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First Fully-Staged New York Production of Richard Strauss’s Opera Die Liebe der Danae Opens Friday, July 29 at Bard SummerScape
Image Credit: Photo by Todd Norwood
Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. – Bard SummerScape presents the first fully-staged New York production of Richard Strauss’s unjustly neglected opera Die Liebe der Danae (The Love of Danae, 1940), opening Friday, July 29 at the celebrated Richard B. Fisher Center at Bard College (five performances through August 7). The production stars soprano Meagan Miller, a grand finals winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and will be directed by dynamic young opera and theater director Kevin Newbury; both are making their SummerScape debuts. Set designs are by the renowned Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly. The opera’s five performances (July 29 & 31; August 3, 5, & 7) feature the festival’s resident American Symphony Orchestra and music director Leon Botstein, whose 2001 Telarc recording of the work won high praise; Botstein gives a free Opera Talk before the July 31 performance.
Reviving an important but rarely performed opera is one of the ways the Bard SummerScape festival paints a nuanced portrait of the past, and this year’s exploration of “Sibelius and His World,” the subject of the 21st annual Bard Music Festival in August, is no exception. Sibelius (1865-1957) and Richard Strauss (1864-1949) were close contemporaries, whose life and work show noteworthy parallels. In selecting Die Liebe der Danae as its operatic centerpiece, Bard aims to investigate those similarities.
Like Sibelius, Strauss excelled at painting nature in sound, and the two manifested greater command of orchestral color than any other composers of the 20th century. Both flirted briefly with atonality in the wake of Schoenberg’s first expressionist experiments: Strauss with Salome and Elektra and Sibelius with his Fourth Symphony and Luonnotar. Both composers, moreover, abandoned it soon afterwards, Strauss re-embracing a more tonal musical language with Der Rosenkavalier and Sibelius with The Oceanides and the Fifth Symphony. In addition, both composers turned to the distant past, and in particular to myth, to deal with issues of their day. For Sibelius, the Kalevala provided the basis of his exploration of national identity and nationhood. And Strauss turned to the Greeks to explore love, human nature, and money.
Both supported each other’s work: it was Strauss who conducted the world premiere in Berlin of Sibelius’s seminal violin concerto in 1905, while, for his part, the great Finn studied Strauss’s music in Germany, where he reported finding Salome’s instrumentation “masterly.”
If the two, while each achieving a distinctive and original voice, may be said to have resisted musical modernity, this conservatism extended also to politics: both Strauss and Sibelius, facing different pressures in their respective corners of Europe, made compromising concessions to the Nazis. When Finland allied herself with Germany against the Soviets, Sibelius – championed as a Nordic “Aryan” – became a favorite composer of the Third Reich, and his works received numerous performances. While harboring private doubts about the Nazis’ racial laws and policies, he took no public stand against them, and was assiduous in collecting German royalties.
Strauss, based in Berlin, tried to cooperate with the Nazi regime while maintaining a non-political stance, in order to promote his career and advocate for Jewish friends and relations, who included his daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Although he has often been denounced as a Nazi stooge, in fact Strauss’s role was more complicated; it is telling that he privately considered Goebbels’s “Jew-baiting as a disgrace to German honor,” while the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, in his turn, looked forward to having “no further need of this decadent neurotic.”
Since the opening of the Fisher Center at Bard, Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra have been responsible for championing and restoring to the stage a growing number of important but long-neglected operas. All of these presentations and their remarkable stagings have been warmly received by audiences, not least last season’s The Distant Sound (Der ferne Klang). The opera by Franz Schreker was selected as one of New York’s “Top Ten Classical Music Events of 2010”. As the magazine explained, “A hit in 1912, Schreker’s brilliantly florid opera has recently reemerged after a long dormancy and made its U.S. stage debut at Bard last summer in a performance good enough to whet the appetite for a major opera company’s attentions.” The New York Times agreed:
“Mr. Botstein did outstanding work in managing a score of daunting complexity and eloquent nuance. … [Director] Mr. Strassberger’s engagement was evident throughout, helping to underscore the most crucial lesson to be learned from the undertaking: Der ferne Klang is not merely a lavish curiosity worth a sidelong glance but a powerful, provocative work that richly deserves the committed advocacy it received here. All told, this presentation must surely number among Mr. Botstein’s most important achievements.”
Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
Die Liebe der Danae (The Love of Danae, 1940)
Libretto: Joseph Gregor
American Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Leon Botstein, music director
Directed by Kevin Newbury
Set design by Rafael Viñoly
Danae: Meagan Miller
Jupiter: Carsten Wittmoser
Merkur: Jud Perry
Pollux: Dennis Petersen
Xanthe: Sarah Jane McMahon
Midas: Roger Honeywell
Semele: Aurora Perry
Europa: Camille Zamora
Alkmene: Jamie Van Eyck
July 29 and August 5 at 7 pm
July 31, August 3 and 7 at 3 pm
Tickets: $30, $60, $70, $90
Opera Talk with Leon Botstein
July 31 at 1 pm
Free and open to the public
Other Bard SummerScape Highlights (listed chronologically)
Henrik Ibsen: The Wild Duck
July 13†, 17†, 20†, and 24† at 3 pm
July 14–16* and 21–23* at 8 pm
“Before and After Bergman: The Best of Nordic Film”
Thursdays and Sundays, July 14 - August 18 at 7 pm; additional shows Sundays at 4 pm
Ottaway Film Center
Noël Coward (1899-1973)
Bitter Sweet (1929)
Libretto: Noël Coward
Conducted by James Bagwell
Directed by Michael Gieleta
Arranged by Jack Parton
August 4, 6, and 11 at 8 pm
August 5, 10, 12, 13, and 14 at 3 pm
August 7 at 7 pm
Bard Music Festival – Weekend One:
“Sibelius and His World: Imagining Finland”
Bard Music Festival – Weekend Two:
“Sibelius and His World: Sibelius – Conservative or Modernist?”
* Round-trip transportation from Manhattan to Bard is available for this performance. Fare is $25. Reservations are required.
† Round-trip shuttle between the MetroNorth station in Poughkeepsie, the Amtrak station in Rhinecliff, and Bard is available for this performance. Reservations are required.
Bard SummerScape Ticket Information
The Bard SummerScape Festival is made possible through the generous support of the Advisory Boards of the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts and the Bard Music Festival, and the Friends of the Fisher Center.
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
All program information is subject to change.
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This event was last updated on 07-24-2011