2017 Bard Music Festival to Explore CHOPIN AND HIS WORLD
Parisian culture, Polish politics, and the piano are the focus of this summer's annual Bard SummerScape festival, with seven weeks of music, opera, theater, dance, film, and cabaret keyed to the theme of the 28th Bard Music Festival, "Chopin and His World."
This intensive examination of the life and times of Fryderyk Chopin sheds new light on the Romantic era by way of a composer variously pigeonholed as a salon pianist or Polish nationalist, yet whose originality would ensure his universal impact and appeal. Complementing the music festival, the composer and some of his most compelling contemporaries provide other key SummerScape highlights.
These include a rare, fully staged production of Dimitrij, a grand opera by fellow Slavic nationalist Antonín Dvorák; the world premiere of A PINK CHAIR (IN PLACE OF A FAKE ANTIQUE), an homage to Polish artist and director Tadeusz Kantor by The Wooster Group; the SummerScape debut of New York City Ballet MOVES, with a program featuring Jerome Robbins's Chopin-set Dances at a Gathering and In Creases by rising star Justin Peck; a film series exploring "Chopin and the Image of Romanticism"; and the return of Bard's authentic and sensationally popular Spiegeltent, hosted by the inimitable Mx. Justin VivIan Bond.
Taking place between June 30 and August 20 in the Frank Gehry-designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts and other venues on Bard College's stunning Hudson River campus, SummerScape's 2017 offerings provide new opportunities to discover that, as Time Out New York has said, "the experience of entering the Fisher Center and encountering something totally new is unforgettable and enriching." Tickets are now on sale; click here for more information.
Bard SummerScape 2017 Highlights:
Music: Bard Music Festival, "Chopin and His World"
Founded by co-artistic director Leon Botstein, it is the Bard Music Festival - "a highlight of the musical year" (Wall Street Journal) - that provides the creative inspiration for SummerScape. Since its inception in 1990, the Bard Music Festival has enriched the standard concert repertory with a wealth of important rediscoveries; as the New York Times points out, "wherever there is an overlooked potential masterpiece, Leon Botstein is not too far behind." "One of the most remarkable figures in the worlds of arts and culture" (NYC Arts, THIRTEEN/WNET), Botstein serves as music director of both the American Symphony Orchestra, which will anchor two orchestral programs as well as the annual staged opera, and The Orchestra Now (T?N). Now in its second season, this unique graduate training orchestra - designed to help a new generation of musicians break down barriers between modern audiences and great orchestral music of past and present - takes part in the two remaining orchestral programs.
This season, the Bard Music Festival trains its focus on a composer who wrote almost exclusively for the piano, still the instrument most prevalent in Western culture today. "Chopin and His World" comprises an illuminating series of chamber, vocal, choral, and orchestral concerts - as well as pre-concert talks and panel discussions - devoted to examining the life and times of Fryderyk Chopin (1810-49). Even during his brief lifetime, which coincided with one of the most important periods in the evolution of the modern piano, Chopin was already regarded as the quintessential poet of his instrument. A true original, it is he, more than any other composer, who did most to transform its aesthetic potential. Drawing on the latest developments in piano making, he conjured new harmonies, colors, and expressive depths from his instrument, exerting a profound and indelible influence on piano technique and harmonic language for generations to come.
A salient feature of Chopin's distinctive sound is his predilection for the folk melodies and dance forms of his native Poland. It was as the voice of this dismembered and oppressed nation that he rose to international fame, and he remains a cherished national icon in Poland today. Yet, half-French by birth and a political exile by conviction, he spent his maturity in Paris, where he was a leading member of the émigré community. It is there that his body lies buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery, even while his heart was returned to the Warsaw of his youth, and interred in the Holy Cross church.
This contradiction is one of the many that abound when trying to make sense of Chopin and his legacy. A great Romantic himself, the composers he revered most highly were Bach and Mozart. A leading nationalist, his work is consistently celebrated - perhaps most notably, in Asia - as universal. The writer of profoundly introspective music, he was nonetheless instrumental in launching the virtuoso movement. An important political figure, his music remains deeply personal. He was so introverted that he gave fewer than three dozen public concerts, yet his personal life was the stuff of scandal, intrigue, and Hollywood film. Despite his short lifetime, the modest number of his surviving works, his preference for miniatures, and indeed his own diminutive frame, he continues to loom large on the musical landscape. As The Guardian asks, "Who is the real Chopin? Salon-bound miniaturist or national icon? And how does his music speak to us today?"
The numerous offerings that make up the 2017 festival take place during SummerScape's two final weekends. On August 11-13, Weekend One explores Chopin, the Piano, and Musical Culture of the 19th Century. Two of the early works for piano and orchestra that propelled Chopin to fame will be heard alongside concertos by his predecessors Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Ignaz Moscheles, and Friedrich Kalkbrenner, and music dating from his early years in Warsaw will be contextualized by that of his teachers and contemporaries Józef Elsner, Wilhelm Würfel, and Maria Szymanowska. Further programs will explore the world of 19th-century piano music, the influence of Bel Canto opera on instrumental writing, and the role of Jews in European musical culture, before the weekend concludes with an examination of the Romantic virtuoso cult for piano, violin, and voice.
On August 18-20, Weekend Two addresses the nature of Originality and Virtuosity, with concerts featuring a generous selection of Chopin's finest mature writing, including the Op. 10 Etudes; music for the salon, where most of his work was first heard; a performance of the first great Polish opera (something Chopin was continually expected to write): Stanis?aw Moniuszko's Halka, a work rarely heard outside the composer's homeland; Poland's neglected choral tradition; and Chopin's great legacy, which helped shape the future of music from Liszt and Wagner to Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Fauré, and Poland's Szymanowski and Gra?yna Bacewicz. To draw the festival - and the entire seven weeks of SummerScape - to a climactic close, Bard presents a pairing of masterworks by Chopin and Berlioz: two friends who nonetheless took very different approaches to musical Romanticism. This lineup will be complemented by two thought-provoking panel discussions and informative pre-concert talks and commentaries that illuminate each concert's themes, and are all free to ticket holders.
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 Halina Goldberg and Jonathan Bellman are the editors of the upcoming 2017 volume, Fryderyk Chopin and His World.
Opera: Dimitrij (new production)
Following in Chopin's footsteps, Bohemia's Antonín Dvo?ák (1841-1904) is celebrated as one of the Romantic era's great Slavic nationalists. Prolific and versatile, his extensive output includes no fewer than ten operas, including the fairytale Rusalka, which is still in regular rotation at opera houses around the world. By contrast, his grand opera Dimitrij (1882) is rarely staged outside the Czech Republic, and only received its U.S. concert premiere in 1984, more than a century after its composition. This owes in part to the practical challenges it presents in production. Yet the opera was a popular success at its Prague premiere and has long been recognized as an exemplar of Dvo?ák's signature lyricism and masterfully stirring choral writing.
Heralded by the Boston Globe as "a tragic story that Shakespeare could hardly have bettered," Dimitrij continues 17th-century Russian history where Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov leaves off, vividly depicting the struggle for power that ensued in the wake of the revered Tsar's death. Mistakenly supposing himself to be Dimitrij, the murdered son of Ivan the Terrible, Dvo?ák's protagonist believes he has a legitimate claim to the Russian throne, and leads the Polish army to march on Moscow. When he falls in love with Godunov's daughter, however, and decides to divorce his own Polish wife, he unwittingly triggers the chain of events that will result in his demise. Ultimately tragic, the story of the False Dimitrij pits Orthodox Russia against Catholic Poland, a conflict Dvorák captures by setting Eastern Orthodox liturgical harmonies against the mazurka's triple time. The score showcases some of his finest writing, making Dimitrij, as the New York Times writes, "a perfect example of a forgotten opera that deserves to be given exposure."
Bard's full staging represents an all-too-rare opportunity to see Dvo?ák's opera live. Conceived expressly for SummerScape 2017, the new production is by contemporary theater director Anne Bogart, a 1974 Bard alumna, whose many honors include two "Best Director" Obies and the Jesse L. Rosenberger Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Creative & Performing Arts. With Botstein leading the American Symphony Orchestra, Dimitrij will run for five performances between July 28 and August 6, with an Opera Talk, free and open to the public, before the matinee on July 30.
Like Chopin, Tadeusz Kantor (1915-90) was one of Poland's most trailblazing visionaries. The stage director, set designer, creator of happenings, writer, and artist behind such revolutionary theatrical works as The Dead Class (1975) and Wielopole Wielopole (1980), Kantor is to Poland what Andy Warhol is to America: an iconic postwar artist whose influence continues to resonate far beyond his own country. When productions by Kantor's legendary company Cricot 2 traveled to New York City in the 1990s, they had a profound influence on American theater and dance that is still playing out today.
In the hotly anticipated world premiere production of its original new theater piece A PINK CHAIR (IN PLACE OF A FAKE ANTIQUE), The Wooster Group pays tribute to the Polish director through an exploration of ecstasy, despair, nostalgia, and memory. Recurring throughout his oeuvre, these themes also hold especial interest for the experimental New York Theater company, which launched the careers of Willem Dafoe and the late Spalding Gray. The winner of nine Obies and six Bessie Awards, the group "has created a distinctive artistic vocabulary," notes the New York Times, which declares: "Nobody beats The Wooster Group at the top of its game." Performed by Zbigniew Bzymek, Enver Chakartash, Jim Fletcher, Ari Fliakos, Dorota Krakowska, Erin Mullin, Suzzy Roche, Danusia Trevino, and Kate Valk, the piece is directed by founding member Elizabeth LeCompte, whose string of honors includes the 2016 Dorothy & Lillian Gish Prize, a MacArthur "genius grant" Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts' Lifetime Achievement Award. The Wooster Group's world premiere presentation will take place in ten performances in Bard's LUMA Theater between July 13 and 23.
Bard's theatrical track record is a stellar one. Of last season's world premiere production of Demolishing Everything with Amazing Speed - four long-lost Futurist puppet plays, as unearthed and reimagined by Dan Hurlin - the Village Voice declared: "Hurlin isn't simply reviving century-old plays - he's showing us the mechanisms by which we let the past century happen. ... The violence is so presciently modern that Bard's director of theater programs, Gideon Lester, made a curtain speech acknowledging its awful echoes in the news. As I stumbled out, my own eyes spinning, I realized he had barely prepared us."
The production was co-commissioned by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Poland, as part of a program celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Tadeusz Kantor.
Dance: New York City Ballet MOVES makes festival debut
SummerScape 2017 launches with the festival debut of New York City Ballet MOVES, with an all-live music program. NYCB Moves is composed of a select group of dancers and musicians of the NYCB under the auspices of Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins. For its first SummerScape engagement, the company gives four performances of a program tracing the NYCB's outstanding choreographic lineage, from legendary co-founder George Balanchine and associate artistic director Jerome Robbins to young rising star Justin Peck (June 30-July 2). No choreographer is more closely associated with Chopinthan Robbins, who set four major ballets to his music. The second of these is Dances at a Gathering (1969); a work for five couples accompanied by 18 of the Polish composer's mazurkas, waltzes, and etudes, this became an instant classic, and is still recognized as "a multilayered masterpiece of theater" (New York Times) today. The piano plays an equally integral part in Balanchine's Duo Concertant (1972), a treasured NYCB mainstay. Having personally collaborated with Stravinsky for many decades, Balanchine created his choreography for the great Russian composer's neoclassical violin and piano duet for the 1972 Stravinsky Festival, as a posthumous tribute. Completing the program is In Creases(2012), which marks the first creation for the company by young resident choreographer and soloist Justin Peck. Set to the first and third movements of Four Movements for Two Pianos by minimalist master Philip Glass, Peck's new work made an immediate impact at its premiere, when the New York Times declared:
"This is choreography whose forms immediately seize attention. There's no moment, as so often occurs with young ballet choreographers, when we spot Mr. Peck's sources. Doubtless he's steeped in Balanchine, Robbins and others, but he isn't wearing them on his sleeve. ... [In Creases is] a dreamscape that heightens the progress and colors of its score. And its sureness of construction is striking."
SummerScape has featured significant dance performances each summer since 2005. Of last season's world premiere of Fantasque, a new ballet set to the music of Respighi and Rossini by John Heginbotham and Amy Trompetter, the Financial Times observed:
"Fantasque ... flout[s] protocols of drama for anti-climaxes that let slip subtle truths. The puppet scenes were minimal, largely silent, and spiked with pauses so well placed that they prompted gratifying streams of association. The vivid dances featured their own sly indirections but without missing a beat. Between the two, a magical atmosphere arose."
Film series: "Chopin and the Image of Romanticism"
Chopin has long represeChopin has long represented a source of inspiration for filmmakers, whether as subject or soundtrack contributor, and it is this rich and varied legacy that the 2017 SummerScape film series celebrates. Held between July 27 and August 20, the ten screenings include two biopics. Charles Vidor's highly fictionalized Hollywood account, A Song to Remember (1945), views the composer's life through the distorting lens of wartime propaganda, whereas in Chopin's Youth (1952), Poland's Aleksander Ford successfully eschews a comparably Soviet agenda. Having worked on the latter film in his own youth, groundbreaking Polish director Andrzej Wajda went on to make Kanal (1957) and Ashes and Diamonds (1958), in whose final scene a grotesque account of Chopin's Military Polonaise crowns a drunken banquet. Likewise, the composer's A-minor Prelude marks a plot point in Autumn Sonata (1978), which - along with Smiles of a Summer's Night (1955) and Cries and Whispers (1972) - is one of three intimate chamber dramas by Ingmar Bergman that feature Chopin's music. His works may also be heard in every film made by Krzysztof Zanussi, including Camouflage (1977), and they play an important part in Krzysztof Kie?lowski's Camera Buff (1979). Based on a wartime memoir by the Polish-Jewish pianist-composer W?adys?aw Szpilman, Roman Polanski's historical epic The Pianist (2002) showcases uplifting performances of the G-minor Ballade, C-sharp minor Nocturne, and Grande Polonaise brillante.
Back for a twelfth magnificent summer, Bard's authentic Spiegeltent has enchanted guests since its introduction to the festival in 2006. A handmade pavilion from Belgium, 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 - capped by dining and late-night dancing throughout the festival. Back by popular demand, Tony Award-nominee Mx. Justin VivIan Bond, "the greatest cabaret artist of this generation" (New Yorker), hosts a fourth season of Bard's signature cabaret on Friday and Saturday nights. On Thursdays, the Catskill Jazz Factory returns to celebrate the defining moments of jazz, from Roaring Twenties big band to gospel, bebop, cool jazz, and the swinging sixties, all with a twist, in Jazz Through the Looking Glass. Dining is inspired by seasonal Hudson Valley ingredients and served at lunchtime on Saturdays and Sundays and dinnertime on Thursdays through Saturdays, with a full bar offering to complement the menu.
Special support for the Spiegeltent is provided by Andrew E. Zobler and Manny Urquiza.
Tickets for all Bard SummerScape events are now on sale. For tickets and further information on all SummerScape events, call the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900 or visit fishercenter.bard.edu/summerscape.
SummerScape opera, theater, and dance performances and most Bard Music Festival programs are held in the Sosnoff Theater or LUMA Theater 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, and 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 $40 and reservations are required. The coach departs from behind Lincoln Center, on Amsterdam Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets. Find additional details at: fishercenter.bard.edu/transportation.
For a complete schedule of SummerScape and Bard Music Festival events (subject to change), follow the links given below. Updates are posted at the festival web site fishercenter.bard.edu/summerscape.
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Pictured: Fryderyk Chopin by Eugène Ferdinand Victor Delacroix (photo: Wikimedia Commons)