[Program FiveRealism and Fantasy: New Directions in Opera] Bard Music Festival 2009; photo by Stephanie Berger
Bard Music Festival 2009; photo by Stephanie Berger

Program Five
Realism and Fantasy: New Directions in Opera

3:30 PM Preconcert Talk: Arman Schwartz
4:30 PM Performance: Sean Panikkar, tenor; Nora Sourouzian, mezzo-soprano; Talise Trevigne, soprano; Paul Whelan, bass-baritone; Levi Hernandez, bass-baritone; Steven LaBrie, baritone; Alexander McKissick, tenor; Bard Festival Chorale, conducted by James Bagwell, choral director; The American Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leon Botstein, music director; directed by Mary Birnbaum; scenic design by Grace Laubacher; lighting design by Anshuman Bhatia; projection design by Andrew Lazarow; costume design by Moe Schell

Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924), Le Villi (1884) (Fontana);
Jules Massenet (1842–1912), La Navarraise (1894) (Claretie, Cain)
Although Puccini would prove to be the foremost exponent of verismo, a genre rooted in the Italian literary movement of that name, his first opera was far from naturalistic. Instead, Le Villi draws on the same Central European legend as Adolphe Adam's ballet Giselle, like it, it depicts the Willis, or vengeful spirits of jilted girls. Composed for a one-act opera competition, Le Villi did not receive so much as an honorable mention, and yet as the New York Times noted after a rare 2006 concert performance, "With its elusive chromatic harmony and wayward lyricism, … the opera wins you over." Despite originating in Italy, verismo was never an exclusively Italian trend. Gustave Charpentier's Louise is a French contribution to the style, as is Massenet's short two-act La Navarraise. Set against a backdrop of Spain's Third Carlist War and often programmed alongside Cavalleria rusticana, Massenet's opera proved especially popular. In Program Five, "Realism and Fantasy: New Directions in Opera," Bard concludes the festival's opening weekend with a double-bill of rarities, presenting semistaged revivals of both Le Villi and La Navarraise
Listen to director Mary Birnbaum describe the sets and design elements that bring Massenet's La Navarraise (1884) and Puccini's Le Villi (1884) to life in this short video.
Explore Giacomo Puccini's Le villi notebook in the Morgan Library's digital collection.