Bard SummerScape 2014 Presents Weber, Schubert and Von Suppe, Now thru 8/10
Reviving important but neglected operas is one of the ways the Bard SummerScape festival in New York's Annandale-on-Hudson has established itself, and this year's immersion in "Schubert and His World" - culminating in the 25th-anniversary season of the Bard Music Festival - is no exception. To enrich its exploration of the roots of Austro-German Romanticism, Bard presents Euryanthe (1823) by Schubert's contemporary Carl Maria von Weber, marking the opera's first American revival in 100 years. Headlined by Ellie Dehn, Bard's original staging is by Kevin Newbury, creator of SummerScape's production of Richard Strauss's Die Liebe der Danae. Euryanthe's five performances (today, July 25, 27 & 30; August 1 & 3) feature the festival's resident American Symphony Orchestra under the leadership of music director Leon Botstein, who also leads semi-staged performances of Schubert's own seldom-heard opera Fierrabras starring Joseph Kaiser, best known for his leading role in Kenneth Branagh's film adaptation of The Magic Flute, on August 17, and of a double-bill of rarities - Schubert's one-act Singspiel Die Verschworenen and Franz von Suppé's operetta Franz Schubert - on August 10.
Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) won his greatest success with 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, 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 therefore marks a major historical milestone. In the title role is Ellie Dehn, who portrayed Catherine of Aragon in SummerScape's presentation of Saint-Saëns's Henry VIII two years ago. Opposite her, as Euryanthe's fiancé Adolar, is lyric tenor William Burden, who may be heard on the Metropolitan Opera's 2013 Grammy Award-winning recording ofThe Tempest by Thomas Adès. Soprano Wendy Bryn Harmer sings Euryanthe's ill-fated rival, Eglantine, with bass-baritone Ryan Kuster lending his voice to the role of Lysiart. And playing King Ludwig is Peter Volpe, back at Bard after bringing his voice to 2009's staging of Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots.
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. Euryanthe's set design is by Victoria "Vita" Tzykun, whose stage credits include Los Angeles Opera, Dallas Opera, and the Kennedy Center, with costumes and lighting by Jessica Jahn and D.M. Wood, both members of the design team behind Die Liebe der Danae. The new production will run for five performances (July 25, 27 & 30; August 1 & 3), with an Opera Talk, free and open to the public, before the matinee on July 27.
Convinced that opera would bring the fame and fortune that eluded him, Franz Schubert (1797-1828) attempted more than a dozen works for the stage. Perhaps the finest of these is Fierrabras (1823), which 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.
Heading Bard's strong cast in the title role is tenor Joseph Kaiser. Bass Eric Halfvarson, who recently took London's BBC Proms by storm, sings Karl (aka Charlemagne), with soprano Sara Jakubiak, as his daughter, Emma. To portray Karl's knights Roland and Eginhard, baritone Andrew Schroeder, and tenor Eric Barry lend their voices, with mezzo-soprano Cecelia Hall as Fierrabras's sister Florinda. Bard's semi-staged production is created by Austin McCormick and Zane Pihlstrom, the director-design team behind such projects as the Minetta Lane Theater's Nutcracker Rouge. Led by Leon Botstein, the performance of Fierrabras on August 17 draws the 25th anniversary season of the Bard Music Festival - and, indeed, the entire seven-week Bard SummerScape festival - to a gripping close.
Another of Schubert's works for the stage is Die Verschworenen ("The Conspirators," 1823). With a libretto derived from Aristophanes's satire Lysistrata, this one-act Singspiel is a sparkling, attractively scored comedy, and although its title initially led to prohibition at the hands of the censors, it enjoyed a brief spell of popularity in the 1860s. On August 10, Bard pairs a semi-staged performance of Die Verschworenen with the first American presentation of another long-forgotten Viennese favorite:Franz von Suppé's one-act operetta Franz Schubert (1864), a hit in its day, which incorporates Schubert's own melodies into a loosely biographical piece depicting - with considerable artistic license - the inspiration behind the songs of Die schöne Müllerin. With Leon Botstein leading members of the American Symphony Orchestra and James Bagwell directing the Bard Festival Chorale, the SummerScape performances boast a first-rate cast, with tenor Paul Appleby, soprano Deanna Breiwick, bass-baritoneRyan Speedo Green, recent recipient of a 2014 Richard Tucker Career Grant; mezzo-soprano Cecelia Hall, and tenor Nicholas Phan.
Since the opening of the Fisher Center at Bard, Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestrahave been responsible for championing and restoring to the stage a growing number of important but long-neglected operas. All these presentations and their remarkable stagings have been warmly received by audiences and critics alike - not least, last season's U.S. premiere of Taneyev's Oresteia. Bard's production is a 2014 International Opera Award nominee.
Euryanthe will run at the Sosnoff Theater July 25 and Aug 1 at 7 pm and July 27, 30, and August 3 at 2 pm. Tickets start at $25. Opera Talk will be held July 27 at 12 pm and is free and open to the public
Fierrabras will run August 17 at the Sosnoff Theater at 4:30 pm (with pre-concert talk at 3:30 pm). Tickets start at $25. Round-trip transportation from Manhattan to Bard is available for this performance. The round-trip fare is $20 and reservations are required; see further details below.
Die Verschworenen will run at the Sosnoff Theater August 10 at 5:30 pm (with pre-concert talk at 5 pm). Tickets start at $25.
Bard SummerScape will also feature the Bard Music Festival. Weekend One will be "The Making of a Romantic Legend" (Aug 8-10) and Weekend Two will be "A New Aesthetics of Music" (Aug 15-17).
Round-trip transportation from Manhattan to Bard is available for certain performances on August 8, 10, 15, and 17. The round-trip fare is $20 and reservations are required; see further details below.
John Banville: Love in the Wars - A version of Heinrich von Kleist's Penthesilea will be presented at Theater Two. Previews will be July 10 and 11 at 7:30pm, and performances will run July 12, 17, 18, and 19 at 7:30 pm and July 13, 16, 19, and 20* at 2 pm. Tickets start at $25
The Trisha Brown Dance Company's Proscenium Works: 1979-2011 will run June 27 and 28 at 7:30 pm and June 28 at 2 pm at the Sosnoff Theater. Tickets start at $25.
The film "Schubert and the Long 19th Century" will play at the Ottaway Film Center Thursdays and Sundays July 3 to August 3 at 7pm. Tickets are $10.
Bard SummerScape will also feature live music, cabaret, festival dining, and after hours salon. Dates, times, and prices vary.
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, 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/visit/transportation.
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. Fisher Center members receive priority access to the best seats in advance, and those who join the Center's email list receive advance booking opportunities as well as regular news and updates.