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Bard SummerScape 2017 Presents First Fully Staged American Production of Dvořák’s Dimitrij (July 28–Aug 6)
Plus Semi-Staging of First Great Polish Opera, Moniuszko’s Halka, in Bard Music Festival (Aug 19)
Mark Primoff“Botstein and Bard SummerScape show courage, foresight and great imagination, honoring operas that larger institutions are content to ignore.”
– Time Out New York
Annandale-on-Hudson, NY: Committed since its inception to reviving important but neglected operas, Bard SummerScape has long proven itself “an indispensable part of the summer operatic landscape” (Musical America). With the long overdue American staged premiere of Antonín Dvořák’s Dimitrij as its operatic centerpiece, this year’s immersion in “Chopin and His World” is no exception. Featuring Clay Hilley in an original new staging by award-winning director Anne Bogart, Dimitrij runs for five performances between July 28 and August 6, with an Opera Talk, free and open to the public, before the matinee on July 30. Bard Music Festival 2017 also offers an all-too-rare opportunity to see Stanisław Moniuszko’s Halka, Poland’s first great opera, in a semi-staged performance at the Bard Music Festival (August 19). Anchored by the American Symphony Orchestra under the leadership of music director and festival co-artistic director Leon Botstein, with the support of the Bard Festival Chorale under James Bagwell, both presentations take place on Bard’s glorious Hudson Valley campus in the striking Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center. As the Financial Times notes, “Some of the most important summer opera experiences in the U.S. are not at the better known festivals but at Bard SummerScape.”
Antonín Dvořák’s Dimitrij (1882)
Following Chopin’s artistic lineage, Bohemia’s Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904) is celebrated as one of the Romantic era’s great Slavic nationalists. Prolific and versatile, his extensive output includes no fewer than twelve operas, including the fairytale Rusalka, which is still in regular rotation at opera houses around the world. By contrast, his grand opera Dimitrij (1882) is rarely staged outside the Czech Republic, and only received its U.S. concert premiere in 1984, more than a century after its composition. Yet the opera was a popular success at its Prague premiere and has long been recognized as an exemplar of Dvořák’s signature lyricism and masterfully stirring choral writing.
Heralded by the Boston Globe as “a tragic story that Shakespeare could hardly have bettered,” Dimitrij continues 17th-century Russian history where Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov leaves off, vividly depicting the struggle for power during the “Time of Troubles” that ensued in the wake of the Tsar’s death. Mistakenly supposing himself to be Dimitrij, the murdered son of Ivan the Terrible, Dvořák’s protagonist believes he has a legitimate claim to the Russian throne, and leads the Polish army to march on Moscow. When he falls in love with Godunov’s daughter, however, and decides to divorce his own Polish wife, he unwittingly triggers the chain of events that will result in his demise. Ultimately tragic, the story of the False Dimitrij pits Orthodox Russia against Catholic Poland, a conflict Dvořák captures by setting Eastern Orthodox liturgical harmonies against the mazurka’s triple time. Complete with eight-part double choruses of Russians and Poles, the score showcases some of his finest writing, making Dimitrij, as the New York Times writes, “a perfect example of a forgotten opera that deserves to be given exposure.”
Marking the long overdue first fully staged American production of Dvořák’s opera, Bard’s historic presentation also features Dimitrij’s rarely heard, full-length overture and original, brutal conclusion. Conceived expressly for SummerScape 2017, the new production is by Anne Bogart, who co-founded the acclaimed SITI Company to redefine and revitalize contemporary American theater. A 1974 Bard alumna whose many honors include two “Best Director” Obies and the Jesse L. Rosenberger Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Creative & Performing Arts, it was Bogart who collaborated with Bill T. Jones on A Rite, the major new dance-theater piece Bard co-commissioned to commemorate SummerScape 2013’s centenary of The Rite of Spring.
Knowing Dimitrij’s absence from the operatic canon, when Bogart first approached the opera, her expectations were low. And yet on closer acquaintance, she found herself unable to account for this omission. She says:
“The more I look at the opera – the architecture of the piece and the absolutely gorgeous music – the more I am completely bewildered why it’s not done all the time, why it’s not a stable part of the repertoire in the opera world.”
About her vision for the upcoming production, she explains:
“For me it was important to set Dimitrij at a time analogous to the “Time of Troubles” in Russia, when the world order had altered and no one knew whether to support or resist the new hegemony. Of course this instability is very familiar and resonant to our own current moment. I could have set our production in the present but instead I opted for the slight distancing of a time reminiscent of 1989 Berlin. Our Dimitrij takes place at the moment in history when Communism had collapsed but it was not yet clear what shape the future might take.”
Click here to see Bogart talk further about the historic context for Dimitrij.
Headlining Bard’s original production is tenor Clay Hilley, winner of the New York Wagner Society’s Robert Lauch Award. After his recent title role appearance in Idomeneo, Germany’s Main-Post marveled:
“Hilley commands the stage with his physical presence. His powerful tenor combines force and clarity – nobody would ever call into question the leadership of this bear of a man.”
Soprano Melissa Citro makes her festival debut as Dimitrij’s Polish wife, Marina, having already demonstrated her abilities with Dvořák’s music in the title role of Rusalka, in which, as Opera News reports:
“Citro gave unstintingly of a bright and beautiful voice, singing with the utmost security and power. Her portrayal of the unhappy heroine was fully nuanced, demonstrating a complete understanding of this complex character.”
Completing their fatal love triangle as Godunov’s daughter, Xenie, is Russian soprano Olga Tolkmit. A nominee for Russia’s Golden Mask Award, in her American debut as Elektra in SummerScape 2013’s Oresteia she impressed the Financial Times with her “resonant, bright-voiced soprano.” Nora Sourouzian – “a velvet-voiced mezzo-soprano from Canada with an arresting stage personality” (The Telegraph, UK) – returns to the festival as Marfa, widow of Ivan the Terrible. Like her, Levi Hernandez starred in Bard’s La Navarraise last season on a double-bill with Puccini’s Le Villi. Blessed with an “impressive knack for subtle text-painting within a pristinely negotiated coloratura line” (Opera News), he sings the role of Prince Shuisky, leader of the Godunov faction and eventual murderer of Dimitrij, while Joseph Barron lends his “rolling, imposing baritone” (Opera Today) to that of General Basmanov, who leads the doomed pretender’s supporters. Peixin Chen, bass, makes his SummerScape debut in the role of Jove, or the patriarch, having most recently performed in productions of Aida and Salome at the Metropolitan Opera. Rounding out Bard’s cast as Neborsky and Bucinsky respectively are bass-baritone Joseph Damon Chappel, a founding member of the Grammy-nominated Tiffany Consort, as seen in previous SummerScape productions of Die Liebe der Danae and Le roi malgré lui; and baritone Thomas McCargar, a member of the Grammy Award-winning Choir of Trinity Wall Street who has collaborated with artists ranging from contemporary composers Du Yun and Missy Mazzoli to Andrea Bocelli, Kanye West, and the Rolling Stones.
To help realize Bogart’s vision, Bard’s production features sets by Tony and Obie Award-winner David Zinn; costumes by Tony nominee and Outer Critics Circle Award-winner Constance Hoffman; lighting by Henry Hewes Design Award-winner Brian H. Scott; movement direction by Barney O’Hanlon, whose three decades of Bogart collaborations include SummerScape 2013’s A Rite; and hair and makeup by Jared Janas and David Bova, whose work graced last year’s mainstage presentation of Iris.
High resolution images for Bard’s production of Dimitrij are available here.
Stanisław Moniuszko’s Halka (1858), Bard Music Festival, Program 9
Although several of Chopin’s contemporaries explicitly expressed the hope that he would be the one to write Poland’s first great opera, that distinction fell instead to his compatriot Stanisław Moniuszko (1819–72). On August 19, Bard presents an all-too-rare semi-staged performance of Halka (1858), the four-act masterwork with which Moniuszko ensured his legacy as the father of Polish opera. Set to a politically charged libretto by Włodzimierz Wolski, a poet with radical social views, Halka is the story of the eponymous young peasant woman whose arrival disrupts an engagement party between wealthy landowners Janusz and Zofia. It soon transpires that Halka is not only in love with Janusz, but believes herself engaged to him, and is pregnant with his child. When she loses the baby and learns that Janusz intends to go ahead with the wedding, Halka is broken-hearted, and, after fantasizing about revenge, takes her own life instead. Regularly performed in Poland, Halka remains virtually unknown abroad, despite being “redolent with the melodic flavors of Polish folk music and balladry” (New York Times), and hailed as “melodious, affecting and appealing: … a rare treat” (Washington Post).
Bard’s semi-staged production stars Amanda Majeski in the title role. A Polish-American soprano whose honors include first prize at the Palm Beach Opera Vocal Competition, Majeski recently gave “a commanding performance” (Opera News) at Washington National Opera that proved “a great showcase for her rich, resonant soprano” (Financial Times). Singing opposite her as the faithless Janusz is Aubrey Allicock, who graced Bard’s “Turandot Project” last summer, and whose “bass-baritone has a distinctively glossy, warm color, with increasingly impressive freedom and fullness at the top of its range” (Opera News). Returning to the festival after her “consistently excellent” (New York Arts) appearances in previous seasons, mezzo-soprano Teresa Buchholz – winner of the female division at Carnegie Hall’s Nico Castel International Master Singer Competition – sings the role of Janusz’s kind-hearted young bride, Zofia. Liam Moran, a “sturdy bass who sings with affecting gravity” (New York Times), undertakes that of her father, Stolnik, and Miles Mykkanen, a 2016 Sullivan Foundation award recipient who impressed Opera News with his tenor’s “sheer vocal gold,” sings the part of Jontek, an old friend of Halka’s whose love for her remains unrequited.
Returning to helm Bard’s semi-staged production are director Mary Birnbaum, scenic designer Grace Laubacher, and lighting designer Anshuman Bhatia, the creative team behind last year’s double-bill of Le Villi and La Navarraise. “A director of real quality” (Houston Press), Birnbaum is an International Opera Awards finalist whose work has been variously described as “unsettlingly immediate” (New York Times) and “a dazzling display of inventiveness and … delight” (San Francisco Chronicle).
About opera at Bard SummerScape
Since the opening of the Fisher Center at Bard, 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 these presentations and their remarkable stagings have been warmly received by audiences and critics alike – not least, last season’s fully staged production of Mascagni’s Iris. The New York Observer considered this “as deeply moving an opera performance as I’ve heard this season, thanks to a subtle but devastating staging,” and Opera News declared: “Operagoers are once again in debt to Leon Botstein’s Bard SummerScape.” As Musical America observes, “Botstein and Bard SummerScape show courage, foresight and great imagination, honoring operas that larger institutions are content to ignore.”
Illustrating the scope and originality of the festival’s programming, a list of Bard’s previous operatic offerings follows below:
2016: Mascagni – Iris
Puccini – Il tabarro and Le Villi; Massenet – La Navarraise; Busoni – Turandot; Puccini/Berio – Turandot
2015: Smyth – The Wreckers (first fully staged American production)
2014: Weber – Euryanthe (first American revival in 100 years)
Schubert – Fierrabras; Die Verschworenen
von Suppé – Franz Schubert
2013: Taneyev – Oresteia (first fully staged production outside Russia)
Stravinsky – Oedipus Rex, Perséphone, and Mavra
2012: Chabrier – Le roi malgré lui (first staged revival of original version)
Saint-Saëns – Henry VIII
2011: Strauss – Die Liebe der Danae (first fully staged New York production)
2010: Schreker – Der ferne Klang
Hindemith – Sancta Susanna
Weill – Royal Palace
2009: Meyerbeer – Les Huguenots
2008: Szymanowski – King Roger; Harnasie (double-bill)
2007: Zemlinsky – Der Zwerg; Eine florentinische Tragödie (first U.S. double-bill production)
2006: Schumann – Genoveva (first U.S. professional production)
2005: Blitzstein – Regina
2004: Shostakovich – The Nose (first East-coast professional production)
2003: Janáček – Osud (first U.S. staged production)
Click here to see a celebration of opera at Bard SummerScape.
Opera at Bard SummerScape 2017
Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
American Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Leon Botstein, music director
Directed by Anne Bogart
Set design: David Zinn
Costume design: Constance Hoffman
Lighting design: Brian H. Scott
Movement director: Barney O’Hanlon
Hair and makeup design: Jared Janas and David Bova
Dimitrij: Clay Hilley, tenor
Marina: Melissa Citro, soprano
Xenie: Olga Tolkmit, soprano
Marfa: Nora Sourouzian, mezzo-soprano
Jove: Peixin Chen, bass
Shuisky: Levi Hernandez, baritone
Basmanov: Joseph Barron, bass-baritone
Neborsky: Joseph Damon Chappel, bass-baritone
Bucinsky: Thomas McCargar, baritone
July 28 & August 4 at 7:30 pm
July 30*, August 2 & August 6* at 2 pm
Tickets start at $25
July 30 at 12 pm
Free and open to the public
Special support for this program is provided by Emily H. Fisher and John Alexander.
Opera in the 2017 Bard Music Festival, “Fryderyk Chopin and His World”
Stanislaw Moniuszko (1819–72)
Bard Festival Chorale
Conducted by James Bagwell
American Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Leon Botstein, music director
Directed by Mary Birnbaum
Scenic design: Grace Laubacher
Lighting design: Anshuman Bhatia
Halka: Amanda Majeski, soprano
Jontek: Miles Mykkanen, tenor
Janusz: Aubrey Allicock, bass baritone
Zofia: Teresa Buchholz, mezzo-soprano
Stolnik: Liam Moran, bass
Program Nine, The Polish National Opera: Halka *
7 pm Preconcert Talk: Halina Goldberg
8 pm Performance*
* Round-trip transportation from Manhattan to Bard is available for this performance. The round-trip fare is $40 and reservations are required; see further details below.
SummerScape 2017: other key performance dates by genre
Bard Music Festival, Weekend One: “Chopin, the Piano, and Musical Culture of the 19th Century” (Aug 11–13)
Bard Music Festival, Weekend Two: “Originality and Influence” (Aug 18–20)
New York City Ballet MOVES: Robbins’s Dances at a Gathering and other works by Balanchine and Peck
June 30; July 1 & 2* at 7:30 pm
July 2 at 2 pm
Tickets start at $25
The Wooster Group: A PINK CHAIR (IN PLACE OF A FAKE ANTIQUE) (world premiere)
July 13, 14, 15*, 20, 21 & 22 at 7:30 pm
July 16*, 19, 22 & 23* at 2 pm
Tickets start at $25
“Chopin and the Image of Romanticism”
Ottaway Film Center
Thursdays and Sundays, July 27–Aug 20
Live Music, Cabaret, Jazz, Festival Dining, and After Hours salon
Dates, times, and prices vary
Bard SummerScape ticket information
Tickets for all Bard SummerScape events are now on sale. For tickets and further information on all SummerScape events, call the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900 or visit fishercenter.bard.edu/summerscape.
SummerScape opera, theater, and dance performances and most Bard Music Festival programs are held in the Sosnoff Theater or LUMA Theater 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, and 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.
New York City Round-Trip Coach Transportation:
To make a reservation on the round-trip SummerScape coach provided exclusively to ticket holders for specific performances indicated by * in the listings above, call the box office at 845-758-7900 or select this option when purchasing tickets. The round-trip fare is $40 and reservations are required. The coach departs from behind Lincoln Center, on Amsterdam Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets. Find additional details at: fishercenter.bard.edu/transportation.
All programs are subject to change.
The 2017 SummerScape season is made possible in part through the generous support of Jeanne Donovan Fisher, the Martin and Toni Sosnoff Foundation, the Board of The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, the Board of the Bard Music Festival, and Fisher Center members, as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
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This event was last updated on 04-20-2017