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Final Weekend of 27th Bard Music Festival, “Giacomo Puccini and His World,” Opens Thursday, August 11

Mark Primoff
Opening on Thursday, August 11, the second and final weekend of the 27th annual Bard Music Festival – an exploration of “Giacomo Puccini and His World” – takes audiences Beyond Verismo. To kick off the weekend, the Contemporaneous ensemble presents “Spaghetti Western,” a special event investigating the ways that – since Puccini’s Fanciulla del West – Italian and American music have travelled together through film. Featuring Bard’s new training ensemble, The Orchestra Now, the weekend’s first Sosnoff Theater concert – “Futurism, Popular Culture, and Technology” – addresses the embrace of modernity by Italian composers like Pratella and Russolo, and concludes with rare screening of the silent film Rapsodia Satanica, complete with a live account of Mascagni’s original score. The weekend’s other highlights include a pair of programs showcasing the American Symphony Orchestra under the leadership of music director and festival co-artistic director Leon Botstein. The first – “Music and Fascism in Italy” – addresses the varying responses to Mussolini’s regime by composers from Puccini to Dallapiccola, while the second – “The Turandot Project” – pairs the East Coast premiere of Berio’s completion of the final act of Turandot with Busoni’s setting of the same story, thereby drawing the 27th Bard Music Festival – and the entire seven weeks of Bard SummerScape – to a truly electrifying close.
As Arman Schwartz, one of Bard’s two 2016 Scholars-in-Residence, explains:
“From Futurism to Fascism, many of the most radical and disturbing trends in 20th-century culture and politics originated in Italy. Beyond Verismo, the second weekend of the Bard Music Festival, focuses on these developments. Countering cliches of Italy as a charming touristic backwater, it explores how actively its artists engaged with some of central dilemmas of modernity.”
Further contextualizing Puccini, “Reinventing the Past” explores the vogue for unearthing music of bygone eras by such Italian composer-scholars as Parisotti and Malipiero, while “After Puccini” offers a snapshot of Italian composition in the decades after the Tuscan master’s death. Finally, “Italian Choral Music since Palestrina” – a concert with commentary by James Bagwell – offers a generous sampling of four centuries of choral composition, from Palestrina to Pizzetti.
As ever, Bard’s programs are enriched by scholarship of the highest caliber. Of the weekend’s six concerts, two are presented with commentary and four with pre-concert talks by distinguished experts, namely Byron Adams, Ben Earle, Richard Wilson, and Bard’s co-artistic director Christopher H. Gibbs. In addition, a free panel discussion on Saturday morning considers “Artists, Intellectuals, and Mussolini,” with guest speakers to include Columbia University’s Victoria de Grazia, whose publications include How Fascism Ruled Women and The Culture of Consent: Mass Organization of Leisure in Fascist Italy.
As in previous seasons,  the weekend’s choral program – hailed as “one of the high points of every Bard Festival” (New York Arts) – features the Bard Festival Chorale directed by James Bagwell. Among the many other notable musicians performing are tenor Russell Thomas, who has been called “nothing short of sensational” (The Telegraph); soprano Marnie Breckenridge, called “simply terrific” by Opera magazine; violinist Jesse Mills, a two-time Grammy Award nomine; pianist Blair McMillen, of whom the New York Times declares: “When played by the formidable Mr. McMillen, any piece sounds terrific”; and the award-winning Daedalus Quartet, which impressed the New Yorker as “a fresh and vital young participant in what is a golden age of American string quartets.” As New York Arts recently remarked:
“As always, the Bard Music Festival … is a must. … I have never come away from the festival without gaining a higher opinion of the central composer than I had before.”
Click here to see Leon Botstein discuss Puccini and the Bard Music Festival.
Recent successes at Bard SummerScape 2016
The second weekend of the Bard Music Festival caps another successful and thought-provoking season at Bard SummerScape. As the Financial Times observed, the world premiere of Fantasque, a new ballet set to the music of Respighi and Rossini by John Heginbotham and Amy Trompetter, revealed “subtle truths”:
“The puppet scenes were minimal, largely silent, and spiked with pauses so well placed that they prompted gratifying streams of association. The vivid dances featured their own sly indirections but without missing a beat. Between the two, a magical atmosphere arose.”
Of Iris, a forerunner of Madama Butterfly by Puccini’s close contemporary Pietro Mascagni, the New Yorker’s Alex Ross concluded:
“In some ways, …  Iris is the more original score. It is rich in unstable, digressive harmonies – one recurring progression sets F major against C-sharp minor – and clouds of whole-tone tonality. The orchestration is at once luminous and shadowy.”
Bard’s rare fully staged production of the opera by fast-rising director James Darrah “left little to be desired” and proved “repeatedly breathtaking” (Operateen blog), while, as the New York Observer reported, “Leon Botstein kept a tight rein on the orchestra, sustaining a sense of tension.” In the title role, as the review continued:
“Talise Trevigne not only endured but triumphed. Her soft-grained soprano added a welcome dash of warmth to the heroine’s meandering vocal lines and her graceful dancelike movement projected an innocent but palpable allure.”
As for the world premiere of Demolishing Everything with Amazing Speed – four puppet plays from leading Italian Futurist Fortunato Depero, as newly unearthed and reimagined by Dan Hurlin –  this impressed Floodmark as “a work of incredible and troubling dissonance.” The Village Voice elaborated: “Hurlin isn’t simply reviving century-old plays – he’s showing us the mechanisms by which we let the past century happen.” Pronouncing the plays “harrowing,” the New York Times agreed:
“A series of short plays written nearly a century ago acquired an icy and unexpected urgency when they received their belated world premiere last week. And an audience was frozen into the kind of stillness that no one dares interrupt, not even with a startled gasp.”
Getting to the Bard Music Festival: New York City Round-Trip Bus Transportation
Round-trip bus service is provided exclusively to ticket-holders for the performance marked with an asterisk below. A reservation is required, and may be made by calling the box office at 845-758-7900. The round-trip fare is $40, and the bus departs from Lincoln Center at the time indicated:
Program 11: Sunday, August 14 at 4:30pm (preconcert talk at 3:30pm)                 12:30pm
Further details are available at
Bard’s sensationally popular European Spiegeltent will be open for lunch and dinner throughout “Puccini and His World,” besides playing host to the special “Spaghetti Western” event (August 11), and cabaret performances by Stew and Heidi Rodewald (August 12), and by returning host, emcee, and guest curator, Mx. Justin Vivian Bond (August 13).
Program details of Bard Music Festival, “Puccini and His World”
WEEKEND TWO: Beyond Verismo
Thursday, August 11
Spaghetti Western
8 pm Performance: Contemporaneous
Ennio Morricone (b. 1928)
  • From The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966, arr. V. Alexim, 2016)
  • From Il mercenario (1968, arr. D. Mattingly, 2016)
David Lang (b. 1957)
  • ark luggage (2012)
  • Simple Song #3 (2015)
Yotam Haber (b. 1976) 
  • New Ghetto Music (2011)
Andrew Norman (b. 1979)
  • Music in Circles (2012)
Clara Iannotta (b. 1983)
  • D'après (2012)
Tickets: $15–$40
Friday, August 12
Program SIX
Futurism, Popular Culture, and Technology
Sosnoff Theater
8 pm Performance with commentary by Anna Celenza; with Blair McMillen, piano; The Orchestra Now, conducted by James Bagwell; and others
Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924)
  • Scossa elettrica (1899)
Francesco Balilla Pratella (1880–1955)
  • Excerpt from La guerra (1913)
Alfredo Casella (1883–1947)
  • Excerpts from Cinque pezzi (1920)
Works by Luigi Russolo (1885–1947), Franco Casavola (1891–1955), Silvio Mix (1900–1927), Zez Confrey (1895–1971), and others
With a showing of Rapsodia Satanica (1915), a film by Nino Oxilia, with music by Pietro Mascagni (1863–1945) performed live
Tickets: $25–$60
Saturday, August 13
Artists, Intellectuals, and Mussolini
Olin Hall
10 am–noon
Joseph Luzzi, moderator; Victoria de Grazia; Ben Earle; Benjamin Martin
This panel discussion with renowned scholars will include a short question and answer period.
Free and open to the public
Program SEVEN
Reinventing the Past
Olin Hall
1 pm Pre-concert Talk: Byron Adams
1:30 pm Performance: Kelly Newberry, mezzo-soprano; César Delgado and Theo Lebow, tenors; Jesse Mills, violin; Rieko Aizawa, piano; Daedalus Quartet; The Orchestra Now, conducted by Zachary Schwartzman
Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924)
  • Salve Regina (before 1880)
Ed. & arr. Alessandro Parisotti (1853–1913)
  • Selections from Arie antiche
Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643), ed. Malipiero
  • Works
Ottorino Respighi (1879–1936)
  • From Quattro liriche (1920); Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No. 1 (1920)
Gian Francesco Malipiero (1882–1973)
  • String Quartet No. 3 “Cantari alla madrigalesca” (1931)
Alfredo Casella (1883–1947)
  • From 11 Pezzi infantili, Op. 35 (1920)
Luigi Dallapiccola (1904–75)
  • Tartiniana No. 1 (1951)
Tickets: $40
Program EIGHT
Music and Fascism in Italy
Sosnoff Theater
7 pm Pre-concert Talk: Ben Earle
8 pm Performance: Marnie Breckenridge, soprano; Bard Festival Chorale & James Bagwell, choral director; American Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leon Botstein, music director
Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924)
  • Hymn to Rome (1919)
Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880–1968)
  • Preludio, from Lo straniero (1925)
Alfredo Casella (1883–1947)
  • Elegia eroica, Op. 29 (1916)
Luigi Dallapiccola (1904–75)
  • Partita for Orchestra (1930–32)
Goffredo Petrassi (1904–2003)
  • Magnificat (1939–40)
Tickets: $25–$75
Sunday, August 14
Program NINE
Italian Choral Music since Palestrina
Olin Hall
10 am: Performance with commentary by James Bagwell; with Bard Festival Chorale & James Bagwell, choral director; Alexander Bonus, organ; Bard Festival Chamber Players
Works by Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924), Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525–94), Orazio Vecchi (1550–1605), Luca Marenzio (1553–99), Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643), Carlo Gesualdo (1566–1613), Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741), Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901), and Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880–1968)
Tickets: $40
Program TEN
After Puccini
Olin Hall
1 pm Preconcert Talk: Richard Wilson
1:30 pm Performance: Teresa Buchholz, mezzo-soprano; Elmira Darvarova, violin; Sam Magill, cello; Colin Davin, guitar; Blair McMillen and Anna Polonsky, piano; Bard Festival Chamber Players
Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924)
  • Pezzo per pianoforte (1916)
Franco Alfano (1875–1954)
  • Concerto, for piano, violin, and cello (1933)
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895–1968)
  • From The Divan of Moses-Ibn-Ezra, Op. 207 (1966)
Luigi Dallapiccola (1904–75)
  • Musical Notebook of Annalibera (1952)
Gian Carlo Menotti (1911–2007)
  • Ricercare and Toccata on a theme from The Old Maid and the Thief (1951)
Luciano Berio (1925–2003)
  • Chamber Music (1953)
Tickets: $40
Program ELEVEN*
The Turandot Project
Sosnoff Theater
3:30 pm Pre-concert Talk: Christopher H. Gibbs
4:30 pm Performance: Elizabeth Byrne, Cecilia Violetta López, and Melody Moore, sopranos; Kendra Broom, mezzo-soprano; Richard Cox, Marc Molomot, and Russell Thomas, tenors; Steven LaBrie, baritone; Aubrey Allicock, Matthew Burns, and Paul Whelan, bass-baritones; Nathan Stark, bass; Bard Festival Chorale & James Bagwell, choral director; American Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leon Botstein, music director; and others; directed by R. B. Schlather; designed by Paul Tate dePoo III; lighting design by JAX Messenger
Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924)/Luciano Berio (1925–2003)
  • Act 3 from Turandot (1924/2001)
Ferruccio Busoni (1866–1924)
  • Turandot (1917)
Tickets: $25–$75
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 Fisher Center members receive priority access to the best seats in advance, and those who join the Center’s email list receive advance booking opportunities as well as regular news and updates.
All program information is subject to change.
The 2016 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 08-09-2016