Russia's profound and far-reaching impact on 20th-century culture will be explored at the 2013 annual Bard SummerScape festival, which once again offers an extraordinary summer of music, opera, theater, dance, film, and cabaret, keyed to the theme of the 24th annual Bard Music Festival, Stravinsky and His World. Presented in the striking Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts and other venues on Bard College's bucolic Hudson River campus, the seven-week festival opens on July 6 with the first of two performances of A Rite (2013) by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and SITI Company, and closes on August 18 with a party in Bard's beloved Spiegeltent, which returns for the full seven weeks. Complementing the Bard Music Festival's exploration of "Stravinsky and His World," some of the great Russian-born composer's most captivating compatriots provide key SummerScape highlights. These include the first fully-staged American production of Sergey Taneyev's opera Oresteia; the world premiere of an original stage adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov's seminal novel The Master and Margarita; and a film festival titled "Between Traditions: Stravinsky's Legacy and Russian Émigré Cinema." Together, SummerScape's offerings will continue Bard's yearlong tenth-anniversary celebrations for the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center, which commence with a month of special performances in April.
Dubbed "part boot camp for the brain, part spa for the spirit" by the New York Times, the Bard Music Festival provides the creative inspiration for SummerScape, presenting "Stravinsky and His World": an illuminating and extensive program of orchestral, choral, and chamber concerts, as well as pre-concert talks and panel discussions, all devoted to examining The Life And Times of Igor Stravinsky(1882-1971), arguably the most important composer of the 20th century. The groundbreaking nature of his music is in part due to the broad and eclectic range of influences on which he drew. Over the course of his long career, these included such unlikely bedfellows as Russia's folk and classical traditions, African-American ragtime, the Baroque concerto grosso, and Second Viennese School twelve-tone technique. The Bard Music Festival offers an immersion in the worlds Stravinsky straddled, from their luminaries to their lesser-known figures, contextualizing him within the musically distinct milieus - all of them cultural melting pots - he inhabited: pre-revolutionary Russia, 1920s Paris, and post-war Hollywood. A wide range of Stravinsky's music will be performed, from canonical masterworks like The Rite of Spring and Symphony of Psalms to such comparative rarities as Mavra and his melodrama Perséphone. With its recognized gift for thematic programming, Bard achieves a depth and breadth of musical and cultural discovery that is truly unique. The two weekends of the Bard Music Festival will take place on August 9-11 and August 16-18 (see further details below).
The American Symphony Orchestra, under its music director, Leon Botstein, is in residence at Bard throughout SummerScape. Besides leading the Bard Music Festival's three orchestral programs, Botstein will also conduct this season's annual opera, Oresteia(1887-94), a musical setting of Aeschylus's tragic trilogy by Sergey Taneyev (1856-1915). Returning to direct Oresteia's first full staging outside Russia is Thaddeus Strassberger, creator of SummerScape's previous hit productions The King In Spite of Himself,Les Huguenots, and The Distant Sound. In theater, Bard will present Mikhail Bulgakov's satirical, absurdist masterpiece The Master and Margarita (1937), widely recognized as one of the greatest Russian novels of the 20th century. Hungarian director János Szász, whose previous stage adaptation has already "made it big" (Moscow Times) in both Moscow and Budapest, will direct ten performances of a new adaptation between July 11 and 21. Continuing SummerScape's tradition of opening each year with a significant danceperformance, this season the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and SITI Company join forces to launch the festival with their new dance-theater piece, A Rite (2013), which celebrates the centenary of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and the furor of its Paris premiere on May 29, 1913.
Imported from Europe for its eighth SummerScape season, Bard's authentic and sensationally popular Spiegeltent is a handmade pavilion decorated with mirrors and stained glass, evoking a bygone era of glamour. Offering food, beverages, and intimate performances on Thursdays through Sundays throughout SummerScape, the mirrored tent is the festival's unique, fun spot to hear live music, discover cutting-edge cabaret, enjoy a family performance, and relax alongside festival artists.
London's Times Literary Supplement lauded SummerScape as "the most intellectually ambitious of America's summer music festivals." The New Yorker called it "one of the major upstate festivals," and American Record Guide agreed, "Bard's SummerScape has to be one of the New York area's great seasonal escapes." Travel and Leisure reported, "Gehry's acclaimed Concert Hall provides a spectacular venue for innovative fare." Newsday called SummerScape "brave and brainy," Huffington Post dubbed it "a highbrow hotbed of culture," Musical America judged it "awesomely intensive," the International Herald Tribune pronounced it "seven weeks of cultural delight," and GALO (Global Art Laid Out) magazine named it "one of the great artistic treasure chests of the tri-state area and the country." As the New York Sun observed, "Bard ... offers one of the best lineups of the summer for fans of any arts discipline."
Bard SummerScape 2013 - highlights by genre
The numerous offerings that make up the comprehensive 24th annual Bard Music Festival, "Stravinsky and His World," take place during SummerScape's two final weekends: August 9-11 and August 16-18. Through the prism of Stravinsky's life and career, this year's festival will explore the momentous changes wrought by musical modernism on both sides of the Atlantic. Stravinsky's long career spanned two continents and more than two-thirds of the 20th century, bringing him into collaboration with artists from Rimsky-Korsakov and Ravel to T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden, and from Picasso, Nijinsky, and Cocteau to Louis B. Mayer. From his apprenticeship years in St. Petersburg to those spent leading the Parisian avant-garde and as an émigré in Hollywood, Stravinsky was a master of reinvention.
His stylistic development reflects this protean capacity for change. His early compositions achieve a synthesis of the melodies, sonorities, and rhythmic vitality of his homeland's folk traditions with a modernist sensibility. Later, when it became politically expedient for him to Distance himself from his Russian roots, Stravinsky developed neoclassicism, infusing pastiches of past masters with a subtly contemporary slant. And towards The End of his career, having initially repudiated Schoenberg's twelve-tone method, he came to embrace and put his own stamp upon it.
Paradoxically, while remaining a lifelong monarchist who opposed the Bolshevik Revolution, in music Stravinsky could hardly have been a more radical revolutionary. Certainly no 20th-century composer's legacy is greater; his influence is incalculable and, like his output, extraordinarily wide in range. As his friend and fellow composer Erik Satie put it, Stravinsky was "a liberator," who, "more than anyone else, ... freed the musical thought of today."
Bard's eleven musical programs, built thematically and spaced over the two weekends, range from "The 20th Century's Most Celebrated Composer" to "The Classical Heritage." Along with music by his contemporaries, a broad sampling of Stravinsky's own compositions will be heard. Three thought-provoking panel discussions will be supplemented by informative pre-concert talks before each performance that illuminate the concert's themes and are free to ticket holders. The last of these will be presented by this year's Scholar-in-Residence, Tamara Levitz, Professor of Musicology at UCLA.
Weekend One, August 9-11: Becoming Stravinsky: From St. Petersburg to Paris
Stravinsky came of age in imperial St. Petersburg at a time when musical life was dominated by his teacher, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The first weekend of the Bard Music Festival traces Stravinsky's path from his early Russian years to his first great successes in Paris writing for Sergei Diaghilev's legendary Ballets Russes, most notably the scandalous premiere of Le Sacre du printemps. Alongside Stravinsky's own works, including the Symphonies of Winds, Concerto for Two Pianos, Les Noces, and Mavra, the opening weekend presents music by his contemporaries, from the little-known Maximilian Steinberg, who also studied with Rimsky-Korsakov, to such leading lights as Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, and Erik Satie, all members of Stravinsky's close Parisian circle.
Weekend Two, August 16-18: Stravinsky Re-invented: From Paris to Los Angeles
Weekend Two of the Bard Music Festival explores Stravinsky's creative output during the interwar years and the music he composed in the United States, where he settled in 1939. This period was marked by an intense investigation of new trends in music and a shift in musical style from neoclassicism to serialism. The weekend's programs include compositions by fellow neoclassicists like Paul Hindemith; music by a younger generation of American composers such as Aaron Copland and Elliott Carter; and an examination of the sacred music that influenced Stravinsky's later religious works.
Since the founding of the Bard Music Festival, Princeton University Press has published a Companion Volume of new scholarship and interpretation for each season, with essays, translations, and correspondence relating to the featured composer and his world. Scholar-in-Residence Tamara Levitz is editor of the upcoming 2013 volume, Igor Stravinsky and His World.
Described as "uniquely stimulating" by the Los Angeles Times, and named "one of New York's premier summer destinations for adventurous music lovers" by the New York Times, the Bard Music Festival has impressed critics worldwide. On his blog, New York Times journalist Steve Smith confesses:
"For an unrepentant music geek like me, the Bard Music Festival is simply irresistible: a fabulous wealth of music by a major composer from the classical tradition, surrounded and contextualized with works by forebears, peers, colleagues, friends, enemies, students, followers - you name it."
The New York Times Reports that "performers engaged by Bard invariably seem energized by the prospect of extending beyond canonical routine, and by an audience that comes prepared with open ears and open minds." As the Wall Street Journal's Barrymore Laurence Scherer observes:
"The Bard Music Festival ... no longer needs an introduction. Under the provocative guidance of the conductor-scholar Leon Botstein, it has long been one of the most intellectually stimulating of all American summer festivals and frequently is one of the most musically satisfying. Each year, through discussions by major scholars and illustrative concerts often programmed to overflowing, Bard audiences have investigated the oeuvre of a major composer in the context of the society, politics, literature, art, and music of his times."
The 24th annual Bard Music Festival is made possible in part through the generous support of the Board of the Bard Music Festival and the Friends of the Fisher Center, as well as grants from The National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts.
As a child Prodigy pianist and composer, Sergey Taneyev (1856-1915) was a protégé of Tchaikovsky's, serving as soloist in premieres of all the older composer's piano concertos. He was one of Russia's most influential music theorists, teaching for nearly three Decades at the Moscow Conservatory, where his students included Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, and Glière; Stravinsky later recalled how highly he valued Taneyev's treatise on counterpoint, calling it "one of the best books of its kind." Taneyev's own music earned him the nickname of "Russian Brahms" from later Soviet critics. Yet in striving to synthesize counterpoint with folksong, he developed a distinct compositional voice that looked forward to Stravinsky himself.
Taneyev's crowning achievement is undoubtedly his opera Oresteia (1887-94). Defying Russian operatic tradition, Taneyev turned to Greek antiquity, basing his libretto on Aeschylus' trilogy of dramas - Agamemnon, Choephori, and Eumenides - that chronicles the calamities befalling the accursed House of Atreus. Rimsky-Korsakov considered Oresteia "striking in its wealth of beauty and expressiveness"; as Telegraph critic and Russian music expert Geoffrey Norris observes:
"It is highly original. ... The music speaks with a strong individual voice; the classical subject made the work stand out at a time when Russian plots were de rigueur; and Taneyev shows genuine dramatic skill in bringing Aeschylus to the operatic stage."
Yet since its 1895 premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre, the opera has only rarely been performed in its entirety, even in concert form. Indeed, Bard's upcoming production marks the first time the complete opera will ever have been fully staged outside Russia. Returning to direct it is Thaddeus Strassberger, whose previous SummerScape opera productions are among Bard's resounding success stories. Of his way with Meyerbeer, the Financial Times declared: "Les Huguenots in Bard's staging is a thriller from beginning to end. ... Five Stars." Similarly, of his staging of Schreker's The Distant Sound, the Wall Street Journal observed: "Strassberger's engrossing production reflected the experimental nature of the opera by seamlessly integrating period films and giving the show a modernist, distancing aura," while New York magazine named it one of the "Top Ten Classical Music Events of 2010." In last season's treatment of Chabrier's Le roi malgré lui, the New York Times found that "Mr. Strassberger and his team provide[d] a near-ceaseless barrage of sight gags, amusing diversions, and outright distractions ..., provid[ing] a sparkle that suited both the whimsical story and the bubbly music." As Musical America remarks, "Bard's annual opera has become an indispensable part of the summer operatic landscape because the choice of works is invariably inspired and their productions distinctively creative."
The new production will run for five performances (July 26, 28 & 31; Aug 2 & 4), with an Opera Talk, free and open to the public, before The Matinee on July 28.
Like Stravinsky, Russian playwright and novelist Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940) was born into late 19th-century imperial Russia. Whereas the composer emigrated, however, spending the Bolshevik and Soviet years in Switzerland, France, and America, ill health prevented Bulgakov from following suit, and he was forced to work under the repressive and often dangerous Conditions of Stalin's regime.
This is reflected in his art, not least his undisputed masterpiece, The Master and Margarita, on which he worked from 1928 until his death. With multiple timeframes and three interwoven plots - ranging from the devil's plunging modern Moscow into chaos to Jesus's last days in Jerusalem - the novel is absurdist and playful, encoded with numerous musical themes and toying with the supernatural and the fantastic in a manner similar to Stravinsky's ballet Petrushka. The narrative is thematically unified; all three strands explore Faustian themes (echoing the inspiration for Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale), critique artistic oppression, and may be read as anti-Soviet satire. The Master and Margarita was necessarily written in secret and even its earliest, least complete publication took place only after both Bulgakov and Stalin were safely dead.
With previews on July 11-12 and opening on July 13 for eight performances (July 13-21), Bard's new production will be directed by visionary Hungarian auteur János Szász. He will create a new adaptation of the novel for world premiere at Bard, building on the previous successes of his staged versions at both the Hungarian National and Moscow Art Theaters. Szász's many major U.S. credits include a "spectacularly poetic" Mother Courage (Boston Phoenix) at the American Repertory Theater, of which he was the director, while his eleven motion pictures include Woyzeck (1994), winner of a European Film Award.
Bard scored an unequivocal hit last season with Erica Schmidt's all-male production of Molière's classic comedy of manners The Imaginary Invalid. According it a five-star rating, Time Out New York advised:
"The old cures are the best. Say, for instance, that summer in New York has brought on a malaise. ... Your prescription is simple: rest (a bus ride to Bard College, thoughtfully provided), fluids (a beer at the Spiegeltent before the show) and a spa vacation in the form of Erica Schmidt's refreshing ice-cube-down-your-back - her all-male version of Molière's The Imaginary Invalid."
As Bloomberg News explained, the production was "by turns outrageously funny and unexpectedly moving," while the Financial Times found that "part of the beauty of this Invalid [was] the fluency with which Schmidt marrie[d] period detail with contemporary intonations." And Theatermania assured theatergoers they would find "ample reason to smile ... from the moment they walk into the theater at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College until the moment they leave."
For the past eight seasons, dance has been a vital component of SummerScape, which has opened with significant dance performances each summer since 2005. Launching this year's festival on July 6 is a major new dance-theater work that brings together two key American artists: Bill T. Jones, hailed as "one of the most prominent and provocative American choreographers of his generation" (New York Times), and contemporary theater director Anne Bogart, 1974 Bard alumna and winner of two "Best Director" Obies. With their respective companies - the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and SITI Company - the two collaborated to produce a fresh response to The Rite of Spring, the revolutionary ballet score with which Stravinsky changed the course of musical history. A Rite (2013) reflects on the Hundredth anniversary of its notorious, near-riotous Paris premiere, the aftershocks of which still reverberate today.
As Jones, whose numerous honors include two Tonys and a MacArthur "Genius" Award, explains:
"Though the apparition of what was staged that night in Paris and the scandal of the opening performance confronted us regularly, we have - for the most part - tried to look past the scenario and engage the music and the 100-year-old Discourse around it with as fresh and personal an approach as possible."