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Bard SummerScape 2018 Presents Rare New American Production of Anton Rubinstein’s Demon (July 27–Aug 5)

Plus Rimsky-Korsakov’s Operas Mozart and Salieri (Aug 18) and The Tsar’s Bride (Aug 19) in Bard Music Festival

Mark Primoff
“Some of the most important summer opera experiences in the U.S. are not at the better-known festivals but at Bard SummerScape.”– Financial Times

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). Offering a rare new American production of Demon by Anton Rubinstein as its operatic centerpiece, this year’s immersion in “Rimsky-Korsakov and His World” is no exception. With Olga Tolkmit and Efim Zavalny heading an all-Russian cast in an original staging by renowned American director Thaddeus Strassberger, with the support of the American Symphony Orchestra under the leadership of music director and festival co-artistic director Leon Botstein, Demon runs for five performances between July 27 and August 5, with an Opera Talk, free and open to the public, before the matinee on July 29. SummerScape 2018 also provides the chance to see Rimsky-Korsakov’s seldom-staged operas Mozart and Salieri (August 18) and The Tsar’s Bride (August 19) during the 29th annual Bard Music Festival. Anchored by the Bard Festival Chorale under the direction of James Bagwell, all three presentations take place on Bard’s glorious Hudson Valley campus in the striking Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center. As Time Out New York notes, “Botstein and Bard SummerScape show courage, foresight and great imagination, honoring operas that larger institutions are content to ignore.”

Anton Rubinstein’s Demon (1871)
It was Anton Rubinstein (1829–94), Rimsky-Korsakov’s senior by 15 years, who founded the St. Petersburg Conservatory, now named for the younger composer. Both men had an enormous influence on the next generation of Russian composition, and although in his lifetime Rubinstein was best known as a keyboard virtuoso and star pedagogue whose students included Tchaikovsky, he was also a prolific composer with no fewer than 20 operas to his name. The most popular of these was Demon (1871), one of the two operas mounted most often in 19th-century Russia, and the country’s first to be produced in Britain. Yet despite its rich choruses and fiery libretto, today Rubinstein’s masterpiece has fallen into neglect and is almost never staged in the English-speaking world.

Composed in three acts to a libretto by Pavel Viskovatov, Demon was based on a narrative poem by Mikhail Lermontov that was initially banned as sacrilegious. Like the poem, Rubinstein’s opera depicts a demon, or fallen angel, who meets Tamara, a mortal princess, and falls desperately in love, trying everything in his power to seduce her. Tamara’s struggle to resist him becomes a battle not only for her soul but for the fate of the earth itself. When at last she weakens, the price of her redemption is death, and the demon is condemned to eternal solitude.

On the few occasions it has been heard in the West, Demon has received a warm welcome. After a concert performance by the Kirov Opera at the 2003 Lincoln Center Festival, the New York Times admired the composer’s “sure lyrical gift and command of the orchestra,” while a 2009 London presentation prompted Gramophone to admire “Rubinstein’s colourful and lyrically expressive score.” As The Independent declared: “You can see why it did, and still does, carry the wow factor in Russia.”

Bard’s full staging represents an all-too-rare opportunity to see Rubinstein’s opera mounted outside the composer’s homeland. Conceived expressly for SummerScape 2018, the new production is by renowned American director Thaddeus Strassberger, whose previous SummerScape productions are among Bard’s most resounding success stories. The Financial Times declared: “Les Huguenots in Bard’s staging is a thriller from beginning to end. … Five Stars.” New York magazine named his treatment of Der ferne Klang one of the “Top Ten Classical Music Events of 2010”; the Wall Street Journal called his take on Le roi malgré lui “hilarious”; and the New York Times found his handling of The Wreckers “extraordinarily successful.” As for his treatment of Oresteia by Rubinstein’s contemporary Sergei Taneyev, which marked the opera’s first fully staged production outside Russia, it was nominated for a 2014 International Opera Award.

Making his U.S. debut in Demon’s title role is baritone Efim Zavalny, first prize-winner at the International Shtokolov Vocalists’ Competition. Singing opposite him as Tamara is soprano Olga Tolkmit, a nominee for Russia’s prestigious Golden Mask Award, in her third major role at Bard; having impressed the Financial Times with her “resonant, bright-voiced soprano” in Oresteia, she returned to grace Dvořák’s Dimitrij last summer. Belarusian bass Andrey Valentiy, who has appeared at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre and Milan’s La Scala, sings Tamara’s father, Prince Gudal. Her Nanny is portrayed by mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Egorova, a frequent leading lady at St. Petersburg’s Mikhailovsky Opera. Likewise tenor Alexander Nesterenko, who sings Tamara’s fiancé, Prince Sinodal, regularly headlines productions at Moscow’s Stanislavsky Opera. Bard’s all-Russian cast is completed by bass-baritone Yakov Strizhak as Sinodal’s Old Servant, mezzo-soprano Nadezhda Babintseva as the Angel, and tenor Pavel Sulyandziga as the Messenger. The opera's thrilling dance sequences will be performed by the highly respected Georgian dance troupe, Pesvebi Georgian Dancers.

Sets for Demon are designed by Paul Tate dePoo III, who was nominated for a 2017 Helen Hayes Award. The production will be enhanced by video projections from Greg Emetaz, known for his work for New York City Opera and San Francisco Opera, with lighting design by JAX Messenger, whose work on Oresteia helped ensure that “Strassberger’s cohesive vision … was searingly powerful” (Opera News). Demon’s costume design is by Obie Award-winner Kaye Voyce, whose extensive credits range from Broadway to the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as numerous Bard theater and dance productions.

High resolution images for Bard’s production of Demon are available here.

Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart and Salieri (1897), Bard Music Festival Program 8
No 19th-century composer contributed more substantially to Russia’s opera repertoire than Rimsky-Korsakov, who wrote 16 examples of the genre. Based on the same Pushkin verse drama that inspired Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, his one-act opera Mozart and Salieri covers the same territory, animating the rumor that Salieri, official composer of Vienna’s Hapsburg court, so envied Mozart’s genius that he was driven to poison him. Although the opera is rarely mounted even in Russia, this is to be regretted, according to the New York Times, which – citing “the opera’s success and originality” – ranked it among the composer’s most interesting work.”

Forming the second half of a program exploring “Domestic Music Making in Russia,” Bard’s presentation of the opera stars tenor Gerard Schneider, whose “imposing tenor” (Wall Street Journal) “stole the show” (Allegri con Fuoco) in SummerScape 2016’s mainstage production of Iris. Schneider sings the role of Mozart, with Grammy nominee Mikhail Svetlov, who impressed the Washington Post with his “titanic, all-encompassing bass,” as the composer’s nemesis, Salieri.

There will be a talk before the concert by festival co-artistic director Christopher Gibbs, who is the James H. Ottaway Jr. Professor of Music at Bard College.

Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tsar’s Bride (1898), Bard Music Festival Program 12
For his tenth opera, Rimsky-Korsakov combined the fantastic with the historical, turning to the so-called Time of Troubles, the same period of Russian history that inspired Boris Godunov and SummerScape 2017’s Dimitrij. Based on a play by Lev Mey, The Tsar’s Bride depicts Marfa, the merchant’s daughter whom Ivan the Terrible (a silent role, in accordance with Tsarist censorship laws) chooses from among thousands of pretty girls as his third wife. Unfortunately she is already in love with another and subject to the unwanted attentions of a third, who attempts to give her a love potion. When poison is substituted, and the man she loves is blamed and executed, Marfa loses her mind, providing the opera with a bona fide mad scene. Although the familiar Slava anthem functions throughout as a leitmotif, Rimsky-Korsakov explained that he intended The Tsar’s Bride as a reaction against Wagner’s ideas, and aimed for “cantilena par excellence.” This proved successful in his homeland, where the opera was warmly welcomed at its premiere, and has remained in regular rotation ever since. In the West, by contrast, revivals are rare. Yet The Tsar’s Bride is “an upfront rumbustious melodrama, packed with big tunes and thrilling climaxes” (The Telegraph, UK). Moreover, it offers “a compelling study of power and powerlessness” (The Independent, UK), and has “one of the most lyrical of all Rimsky-Korsakov scores” (New York Times).

Bard’s semi-staged production features The Orchestra Now (TŌN), Bard’s graduate training orchestra, under Botstein’s leadership. In the title role of Marfa, it stars Lyubov Petrova, “a soprano of ravishing, changeable beauty, blazing high notes and magnetic stage presence” (Opera News). Demon’s Andrey Valentiy sings Marfa’s father, Vasily Sobakin, and Mozart and Salieri’s Gerard Schneider takes the role of her falsely accused suitor, Ivan Likov. Efim Zavalny, the Demon himself, plays her third admirer, Grigory Gryaznoy, with mezzo-soprano Nadezhda Babintseva, who “brought the house down” (RTE) on tour with the Moscow State Opera, as Lyubasha, his murderous mistress. Joel Sorensen, “a beautifully expressive tenor, gifted at characterization” (The Independent, UK), appears as the Tsar’s physician, Yelisey Bomeliy, with bass-baritone Yakov Strizhak, first-prize-winner at the Rachmaninov International Music Competition, as an oprichnik, or member of the imperial police force. Rounding out Bard’s stellar cast as Petrovna, the Sobakins’ housekeeper, is mezzo-soprano Teresa Buchholz, winner of the female division at Carnegie Hall’s Nico Castel International Master Singer Competition; she returns to the festival after a series of “consistently excellent” (New York Arts) performances in previous SummerScape seasons.

With lighting by Anshuman Bhatia, named a “Young Designer to Watch” by Live Design magazine, Bard’s semi-staged production is designed and directed by Doug Fitch, the co-founder of Giants Are Small. Consistently cited as benchmarks of innovation, his New York Philharmonic collaborations include Le Grand Macabre, named “Best Opera of the Year” by the New York Times, New York magazine, and Time Out New York; and The Cunning Little Vixen, chosen as the “Best Classical Event of the Year” by New York.

Before the opera, there will be a talk by Bard’s 2018 Scholar-in-Residence, Marina Frolova-Walker, author of Russian Music and Nationalism: from Glinka to Stalin and editor of the forthcoming volume Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and His World.

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 full staging of Dvořák’s Dimitrij. The New York Times admired Bard’s simple and effective updated production,” called the “vivid choral scenes … a triumph for the impressive Bard Festival Chorale,” and concluded:

“Mr. Botstein drew vibrant playing and a well-paced performance from the American Symphony Orchestra. … He, the festival and this hard-working cast deserve thanks.”

As Musical America recognizes: “Bard’s annual opera has become an indispensable part of the summer operatic landscape.”

Illustrating the scope and originality of the festival’s programming, a list of Bard’s previous operatic offerings follows below:

2017:  Dvořák – Dimitrij (first fully staged American production)
Moniuszko – Halka
2016:  Mascagni – Iris
            Puccini – Il tabarro and Le Villi; Massenet – La Navarraise; Busoni – Turandot; Puccini/Berio – Turandot, Act III
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 2018

Anton Rubinstein (1829–94)
Demon (1871)

American Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Leon Botstein, music director
Directed by Thaddeus Strassberger
Bard Festival Chorale
Conducted by James Bagwell
Paul Tate dePoo III: set designer
Kaye Voyce: costume designer
Candida Nichols: associate costumer
JAX Messenger: lighting designer
Greg Emetaz: video designer
Shorena Barbakadz: choreographer
Anne Ford-Coates: hair and makeup designer
Onofrio Colucci: acting coach/assistant director
Roza Tulyaganova: diction coach/assistant director
Jordan Fein: assistant director

Demon: Efim Zavalny, baritone
Tamara: Olga Tolkmit, soprano
Angel: Nadezhda Babintseva, mezzo-soprano
Prince Gudal: Andrey Valentiy, bass
Prince Sinodal: Alexander Nesterenko, tenor
Nanny: Ekaterina Egorova, mezzo-soprano
Old Servant: Yakov Strizhak, bass-baritone
Messenger: Pavel Sulyandziga, tenor
Pesvebi Georgian Dancers

Sosnoff Theater
July 27* at 8 pm
July 29*; August 1, 3* & 5* at 2 pm
Tickets start at $25

Opening Night Reception for Members
July 27

Opera Talk with Leon Botstein
July 29 at 12 pm
Free and open to the public

Opera in the 2018 Bard Music Festival, “Rimsky-Korsakov and His World”

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
Mozart and Salieri (1897)

Bard Festival Chorale
Conducted by James Bagwell
Mozart: Gerard Schneider, tenor
Salieri: Mikhail Svetlov, bass

August 18
Program Eight, “Domestic Music Making in Russia”
Olin Hall
1 pm Preconcert Talk: Christopher Gibbs
1:30 pm Performance

Tickets: $40

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
The Tsar’s Bride (1898)

The Orchestra Now (TŌN)
Conducted by Leon Botstein
Bard Festival Chorale
Conducted by James Bagwell
Designed and directed by Doug Fitch
Lighting design: Anshuman Bhatia
Marfa: Lyubov Petrova, soprano
Lyubasha: Nadezhda Babintseva, mezzo-soprano
Grigory Gryaznoy: Efim Zavalny, baritone
Vasily Sobakin: Andrey Valentiy, bass
Malyuta Skuratov: Yakov Strizhak, bass-baritone
Yelisey Bomeliy: Joel Sorensen, tenor
Ivan Likov: Gerard Schneider, tenor
Petrovna: Teresa Buchholz, mezzo-soprano

August 19
Program Twelve, “The Tsar’s Bride”*
Sosnoff Theater
3:30 pm Preconcert Talk: Marina Frolova-Walker
4:30 pm Performance

Tickets: $25–$75

* 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 2018: other key performance dates by genre

Bard Music Festival, Weekend One: Inventing Russian Music: The Mighty Five (Aug 10–12)
Bard Music Festival, Weekend Two: Rimsky-Korsakov and His Followers (Aug 17–19)

Pam Tanowitz, Kaija Saariaho, Brice Marden: T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets (world premiere of SummerScape commission, featuring Pam Tanowitz Dance, Kathleen Chalfant, and The Knights)
Sosnoff Theater
July 6* & 7 at 8 pm
July 8* at 3 pm
Tickets start at $25

Opening Night Reception for Members Friday, July 6
Post-Performance Conversation Saturday, July 7
Pre-Performance Conversation Sunday, July 8 at 2pm

Leonard Bernstein’s Peter Pan (new production)
Music and lyrics by Leonard Bernstein
After the play by J. M. Barrie
Adapted and directed by Christopher Alden 
LUMA Theater
June 28; July 5, 6*, 8, 12, 15, 19 & 22 at 7 pm
June 29 & 30; July 7, 13, 14, 20 & 21 at 7:30 pm
July 1, 4, 7, 8*, 11, 14, 15, 18, 21 & 22 at 2 pm
Tickets start at $25
Open to reviewing press beginning July 5
Suitable for audiences aged 12 and up.

Opening Night Reception for Members Friday, July 6
Pre-Performance Conversation Sunday, July 1 at 1pm
Post-Performance Conversation Wednesday, July 11

“Rimsky-Korsakov and the Poetry of Cinema”
Ottaway Film Center
July 26 – Russian Ark (Aleksandr Sokurov, 2002, Russia/Germany/Canada/Finland, 96 minutes)
July 29 – A Night on Bald Mountain (Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker, 1933, France, 8 minutes) and Fantasia (Walt Disney, 1940, USA, 126 minutes)
August 2 – The Devil is a Woman (Josef von Sternberg, 1935, USA, 79 minutes)
August 5 Kismet (Vincente Minnelli, 1955, USA, 113 minutes)
August 9 – Man of Music (Composer Glinka), (Grigori Aleksandrov, 1952, USSR, 100 minutes)
August 12 – The Cranes are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1957, USSR, 97 minutes)
August 16 – Atlantic City (Louis Malle, 1980, Canada/France, 104 minutes)
August 19 – The House of Mirth (Terence Davies, 2000, UK/Germany/USA, 140 minutes)
Tickets: $10

Live Music, Cabaret, 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

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.

Full Schedule:
For a complete schedule of SummerScape and Bard Music Festival events (subject to change), follow the links given below. Updates are posted at the festival web site
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.

Bard SummerScape:

Bard Music Festival:

Tickets and Subscriptions:; or by phone at 845-758-7900. Tickets to all mainstage events start at $25.

Special offers:
Create Your Own Series: save 25% and enjoy maximum flexibility, by choosing four or more events.
SummerScape Mainstage Package: save 30% and guarantee seats for dance, theater, and opera events.
Out-of-Town Package: save up to 23% on mainstage ticket, roundtrip bus from New York City, and three-course meal.
Night Out Package: save up to 15% on mainstage ticket (selected performances only) and three-course meal.

Updates: Bard’s “e-subscribers” get all the news in regular updates. Click here to sign up, or send an e-mail to

All programs are subject to change.

The 2018 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 04-17-2018