged performance comprising the Bard Music Festival's final program.

The American Symphony Orchestra, under its music director, Leon Botstein, is in residence at Bard throughout SummerScape. Besides leading the Bard Music Festival's orchestral programs, Botstein will also conduct this season's annual staged opera, Euryanthe (1823), by Schubert's contemporary Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826). Returning to direct Euryanthe's first American revival in 100 years is Kevin Newbury, creator of SummerScape's production of Richard Strauss's Die Liebe der Danae. In theater, Bard will present the world premiere production of Love in the Wars - a new and playful take on Heinrich von Kleist's Penthesilea from Booker Prize-winning novelist John Banville - by Ken Rus Schmoll.Continuing SummerScape's tradition of opening each year with a significant dance performance, this season the Trisha Brown Dance Company returns to launch the festival with Proscenium Works: 1979-2011, as part of the company's farewell tour.

Imported from Europe for its ninth SummerScape season, Bard's authentic and sensationally popular Spiegeltent is hosted all summer long by Justin Vivian Bond. A handmade pavilion decorated with mirrors and stained glass evoking a bygone era of glamour, the mirrored tent provides a sumptuous and magical environment to enjoy cutting-edge cabaret and world-class musical performances - almost all of which have sold out in recent years - plus dining and a late-night salon throughout the festival.

The numerous offerings that make up the comprehensive 25th annual Bard Music Festival, "Schubert and His World," take place during SummerScape's two final weekends: August 8-10 and August 15-17. Through the prism of Schubert's life and career, this year's festival will explore the native city with which he is so closely identified. Vienna was the site of an enduring grandeur, but also a city where cozy Biedermeier domesticity would soon succumb to Romanticism, and where artistic restraint was as much a function of Metternich's police state as of bourgeois respectability. Such tensions are reflected in Schubert's art, in which nostalgia and innovation - like the minor and major modes - are always inextricably entwined.

The present year is a fitting one in which to honor Schubert, for it marks the bicentennial of his setting of Goethe's Gretchen am Spinnrade, long recognized as his first masterpiece, on October 19, 1814; the date has come to be known as the "Birthday of the German Lied." For the composer once overshadowed by Beethoven and Rossini and best known for his lyrical miniatures, then sentimentalized as shy and lovelorn but surrounded by jovial friends, and more recently cast as a sexually ambiguous subversive who set the course of music history away from Beethoven's monumental example, the time is ripe for Bard's scholarly reappraisal.

The Music Festival's programs, built thematically and spaced over the two weekends, range from "The Legacy of a Life Cut Short" to "Schubert and Opera." Along with music by his predecessors, contemporaries, and musical descendants, a broad sampling of Schubert's own compositions will be heard. Two thought-provoking panel discussions will be supplemented by informative pre-concert talks and commentaries, which illuminate each concert's themes and are free to ticket holders.

Weekend One, August 8-10: The Making of a Romantic Legend: The opening weekend of the Bard Music Festival contextualizes Schubert's early life and career alongside the music of his contemporaries, including his teacher, Antonio Salieri, and such Viennese trends as the development of the art song, the Beethoven legacy, the post-1815 obsession with Italian opera, and the virtuoso cult. The weekend concludes with a double-bill of rarities: Schubert's one-act stage-work Die Verschworenen and Franz von Suppé's hit operetta Franz Schubert.

Weekend Two, August 15-17: A New Aesthetics of Music: Starting with a focus on the last years of his life, the second weekend of the Bard Music Festival addresses the nature of Schubert's originality, recreates the one public concert that he devoted entirely to his own music, and offers a consideration of his legacy and influence on late-19th and 20th-century composers.

Since the founding of the Bard Music Festival, Princeton University Press has published a companion volume of new scholarship and interpretation for each season, with essays and translated documents relating to the featured composer and his world. Scholars-in-Residence Christopher H. Gibbs and Morten Solvik are the editors of the upcoming 2014 volume, Franz Schubert and His World.

Schubert's contemporary Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) is best known for Der Freischütz, the opera with which he established Germany's own homegrown Romantic opera tradition, free from French and Italian influence and distinguished by novel orchestrations and supernatural elements. His next major contribution to the genre, Euryanthe (1823), has not achieved the same fame. Yet the opera - a story of chivalry, betrayal, innocence, and love, again imbued with the supernatural - was no less ambitious or innovative. Euryanthe, unlike Der Freischütz, was through-composed, heralding a conclusive break with the spoken dialogue of Singspiel, and it was in Euryanthe that Weber first made extensive use of recurring musical motives, bringing cohesiveness to the score and anticipating the Wagnerian technique. Euryanthe remains largely neglected. Only its overture is performed with any regularity; revivals of the opera in its entirety are rare, not least in America, where it has not been seen since the Metropolitan Opera's staging 100 years ago, in 1914.

Bard's upcoming production, then, marks a major historical milestone. Irish Times Theatre Award-winner Kevin Newbury returns to direct, following his success with Richard Strauss's Die Liebe der Danae at SummerScape three years ago. The new production will run for five performances (July 25, 27 & 30; Aug 1 & 3), with an Opera Talk, free and open to the public, before the matinee today, July 27.

This summer, Botstein also leads a semi-staged performance of Schubert's seldom-heard opera Fierrabras (1823), which will draw the 25th annual Bard Music Festival - and, indeed, the entire seven-week Bard SummerScape festival - to a thrilling close (August 17). Fierrabras was intended, like Euryanthe, for Vienna's Kärntnertor Theater, and marks Schubert's own attempt to compose grand Romantic opera in German. Although it was never staged during his lifetime, the opera - the story of a fictitious Saracen knight at the time of Charlemagne - has since found a following; at its 1988 Austrian premiere, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung declared that, "against the judgment of history," Fierrabras was "triumphantly rescued" at last.

Although German poet, dramatist and novelist Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811) is now recognized as "by far the most important North German dramatist of the Romantic movement" (Encyclopedia Brittanica), his work was all but forgotten until its early 20th-century rehabilitation by such luminaries as Rilke, Kafka, and Thomas Mann. His romantic drama Penthesilea, drawn loosely from Homer, recounts the meeting between its eponymous heroine, the Queen of the Amazons, and the Greek hero Achilles; the ferocity of her passion collides with his stubborn will, setting in motion a tragicomedy of love and misunderstanding that threatens to derail the course of history.

Receiving its world premiere at Bard, Love in the Wars is an original version of Penthesilea by John Banville, whose 14th novel, The Sea, won the 2005 Man Booker Prize. Kleist's lucid prose has long exerted a profound influence on the Irish novelist. Opening for two previews and eight performances between July 10 and July 20, SummerScape's world premiere presentation of Love in the Wars will be directed by the two-time Obie Award-winner Ken Rus Schmoll.

Now making its farewell tour with some of the company's final East Coast stage performances, the Trisha Brown Dance Company returns to present the final creation of MacArthur Fellow Trisha Brown alongside revivals of some of her most beloved works, including collaborations with Laurie Anderson and Robert Rauschenberg. Proscenium Works: 1979-2011 will be presented in three performances on June 27 and 28.

The 2014 SummerScape Film Series will investigate the many ways in which Schubert's music and early Romanticism have influenced international cinema. The image of Schubert as a shy, obscure, lovelorn man of the people, who wrote magical melodies in taverns, surrounded by cheerful friends, was cherished by audiences in the late-19th century and triumphantly exploitedby 20th-century Hollywood, before being debunked in Fritz Lehner's film Notturno (1986). To commemorate the centenary of the July Crisis in 1914, the festival will also include a series of films exploring the origins and meanings of the First World War. All films will be presented using new or archival 35mm prints.

Back for a ninth magnificent summer, the authentic, one-of-a-kind Belgian Spiegeltent has been sensationally popular since its introduction at Bard in 2006, the first time one of these fabulous structures appeared in America. The perfect place to discover new artists in an intimate setting throughout the festival, Bard's Spiegeltent also provides a meeting place for drink, food, and celebration before and after performances in other venues. This season's festivities will be hosted by returning Spiegeltent favorite and Tony-nominated Justin Vivian Bond. Food is casual summer fare, à la carte burgers from the grill, fresh salads, gourmet ice cream, microbrewed beer, local wine, and more, sourced locally whenever possible and in many cases from Bard's own organic farm.

Tickets for all Bard SummerScape events go on sale to the public on February 18. For tickets and further information on all SummerScape events, call the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900 or visit www.fishercenter.bard.edu.

SummerScape opera, theater, and dance performances and most Bard Music Festival programs are held in the Sosnoff Theater or Theater Two in Bard's Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Frank Gehry and celebrated since its opening as a major architectural landmark in the region. Some chamber programs and other BMF events are in Olin Hall. The Spiegeltent has its own schedule of events, in addition to serving as a restaurant, café, and bar before and after performances. Film Series screenings are at the Jim Ottaway Jr. Film Center in the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Center.

To make a reservation on the round-trip SummerScape coach provided exclusively to ticket holders for specific performances indicated by * in the listings above, call the box office at 845-758-7900 or select this option when purchasing tickets. The round-trip fare is $20 and reservations are required. The coach departs from behind Lincoln Center, on Amsterdam Avenue between 64th and 65th Street. Bus departure time will be included on the ticket order receipt, or visit fishercenter.bard.edu/transportation.

Photo Credit: http://fishercenter.bard.edu/summerscape/2014/