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The Bard College Conservatory of Music Graduate Vocal Arts Program Presents An Opera Double Bill

Features world premiere of Payne Hollow by Shawn Jaeger and The Turn of the Screw by Benjamin Britten

Eleanor Davis

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—The Graduate Vocal Arts Program of The Bard College Conservatory of Music presents evening and matinée opera performances in the Sosnoff Theater of The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, March 14, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, March 16, at 2 p.m. The double bill features two professionally staged one-act operas, including the world premiere of Payne Hollow by Shawn Jaeger, conducted by Carl Christian Bettendorf; and The Turn of the Screw by Benjamin Britten, conducted by James Bagwell. The production is directed by Nicholas Muni and features the talented singers of the Conservatory Graduate Vocal Arts Program and the musicians of the Conservatory Orchestra. Tickets are $15, $25, $35, and $100 (the latter includes priority seating and an invitation to a special champagne reception on Sunday, March 16, of which $75 is tax deductible). All ticket sales benefit the Conservatory’s scholarship fund. To purchase tickets, call the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900 or go to

Dawn Upshaw, artistic director of the Graduate Vocal Arts Program, says, “We are very excited and pleased to present the world premiere of Payne Hollow, a chamber opera with libretto by distinguished Kentucky author Wendell Berry, based on his short verse play Sonata at Payne Hollow, with music written by young American composer Shawn Jaeger.” 

Jaeger describes Payne Hollow as “a love story, a ghost story, and a tribute to lives lived in harmony with the land. It celebrates two modern-day Thoreaus—Harlan and Anna Hubbard—who, from 1951 to 1986, lived in solitude and self-sufficiency, without electricity, in a small home they built on the bank of the Ohio River, at Payne Hollow.” 

Stage director Nicholas Muni has paired Payne Hollow with another extraordinary work, Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, based on a novella by Henry James. The chamber work tells the tale of the haunting of a country estate by two ghosts and the imagination of a highly strung young woman: are the ghosts real or in her imagination? It is a story about good versus evil, corruption versus innocence, and the supernatural. 

The operas will be performed by sopranos Angela Aida Carducci, Elizabeth Cohen, Lucy Fitz Gibbon, Helen Zhibing Huang, Kameryn Lueng, Devony Smith, Laura Soto-Bayomi, and Sarah Tuttle; mezzo-sopranos Katherine Maysek and Sara LeMesh; Vincent Festa, tenor; and Jeremy Hirsch and Michael Hofmann, baritones. 

The Conservatory’s Graduate Vocal Arts program produces a fully staged opera program every two years, giving young artists the opportunity to collaborate with theater professionals. For more information about this program and to purchase tickets go to, or call 845-758-7900.


James Bagwell Conductor, The Turn of the Screw

James Bagwell maintains an active international schedule as a conductor of choral, operatic, and orchestral music. In 2009 he was appointed music director of The Collegiate Chorale and principal guest conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra, leading them in numerous concerts at Carnegie Hall. In July he will prepare The Collegiate Chorale for four concerts at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland; in 2012 they traveled to Israel and the Salzburg Festival for performances with the Israel Philharmonic. Bagwell has prepared The Concert Chorale of New York for many performances with the American Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Mostly Mozart Festival, all in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. Since 2012 he has collaborated with singer Natalie Merchant, appearing with a number of major American orchestras including the San Francisco and Seattle symphony orchestras. Since 2003 he has been director of choruses for the Bard Music Festival, conducting and preparing choral works during the summer festival at the Fisher Center. Bagwell is professor of music at Bard College and codirector of the Graduate Conducting Program.

Carl Christian Bettendorf Conductor, Payne Hollow

Carl Christian Bettendorf is a New York–based composer and conductor. Born in Hamburg, Germany, he studied composition with Hans-Jürgen von Bose and Wolfgang Rihm in Munich and Karlsruhe before moving to New York, where he received his doctorate from Columbia University under Tristan Murail. Bettendorf’s works have been played at many prestigious venues and festivals in Europe, North America, Asia, and Australia. In July 1997, his first opera, Escorial, after Michel de Ghelderode, was premiered at the Prinzregententheater in Munich. He has received many awards, among them a fellowship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), a six-month residency at the Cité des Arts in Paris, and a Fromm Foundation commission. Increasingly active as a conductor, Bettendorf has worked with ensembles in New York (Wet Ink, counter)induction, Talea Ensemble) and abroad (Piano Possibile in Munich, Ostravská banda in the Czech Republic) and has appeared with the Opéra national de Montpellier in France, where he conducted the French premiere of Elliott Carter’s opera, What Next? He is director of the Manhattanville College Community Orchestra in Purchase, New York, and has served as assistant conductor for the Columbia University and American Composers orchestras, Miller Theatre, and the Munich Biennale. He has recorded for Albany, Carrier, and Hat Hut Records, among others. His music has been broadcast on German, Swiss, Canadian, U.S., and Australian radio.

Shawn Jaeger Composer, Payne Hollow

Shawn Jaeger was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1985. His music often draws inspiration from Appalachian ballad singing and hymnody. Honors include an ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award, two BMI Student Composer Awards, and the Claire Rosen and Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists. His works have been performed by Dawn Upshaw and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, JACK Quartet, Ensemble Dal Niente, Chicago Q Ensemble, Great Noise Ensemble, and Contemporaneous, and at venues including Zankel Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, (le) poisson rouge, Galapagos Art Space, Chicago Cultural Center, Atlas Performing Arts Center, and Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. He has received commissions from Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, The Bard College Conservatory of Music, and the Jerome Fund/American Composers Forum. Jaeger is currently a doctoral candidate at Northwestern University; he previously studied at the University of Michigan.

Nicholas Muni Stage Director and Production Designer

Nicholas Muni has directed with companies such as San Francisco Opera, New York City Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Houston Grand Opera, Seattle Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, and Opera Theatre of St. Louis. In Europe he has directed for the Prague National Opera, Kurt Weill International Festival, Theater Erfurt, Tiroler Landestheater in Innsbruck, and Stadttheater Bern. His revival of Jeu˚nfa at the Canadian Opera Company in 2003 received Canada’s prestigious DORA award for best theater production of the year. His recent productions include the U.S. stage premiere of Das Liebesverbot at Glimmerglass Opera, La finta giardiniera and L’amico Fritz at San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program, Carmen at Boston Lyric Opera, Cardillac at Opera Boston, the U.S. stage premiere of El amor  brujo and La vida breve at Manhattan School of Music, and L’elisir d’amore at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia. His immediate upcoming projects will be Florencia en el Amazonas at Boston University Opera Institute and Don Giovanni at Opera Company of Philadelphia. Muni has served as artistic director for the Tulsa Opera (1987–93) and Cincinnati Opera (1996–2005). He is currently professor of stagecraft at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia and the Graduate Vocal Arts Program at The Bard College Conservatory of Music.

The Bard College Conservatory of Music Graduate Vocal Arts Program is a unique master of music program in vocal performance. Conceived, designed and led by renowned American soprano Dawn Upshaw, the program was created to prepare the young singer to meet the special challenges of pursuing a professional career in music in the 21st century. This two-year master of music degree balances a respect for established repertory and expressive techniques with the flexibility and curiosity needed to keep abreast of evolving musical ideas. Students work on art song, chamber music, new music and operatic repertoire throughout the coursework of the program. Operatic repertoire is studied and performed throughout the curriculum and, in alternate years, in a fully staged production at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. The program also includes a strong practical component with seminars and classes on career skills led by some of the leading figures in arts management and administration. 

Recognized as one of the finest conservatories in the United States, The Bard College Conservatory of Music, founded in 2005, is guided by the principle that musicians should be broadly educated in the liberal arts and sciences to achieve their greatest potential. All undergraduates complete two degrees over a five-year period, a bachelor of music and a bachelor of arts in a field other than music.

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February 24, 2014


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This event was last updated on 04-25-2014