Press Room

Bard SummerScape 2012 earns critical acclaim

Riding a wave of critical enthusiasm for its dance, theater and opera offerings, the 2012 Bard SummerScape Festival continues with the opening this Friday, August 10 of the 23rd Annual Bard Music Festival, an intensive and far-ranging exploration of “Saint-Saëns and His World” that will take place over the next two weekends.  Weekend One: Paris and the Culture of Cosmopolitanism, takes place August 10 – 12 and features a wide variety of chamber music by Saint-Saëns and his contemporaries, as well as an orchestral program featuring one of the composer’s best-known works, the “Organ” Symphony (Program Three, Saturday, August 11 at 8:00 pm), and a program offering a radical reconsideration of his popular Carnival of the Animals, a work he tried hard to suppress (Program Six, Sunday August 12 at 5:30 pm). Weekend Two: Confronting Modernism takes place August 17 – 19, bringing the seven-week SummerScape festival to a close. Highlights of Weekend Two include “Proust and Music”, an evening of chamber music and readings from works by novelist Marcel Proust (Program Seven, Friday, August 17; free panel discussion at 7 PM, concert at 8:30 PM) and a rare concert performance of Saint-Saëns’s grand opera Henry VIII (Program Twelve, Sunday, August 19 at 4:30 pm). Detailed listings for all Bard Music Festival programs can be found here:
Approaching its tenth anniversary season, Bard SummerScape is widely acclaimed as one of the region’s – indeed the country’s – most ambitious and engaging arts festivals. As a critic for the New York Times recently reported, “Over the last two decades the Bard Music Festival has become one of New York’s premier summer destinations for adventurous music lovers. … More recently, with the advent of the multidisciplinary SummerScape festival, Bard has become a haven for important operas.” A culture reporter for the Huffington Post called SummerScape “a highbrow hotbed of culture.Bloomberg News encouraged readers to “venture north to Bard College’s captivating grounds and Frank Gehry-designed theater. Nothing quite compares to the fascinating summer programs popping out of Leon Botstein’s brain.” The Wall Street Journal noted that SummerScape is “one of the most intellectually stimulating of all American summer festivals and frequently is one of the most musically satisfying.” 
A sampling of critical reactions to Bard SummerScape’s recent dance, theater, and opera offerings follows.
Compagnie Fêtes galantes
“To rest beneath a muted sun where the air was mild and birdcalls pierced the quiet buzz of bugs seemed a better antidote to the blaring heat of Manhattan two hours’ drive south than any dance concert could be. But the neo-baroque Compagnie Fêtes galantes on the opening weekend of Bard Summerscape… perfectly suited the pastoral setting. The stage may have glowed a theatrical orange and red, but Let My Joy Remain for the 10-member French troupe seemed to emerge organically from the music. … The men’s and women’s unfurling wrists resembled blooming flowers more than the flourish of a courtier’s bow. The dancers rose to half-point as softly as steam. They bounded forward with arms stretched low and palms up as if welcoming a child into their embrace. They followed the line of gravity and the music’s emphatic descent in chains of jumps and leaps.”
–      Apollinaire Scherr/Financial Times
“No stormy weather here. No vertigo. Just enough imbalance to reaffirm the possibility of equilibrium. For Compagnie Fêtes galantes, on a 2012 summer night in Frank Gehry’s postmodern silver building, the French Revolution is both fifty years in the future and two hundred years in the past.”
–      Deborah Jowitt/Arts Journal
Molière: Imaginary Invalid
“The old cures are the best. Say, for instance, that summer in New York has brought on a malaise. Perhaps you get queasy just at the thought of tonight’s muggy subway ride; you get a cramp contemplating the disappointing theater at the end of it. 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.” Rating: Five Stars Out of Five
–      Helen Shaw/Time Out New York
“Part of the beauty of this Invalid is the fluency with which Schmidt marries period detail with contemporary intonations. Argan’s medical treatments, for example, carry a homeopathic overtone. (They are also frequently scatological.) Another part of the beauty is the sparring among the cast, especially Henry Vick as Thomas Diaforius and Danny Binstock as Cléante. [But] the chief reason to book the bus to Bard is [Peter] Dinklage.”
–      Brendan Lemon/Financial Times
“Theatergoers will find that there’s ample reason to smile about Erica Schmidt’s new production of Moliere’s The Imaginary Invalid 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. …The cast’s overemphatic playing could very well misfire, but Schmidt has perfectly calibrated the lunacy. In fact, the acting style is actually enhanced by her decision to use an all-male cast. The artifice of it all — just like the set itself which proclaims its presence so forcefully and Andrea Lauer’s over-the-top period costume designs — is laid out as if to say “Here, have fun with us.” Theatergoers do, both joyously and gratefully.”
–      Andy Propst/Theatermania
Chabrier: The King in Spite of Himself
“Could it be that we are finally catching up with an inspired masterpiece in which words and song, dramatic action and musical score, actually make a perfect fit? That would seem to be the thinking behind the new production directed by Thaddeus Strassberger at Bard SummerScape, seen at the Sosnoff Theater in its first U.S. staging in the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. … If what Chabrier has really written, Strassberger seems to be telling us, is an early experiment in Absurdist Theater, why not go all the way and treat it accordingly? … Since any attempt to stage this wild farrago in a theatrically lucid way is probably impossible, Strassberger doesn’t even try. Instead, he creates a world of topsy-turvy improbability and inconsistency, a nonstop whirl of coincidence, sly allusion, comic-strip nonsense, and sheer craziness. … Mostly, though, it is conductor (and Bard College President) Leon Botstein’s enthusiasm for Le roi malgré lui that makes the performance so musically infections. Chabrier and his contemporaries always seem to bring out this conductor’s best work, and with the American Symphony Orchestra in top form, it’s a privilege just to savor every delicious moment of this extraordinary score.”
–      Peter G. Davis/Musical America
Mr. Botstein provided a convincing account of this opera during a 2005 concert performance at Avery Fisher Hall. Now, in a fully staged production at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard, he offers further proof of this neglected work’s abundant charms. … With a score less splendid or a cast lacking confidence, Mr. Strassberger’s visual antics might have proved fatally overwhelming. But here, on Sunday afternoon, the staging provided a sparkle that suited both the whimsical story and the bubbly music.”
–      Steve Smith/The New York Times
“Another director might have tried to wrestle some sense from the chaotic plot. Thaddeus Strassberger, aided by set designer Kevin Knight, instead chose to pile on the gags in a fast-paced production that threw tongue-in-cheek references about like firecrackers. … Despite the hyperactive production, Chabrier’s music ultimately stole the show, full of surprises, subtle orchestral colors and melodic inventiveness. The ASO played it with verve and a fine sense of balance, shaping the French, Polish and Italian musical idioms carefully without overindulging in caricature.”
–      Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim/Classical Review
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

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