The resonance of ancient myths and centuries-old historical events in our own times is a recurrent theme of the annual celebration of the arts.
The seven-week festival opened on Thursday, July 9 with Lucinda Childs's Dance, to music by Philip Glass and a film by Sol LeWitt, and closes on August 23 with the final concert of the 20th annual Bard Music Festival, which focuses this year on "Wagner and His World". Other SummerScape highlights include Meyerbeer's grand opera Les Huguenots; the Oresteia trilogy of Aeschylus; a special performance of Mendelssohn's St. Paul; a film festival focusing on "Politics, Theater, and Wagner"; and the return of Bard's beloved Spiegeltent for the full seven weeks.
A significant dance performance has opened SummerScape each year since 2006. This year, the Lucinda Childs Dance Company opened the festival with a gala performance of Ms. Childs's highly acclaimed 1979 creation, Dance, to Philip Glass's score of a film by Sol LeWitt (July 9: 12). Thanks to Bard's re-commissioning of Dance, LeWitt's film has been newly restored for the festival. As writer Susan Sontag has observed, "Childs's work is about love of dance ...Dance for Childs is the art of euphoria."
The "uniquely stimulating" (Los Angeles Times) Bard Music Festival provides the creative inspiration for SummerScape, presenting "Wagner and His World" _ a far-reaching and illuminating program of orchestral, chamber, and choral concerts, as well as lectures, films, and symposia, devoted to exploring the life and times of a composer who remains as controversial as he is revered. The two weekends of the Bard Music Festival will take place on August 14: 16 and August 21: 23.
The American Symphony Orchestra, under its music director, Leon Botstein, is in residence at Bard throughout SummerScape, performing opera, concerts, and an oratorio. Of major importance is the programming of concert excerpts from every one of Richard Wagner's operas, from Die Feen (1834) to Parsifal (1882).
Bard's annual fully-staged opera will be Giacomo Meyerbeer's grandly scaled Les Huguenots, its four performances directed by Thaddeus Strassberger, designed by Eugenio Recuenco, with costumes by Mattie Ullrich. Mr. Botstein will conduct the American Symphony Orchestra. The five-act opera, composed in 1836 for the Paris Op_ra, requires seven superb singers and a large cast to recreate the historic 16th-century massacre of French Protestants and a hopeless love story, in full-blown 19th-century Romantic style (July 31, August 2, 5, & 7).
In theater, Bard will present Aeschylus's trilogy, Oresteia, in the translation by Ted Hughes. The three plays _ Agamemnon, Choephori, and The Eumenides _ will be directed by Gregory Thompson. Bard is offering special prices to those who subscribe to all three plays (July 15: August 2).
A single oratorio performance will be part of SummerScape 2009 _ a presentation of Felix Mendelssohn's St. Paul, given during the bicentennial season of the composer's birth. The 1836 Biblical oratorio _ like its 1846 "sibling," Elijah _ arguably demonstrates the young composer's spiritual connection to the Jewish roots of his prominent Christian-convert family (August 9). Since Wagner despised Mendelssohn for his Jewish birth, and yet also admired his work, the inclusion of this Romantic German oratorio is a significant and striking aspect of "Wagner and His World". Another is the festival's exploration of the conflict between those who supported and promoted Wagner and his aesthetic, and those who supported his supposed antipode, Brahms. The examination of Wagner is a fitting 20th-anniversary season for the festival, whose inaugural season was dedicated to Brahms.
SummerScape 2009 also includes a film festival, a series of international films relating in numerous ways to the season's theme. This year, "Politics, Theater, and Wagner" will include showings of Chaplin's The Great Dictator, Max Ophuls's Lola Monts, and Visconti's Ludwig _ all rarities in the era of DVD and movies on-demand. Screenings are on Thursdays and Sundays, and tickets are only $8 (July 16: August 20).
Finally, for a fourth magnificent summer, the authentic, one-of-a-kind Belgian Spiegeltent returns _ sensationally popular since its introduction at Bard in 2006, the first time one of these fabulous structures appeared in America. Offering food, beverages, and entertainment Thursday through Sunday throughout SummerScape, the Spiegeltent is the festival's center for fun and refreshment. During weekend days there are family programs, and in the evening there's a lineup of cutting-edge cabaret and musical performances, with post-show dancing and drinks.
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, caf_, and bar before and after performances. The Film Festival screenings are at the Jim Ottaway Jr. Film Center in the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Center.
Special Coach Transportation:
To make a reservation on the round-trip coach provided exclusively to ticket holders for specific performances, call the Box Office at 845-758-7900. The fare is $10 round-trip, and reservations are required. The coach departs Columbus Circle four hours before scheduled curtain time to allow for dining in the Spiegeltent or a pre-performance visit to Bard's Hessel Museum.
Chronological List of SummerScape 2009 Highlights
July 9 SummerScape opens with Lucinda Childs's Dance, to Philip Glass (through July 12)
July 11 Gala Benefit before and after performance of Lucinda Childs's Dance
July 15-Aug 2 Seven complete performances of the Aeschylus trilogy, Oresteia
July 16-Aug 20 Film Festival "Politics, Theater, and Wagner" (ten films)
July 31 First of four performances of Meyerbeer's opera Les Huguenots (through August 7)
August 9 Special single performance of Mendelssohn's oratorio St. Paul
August 14 Annual Bard Music Opening Night Dinner in the Spiegeltent
August 14-16 Bard Music Festival, Weekend One: "Wagner and His World"
August 21-23 Bard Music Festival, Weekend Two: "Wagner and His World"
Bard SummerScape Ticket Information
For complete programs, tickets and further information for all SummerScape events call the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900 or visit www.fishercenter.bard.edu