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BARD SUMMERSCAPE PRESENTS TWO OPERATIC RARITIES: BLITZSTEIN’S REGINA AND COPLAND’S TENDER LAND WILL BE STAGED BY REMARKABLE PRODUCTION TEAMS
Mark PrimoffFESTIVAL FOCUS ON “COPLAND AND HIS WORLD”
INCLUDES WORKS BY THE “DEAN OF AMERICAN MUSIC”
AND MANY OF HIS CONTEMPORARIES
The third annual SummerScape festival at Bard and the Bard Music Festival concentrate this year on “The American Century” and “The American Century’s Arts” — the period when American culture had found its unmistakable voice and was able to project it not only across the land, but also around the world.
This year, from the arena of the opera stage, SummerScape presents five performances of Marc Blitzstein’s opera Regina, between Friday, July 29, and Saturday, August 6. Lauren Flanigan will play the title role. The American opera star is renowned for her searing portrayals of characters like Lady Macbeth, Queen Elizabeth I, and Lizzie Borden’s stepmother, and has been called an “adrenaline soprano.”
And on August 4, Aaron Copland’s three-act opera The Tender Land will have its first SummerScape performance, in the 1987 chamber version by Murry Sidlin. There will be five additional performances through August 12.
True to its tradition of engaging artists of diverse disciplines for exciting theatrical presentations, SummerScape has put together remarkable production teams for both operas: Regina will be directed by theater and film veteran Peter Schneider — famed for his work on both The Lion King (both the Disney animated film and the Broadway production) and Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida, among many other productions and films. Regina’s sets are designed by installation artist and sculptor Judy Pfaff, who was awarded a coveted MacArthur Fellowship in 2004 (the so-called “genius” grant). The MacArthur Foundation web site describes the work of the English-born American artist:
“Dynamic, exuberant, large-scale (and typically site-specific) installations [that] incorporate local materials and combine painting, sculpture, and architecture. These works include carefully crafted elements of her own making with found materials, both man-made and natural, to create protean forms of rich complexity.”
Her work has been exhibited at such institutions as the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney, and she has exhibited in more than 100 shows. Ms. Pfaff received her MFA from Yale and is now a professor of art at Bard College.
Erica Schmidt, who will direct Copland’s opera, The Tender Land, won accolades two seasons ago for her unconventional reworking of Shakespeare’s As You Like It at the Public Theater. At that time, veteran theater critic John Heilpern wrote an open letter to Schmidt in the New York Observer, opening with “You don’t know me, but I wanted to tell you how very gifted you are . . . [A] director at the start of [her] career who can stage As You Like It as wittily as you . . . is absolutely the director for me.”
Another critic wrote:
“The magician who transformed the text into exhilarating theater is director Erica Schmidt, whose destiny is writ large. . . . [Her] inspired action, the wit bubbling up in unexpected places, her blocking, fiendishly difficult on a thrust stage, the very concept behind her doubling of characters added up to pleasures not seen in many a day of Shakespeare productions.” (Nina daVinci Nichols, TheaterScene.net)
Ms. Schmidt herself says of her new production of Copland’s “chamber opera:”
“The piece tells the story of one American farming family in the early 1930s in June. It is told in plain language, and I’m striving to keep the production true to Copland’s instructions – to conceive it with ‘an eye to modest production and intimate scale.... poetic, simple, rustic and spontaneous.’ The design comes from the world of Walker Evans, James Agee, Andrew Wyeth and Dorothea Lange [Copland’s contemporaries, who photographed, painted and wrote of the farmers’ plight during the Great Depression].”
Bard College in the historic Hudson Valley is now a premier international cultural destination. Its unique 2005 festival provides rich opportunities to investigate and enjoy the remarkable cultural flowering that took place in the mid 20th century and continues to define the American experience in our own time.
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One of Bard’s own web sites shows off Judy Pfaff’s work, at http://inside.bard.edu/~pfaff/
An interview with Pfaff is available at http://www.conversations.org/98-1-pfaff.htm
Visit http://summerscape.bard.edu for full information on everything about Bard’s Festivals, campus, tickets, driving directions, local hospitality and much more.
This event was last updated on 08-09-2005