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America’s First Full Staging of Ethel Smyth’s Opera The Wreckers Opens at Bard SummerScape This Friday (July 24)

“An indispensable part of the summer operatic landscape.” Musical America on Bard SummerScape

Opening this Friday, July 24, Bard SummerScape presents the first fully-staged American production of The Wreckers (1902-4) by Dame Ethel Smyth. As a Victorian-born Englishwoman, and a bisexual suffragette at that, Smyth has been too often marginalized by the classical community; although she remains the only female composer whose work has ever been produced at the Metropolitan Opera, The Wreckers – her greatest contribution to the genre – has yet to be staged in the United States. SummerScape’s presentation, then, marks a major historical milestone. Returning to direct is European Opera Prize-winner Thaddeus Strassberger, who scored previous SummerScape hits with Le roi malgré lui, Les Huguenots, Der ferne Klang, and Oresteia, pronounced “a revelation” by the Financial Times, which concluded: “Some of the most important summer opera experiences in the U.S. are … at Bard SummerScape.” Taking place on Bard’s glorious Hudson Valley campus in the striking Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center, The Wreckers’ five performances (July 24, 26, 29, 31; Aug 2) feature a stellar cast headed by Katharine Goeldner and Louis Otey, with the American Symphony Orchestra led by music director Leon Botstein, whose 2007 U.S. concert premiere of Smyth’s opera was hailed as “one of the best he has ever put on” (New York Times).

Composed to a libretto by Smyth’s friend and lover Henry Brewster, The Wreckers is based on tales of the alleged Cornish coastal practice of luring ships onto the rocks and murdering their crews, in order to plunder their cargoes. In the isolated community Smyth depicts, such wrecking – under the leadership of the local pastor, Pascoe – constitutes an act of religious faith. Pitted against this community are Pascoe’s young wife Thirza and her lover, Mark, who conspire to save the ships by kindling secret beacons to guide them. Caught red-handed, the lovers are tried by a village tribunal and condemned to die in a cave at the shoreline, drowned by the incoming tide. Concerning the consequences of mass hysteria and populist justice – framed by a powerful display of orchestral writing, memorable motivic recurrence, and brilliant use of chorus – Smyth’s story has especial resonance for contemporary audiences. As Susana Meyer, producer of opera at SummerScape, explains:

The Wreckers is undoubtedly her masterpiece… . It is grand, it is exciting, it has a fantastic story, it has rousing choruses, it has romantic interest, it has lies, betrayals, sex, religion – it has everything! There’s nothing missing to make it a really fantastic piece of theater.”

Click here to see Meyer and Botstein discuss Ethel Smyth and The Wreckers.

As Thirza, Bard’s production stars mezzo Katharine Goeldner, familiar from recent appearances in the title role of Carmen at Lyric Opera of Chicago and in Anna Bolena at the Metropolitan Opera. Reprising from the American Symphony’s U.S. concert premiere the role of Thirza’s husband, Pascoe, is baritone Louis Otey, who recently impressed the UK’s Telegraph as “outstanding.” English tenor Neal Cooper, a “huge asset” (Sunday Times, UK) at the Royal Opera House, completes The Wreckers’ love triangle as the young fisherman Mark. Australian soprano Sky Ingram brings her “compelling stage presence, great looks and a versatile soprano voice” (Observer, UK) to the role of young Avis, whose jealousy leads to the lovers’ downfall, with baritone Michael Mayes – “by far the best singer and most convincing actor in the cast” (Wall Street Journal) of San Francisco’s Dead Man Walking – as her father, lighthouse keeper Lawrence.

Click here for a tantalizing taste of opera at Bard SummerScape.


Opera at Bard SummerScape 2015

Ethel Smyth (1858–1944)
The Wreckers (1902-04)

American Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Leon Botstein, music director
Directed by Thaddeus Strassberger
Set design by Erhard Rom
Costume design by Kaye Voyce
Lighting design by JAX Messenger
Projection Design by Hannah Wasileski

Pascoe: Louis Otey
Thirza: Katharine Goeldner
Mark: Neal Cooper
Avis: Sky Ingram
Tallan: Dennis Petersen
Lawrence: Michael Mayes
Jack: Kendra Broom
Harvey: Peter Van Derick

Sosnoff Theater
July 24* & 31 at 7:30 pm
July 26*, July 29 & Aug 2* at 2 pm
Tickets start at $25

Opera Talk
July 26 at 12 pm
Free and open to the public

Special support for this program is provided by Emily H. Fisher and John Alexander.


SummerScape 2015: other upcoming performance dates by genre

Bard Music Festival, Weekend One: “The Musical Voice of Mexico” (Aug 7–9)
Bard Music Festival, Weekend Two: “Mexico, Latin America, and Modernism” (Aug 13–16)

“Reinventing Mexico”
Saturday, July 11 to Sunday, Aug 2
Ottaway Film Center
Tickets: $10

Live Music, Cabaret, Festival Dining, and After Hours salon
Dates, Times, and Prices vary


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, Oklahoma! was in LUMA Theater, and Everything by my side took place out of doors. 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.

New York City Round-Trip Coach Transportation:
To make a reservation on the round-trip SummerScape coach provided exclusively to ticket holders for specific performances indicated by * in the listings above, call the box office at 845-758-7900 or select this option when purchasing tickets. The round-trip fare is $40 and reservations are required. The coach departs from behind Lincoln Center, on Amsterdam Avenue between 64th and 65th Street. Find additional details at:

Bard SummerScape Ticket Information

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. For further information, visit

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©21C Media Group, July 2015

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