Bard SummerScape Announces 2019 Season
This summer's 16th annual Bard Summerscape festival comprises more than seven weeks of music, opera, theater, dance, film, and cabaret, centered around the 30th anniversary season of the Bard Music Festival, "Korngold and His World." This intensive examination of the life and times of Erich Wolfgang Korngold - the Viennese prodigy whose lush Romanticism would come to define the quintessential Hollywood sound - features themed concerts and panel discussions, together with a film series exploring "Korngold and the Poetry of Cinema," and the long overdue American premiere of the grand opera that the composer considered his masterpiece, The Miracle of Heliane ("Das Wunder der Heliane"), in a fully staged new production by German director Christian Räth. To complement these offerings, Daniel Fish's acclaimed staging of Michael Gordon's Acquanetta provides an alternative look at Hollywood's Golden Age, and Evidence, A Dance Company makes its festival debut with the world premiere of Grace and Mercy, a new SummerScape commission from choreographer and company founder Ronald K. Brown, with live music from Meshell Ndegeocello, Peven Everett, and others. Cabaret and jazz highlight a generous program of events in Bard's authentic and sensationally popular Belgian Spiegeltent. Taking place between June 29 and August 18 in the Frank Gehry-designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts and other venues on Bard College's picturesque Hudson Valley campus, SummerScape 2019 once again makes for a full "seven weeks of cultural delight" (International Herald Tribune). Tickets are now on sale; click here for more information.
London's Times Literary Supplement lauds Bard Summerscape as "the most intellectually ambitious of America's summer music festivals," while Bloomberg News calls it "the smartest mix of events within driving distance of New York." Travel and Leisure reports, "Gehry's acclaimed concert hall provides a spectacular venue for innovative fare." The New York Times calls SummerScape "a hotbed of intellectual and aesthetic adventure," Newsdayfinds it "brave and brainy," Musical America judges it "awesomely intensive," and the New York Post observes, "It's hard not to find something to like, and it's even harder to beat the setting." Time Out New York, naming the festival one of "New York's 20 coolest out-of-town spots," declares: "The experience of entering the Fisher Center and encountering something totally new is unforgettable and enriching."
* * * * *
Bard Summerscape 2019 - highlights by genre
Music: 30th Bard Music Festival, "Korngold and His World"
It is the Bard Music Festival - "a highlight of the musical year" (Wall Street Journal) - that provides the creative inspiration for SummerScape. In the three decades since its inception, the Bard Music Festival has become synonymous with a new kind of concert experience, one that provides a "rich web of context" (New York Times) for a full appreciation of each composer's inspirations, significance, and legacy. To date, the festival has illuminated the worlds of Brahms, Mendelssohn, Richard Strauss, Dvo?ák, Schumann, Bartók, Ives, Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Schoenberg, Beethoven, Debussy, Mahler, Janá?ek, Shostakovich, Copland, Liszt, Elgar, Prokofiev, Wagner, Berg, Sibelius, Saint-Saëns, Stravinsky, Schubert, Carlos Chávez, Puccini, Chopin, and Rimsky-Korsakov.
Bard's emphasis on thematic programming and its willingness to vary the traditional concert format, sometimes integrating orchestral, choral, solo, and chamber works within a single event, enables audiences to experience afresh the power of well-known works while discovering less familiar ones for the first time. Since its founding by Leon Botstein in 1990, the festival has succeeded in enriching 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" (THIRTEEN/WNET), Botstein serves as music director of both the American Symphony Orchestra, andThe Orchestra Now (T?N), a unique graduate training orchestra designed to help a new generation of musicians break down barriers between modern audiences and orchestral music of past and present. Under his leadership, both ensembles perform in the music festival each season, and the American Symphony Orchestra also anchors the annual staged opera.
The subject of this season's Bard Music Festival is a composer who straddled the worlds of fin-de-siècle Vienna and the Golden Age of Hollywood. "Korngold and His World" comprises an illuminating series of chamber, vocal, operatic, and orchestral concerts - as well as pre-concert talks, commentaries, and panel discussions - devoted to the life and times of Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957). Perhaps the greatest musical prodigy since Mozart, before turning twelve Korngold had already been proclaimed a genius by both Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss, while his concert and operatic works were routinely premiered and championed by the likes of Bruno Walter, Artur Schnabel, Jascha Heifetz, and Lotte Lehmann. Combining voluptuous chromaticism, soaring melodies, opulent orchestration, operatic leitmotifs, and a nostalgia for the Romanticism of his youth, Korngold's distinctive compositional voice would revolutionize film music, winning him two Academy Awards along the way. His music was performed for European royalty and at both of Reagan's inaugurations, while his influence continues to permeate the soundtracks of more recent films, like Star Wars, E.T., and Raiders of the Lost Ark. In light of this, he is surely "one of the most influential composers of the 20th century" (Korngold biographer Jessica Duchen).
Yet as the UK's Independent observes, "Korngold may just be the greatest composer you've never heard of." His classical career fell victim to a series of unfortunate events, thwarted first by his own father, Vienna's leading music critic, whose determination to advance his son's cause would spectacularly backfire. As a Jew, Korngold saw his music banned as "degenerate" by the Nazis, while he himself escaped persecution only by remaining in American exile. Perhaps most decisively, as the last of the great Viennese Romantics, his music was deemed too conservative for an establishment that embraced the innovations of Modernism. When his most popular concert work - the Violin Concerto made famous by Heifetz - first came to New York, the New York Sun quipped, "More corn than gold." For all his Hollywood success, the composer died stunned and embittered by the cold reception that greeted him when he tried to return to the European stage.
Drawing on recent scholarship, the Bard Music Festival's signature thematic programming, multidisciplinary approach, and emphasis on context and reception history provide the perfect platform for a reappraisal of this beleaguered legacy, revisiting Korngold's neglected concert repertoire, remembering his role as an operetta arranger, and doing full justice to his achievement in synthesizing 19th-century operatic practices with those of 20th-century cinema. Built around twelve concert programs, the numerous offerings that make up the 2019 festival take place during SummerScape's two final weekends, with Weekend One, Korngold and Vienna on August 9-11, andWeekend Two, Korngold in America on August 16-18. Through the prism of the composer's life and career, the festival explores themes including the importance of popular music, the orchestral imagination, musical conservatism in the Modernist age, the Third Reich's impact on Jewish musicians in Europe, and the development of music for film.
The festival will feature a broad sampling of Korngold's own music, including childhood masterpieces, rare orchestral and chamber works, excerpts from iconic film scores, a special screening of The Constant Nymph, and a semi-staged production of his best-loved opera, Die tote Stadt, to draw the entire seven weeks of SummerScape to a riveting close. Music by many of his compatriots and contemporaries will also be heard, including those who dominated the Viennese music scene in his early years, like Mahler, Strauss, Robert Fuchs, Joseph Marx, and his teacher Alexander von Zemlinsky; his fellow conservatives, like Ernst von Dohnányi and Franz Schmidt; those with whom he was unfavorably compared, like Franz Schreker, Ernst Krenek, and Paul Hindemith; Broadway legends like Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, and Leonard Bernstein; and some of the cinematic giants he influenced, like Max Steiner, Alfred Newman, Bernard Herrmann, Franz Waxman, and Miklós Rózsa, several of whom - together with Arnold Schoenberg, Hanns Eisler, Erich Zeisl, and Korngold himself - were also Jewish émigrés in Hollywood. To elucidate each concert's themes, there will be informative pre-concert talks and commentaries, supplemented by two thought-provoking panel discussions; these are 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 each season, with essays and translated documents relating to the featured composer and his world. Scholars-in-Residence Daniel Goldmark, co-editor of Beyond the Soundtrack: Representing Music in Cinema, and Kevin C. Karnes, whose publications include A Kingdom Not of This World: Wagner, the Arts, and Utopian Visions in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna, are the editors of the forthcoming 2019 volume, Erich Wolfgang Korngold and His World.
Dubbed "part boot camp for the brain, part spa for the spirit" (New York Times), the music festival consistently impresses critics worldwide. NPR named it "one of the '10 Can't-Miss Classical Music Festivals,'" the Los Angeles Times considers it "the summer's most stimulating music festival," and on his blog, veteran journalist Steve Smith confessed:
"For an unrepentant music geek like me, the Bard Music Festival is simply irresistible: a fabulous wealth of music by a major composer from the classical tradition, surrounded and contextualized with works by forebears, peers, colleagues, friends, enemies, students, followers - you name it."
In the New Yorker, Alex Ross commented: "At Bard, the talks and panels are nearly as well attended as the concerts: this audience wants to think about the music, not merely bathe in it." As the Wall Street Journal's Barrymore Laurence Scherer affirmed:
"The Bard Music Festival ... no longer needs an introduction. Under the provocative guidance of the conductor-scholar Leon Botstein, it has long been one of the most intellectually stimulating of all American summer festivals and frequently is one of the most musically satisfying."
Opera: The Miracle of Heliane (American premiere)
Korngold became a respected opera composer at just 19, with the success of his one-act operas, Der Ring des Polykrates and Violanta. His first full-length opera, Die tote Stadt, was such a hit in Europe that in 1921, only a year after its premiere, it was mounted at the Metropolitan Opera. By contrast, The Miracle of Heliane ("Das Wunder der Heliane," 1927) - the erotically charged parable of a ruthless despot, his beautiful wife, and a messianic stranger - was dogged by difficulties from the outset. First caught up in his father's critical crossfire, then banned by the Nazis after its acclaimed Hamburg premiere, Korngold's fourth opera all but disappeared from the repertoire, and almost a hundred years later has yet to be staged in the States. It features "Ich ging zu ihm," one of his best-loved arias, and the allegory about an isolated and brutal ruler could be said to have particular relevance today. The composer himself considered Heliane his most important work, and there are many who agree. Styling the opera "a huge, triumphant song of love and liberation on the grandest scale," The Guardian explains:
"Korngold's music had always been rich and sensual, but he outdid himself in Heliane. He reached the limits of his language in adventurous textures and bold harmonies, stretching his lavish orchestral and vocal resources to the utmost."
Indeed, for Brendan G. Carroll, President of the International Korngold Society, Heliane is not only "arguably the composer's greatest work," but also one that stands "among the masterpieces of Romantic opera."
Marking the long overdue American premiere of The Miracle of Heliane, Bard's new production will be directed by German director Christian Räth, whose work has graced stages from the Vienna State Opera to the Met, where he is currently leading the revival of La fille du regiment. Sets and costumes will be designed by the Berlin-based designer Esther Bialas, perhaps best-known for her electrifying designs for the Komische Oper production of Die Zauberflöte. This production of Heliane will feature the Lithuanian soprano Ausrine Stundyte, who makes a rare U.S. appearance with a reprise of the title role in which she recently gave a "transcendent performance" (Bachtrack) in Belgium. The role of the Stranger will be sung by Wagner Award-winner Daniel Brenna, "one of the best-known heldentenors of his generation" (Opera Wire), while The Ruler will be sung by award-winning bass-baritoneAlfred Walker. Anchored by the Bard Festival Chorale and American Symphony Orchestra under Botstein's direction, The Miracle of Heliane will run for five performances between July 26 and August 4, with an Opera Talk, free and open to the public, before the matinee on July 28.
Time Out New York observes, "Botstein and Bard Summerscape show courage, foresight and great imagination, honoring operas that larger institutions are content to ignore." Last season, thanks to the composer's "rhapsodically lyrical" music, Bard's "sensitive reading of the opera," and the "surging, rich performance Mr. Botstein drew from the American Symphony Orchestra and the Bard Festival Chorale," the New York Timesdeclared Anton Rubinstein's Demon to be "a winner." As Musical America recognizes: "Bard's annual opera has become an indispensable part of the summer operatic landscape."
Dance: world premiere of Ronald K. Brown's Grace and Mercy
Evidence, A Dance Company and its founder and artistic director Ronald K. Brown, whose honors include an Astaire Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship, make their festival debut with the world premiere of Grace and Mercy, a new SummerScape commission. This opens with Grace (live), a newly conceived version of Brown's beloved Grace, heralded by the New York Times as "astounding, something to be sensed as well as seen." Blending modern dance and West African idioms to depict a spiritual journey to the promised land, Grace was originally created for the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in 1998 and remains one of the most popular works in that company's repertory today. Grace is usually performed to recorded music, but to celebrate its 20th anniversary, SummerScape presents the first performances of Grace (live), danced entirely to live music, with performances by house and R&B artist Peven Everett, who is "one of the most understated, energised and passionate singers around" (BBC Music), and others. The evening also includes the world premiere of Mercy, a new companion piece, which is set to a brand-new score written and performed live by ten-time Grammy-nominated rock/soul singer-songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello, of whom the New York Times notes: "For all its complexities, Ms. Ndegeocello's music sounds as if it springs directly from a mind that's restlessly curious about ideas, people, interactions and possibilities, and is passionate about all of them."
About Evidence: A Dance Company, Dance magazine observes:
"Evidence has become a mainstay in the modern dance world and Brown is now considered a vanguard among choreographers fusing Western contemporary dance with movement from the African diaspora."
As the New York Times marvels: "If there is any company working today whose dancers pack a more sophisticated and vibrant kinetic punch than those of Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, I can't think of it."
SummerScape has long produced and premiered significant dance productions, including commissions from choreographers Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, Bill T. Jones, John Heginbotham, and Mark Morris. Last season's world premiere of Four Quartets, commissioned from Pam Tanowitz, Kaija Saariaho, and Brice Marden to mark the 75th anniversary of the publication of T.S. Eliot's iconic poem cycle, was named the "Best Dance Production of 2018" by the New York Times, which pronounced it "the greatest creation of dance theater so far this century."
SummerScape takes a contemporary look at Hollywood's Golden Age in Acquanetta, a visual and musical tour-de-force inspired by the eponymous B-movie star with a mysterious past. Known for her exotic beauty, Acquanetta - aka Mildred Davenport - was the star of such cult 1940s horror films as Captive Wild Woman, Jungle Woman, The Sword of Monte Cristo, and Tarzan and the Leopard Woman. Though thought to be of Arapaho heritage, she was billed as the "Venezuelan Volcano" and gave a different version of her past in every interview.
Her story provides the catalyst for Acquanetta, which combines theater, opera, and film in a haunting meditation on identity, transformation, types, and typecasting from composer and Bang on a Can co-founder Michael Gordonand his longtime collaborator, librettist Deborah Artman. Gordon's compositions have been described by the New Yorker as capturing "the fury of punk rock, the nervous brilliance of free jazz and the intransigence of classical modernism." Acquanetta's premiere in 2017 at New York's Prototype Festival was hailed as "a major addition to this composer's canon" (New York Times) and selected as a New York Magazine "Critics' Pick." Time Out New Yorkcalled Daniel Fish's production "unmissable, ... sublime, ... with massive-scale cinematic revelations unfolding out of a seemingly empty space."
The production marks Fish's first return to Bard since SummerScape 2015, when he debuted his revelatory new take on Oklahoma!, a production soon to open on Broadway following a sold-out run at Brooklyn's St. Ann's Warehouse, where it was chosen as one of the New York Times' "Best Theater of 2018" and as No. 1 on Time magazine's list of "The 10 Best Plays and Musicals of 2018." Featuring members of the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, and Bang on a Can Opera, Acquanetta will play in ten performances between July 11 and July 21 in Bard's LUMA Theater. Casting will be announced shortly.
SummerScape's theatrical track record is a stellar one. Offering a "stranger, sexier, more melancholic version of Peter Pan" (New York Times), last season's original production of Leonard Bernstein's rarely-performed musical theater gem was chosen as one of WQXR's most memorable concerts of 2018 and a highlight of the Bernstein centennial. As New York Arts declares: "Bard summer drama has been consistently of the highest order."
Film series: "Korngold and the Poetry of Cinema"
Held between July 25 and August 18, the 2019 film series explores the history and development of Hollywood's most ambitious film scores, with especial focus on Korngold's trailblazing orchestral music for the studio films of the 1930s and '40s. Two pictures explore the Viennese culture that shaped him as a young composer: The Ancient Law (1923), a silent drama about a rabbi's son who leaves the shtetl, will be accompanied by a live score performed by klezmer violinist Alicia Svigals and pianist Donald Sosin, while Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), one of Hollywood's great romantic melodramas, offers a sophisticated, nuanced reconstruction of a lost fin-de-siècle world. Representing Korngold's own first foray into film, Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle's pioneering take on A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) stars Olivia de Havilland and James Cagney, and features the composer's re-orchestration of Mendelssohn's incidental music for Shakespeare's comedy. Korngold's first full-length score was for Michael Curtiz's Captain Blood (1935), which not only established the template for the sound-era Hollywood swashbuckler but also marked Errol Flynn's emergence as a major star. Demonstrating the range of the composer's achievement in the 1940s are two Warner Brothers classics: the atmospheric Jack London adaptation, The Sea Wolf (1941), and the midwestern romance King's Row (1942), the original source of John Williams's Star Wars theme. Three later releases reveal something of the scope of Korngold's influence. Starring Humphrey Bogart, the classic adventure Treasures of the Sierra Madre (1948) boasts an innovative score by Korngold's contemporary Max Steiner. Likewise The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Alfred Hitchcock's remake of his own earlier picture, was scored by Bernard Herrmann, seen conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in the famous Albert Hall finale. Completing the series is Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), whose ambitious soundtrack gave new significance to Johann Strauss Jr.'s Blue Danube Waltz and Richard Strauss's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, besides introducing wider audiences to new music by György Ligeti and Aram Khachaturian.
Back for a 14th magnificent summer, Bard's authentic Spiegeltent has enchanted guests since its introduction to the festival in 2006. A handmade Belgian pavilion, decorated with mirrors and stained glass and evoking an era of bygone glamour, the tent provides a sumptuous and magical environment in which 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. Each weekend, a lineup of Spiegeltent favorites and irresistible newcomers take the reins for Friday and Saturday cabaret; the Catskill Jazz Factory returns with the Thursday night jazz series celebrating the American Songbook; and Sundays are packed with swing, storytelling, and other special live events. Dining is inspired by seasonal Hudson Valley ingredients and served with a full bar offering to complement the menu. Programming begins June 29 and runs Thursday-Sunday through August 17. Tickets will go on sale on March 6, with full programming and schedule to be announced at that time.