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Bard SummerScape Returns July 7 – August 21, 2011

The curtain goes up on the 2011 Bard SummerScape Festival on July 7, ushering in seven weeks of music, opera, theater, dance and film offerings inspired by “Sibelius and His World,” which is the subject of the 22nd Annual Bard Music Festival (August 12–14 and August 19–21).   Other highlights of Bard SummerScape include, in chronological order, festival-opening performances by Finnish choreographer Tero Saarinen and his company (July 7–10); ten performances of Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck (July 13–24); a film festival, “Before and After Bergman: The Best of Nordic Film”  (July 14–August 18); five performances of Richard Strauss’s penultimate opera, Die Liebe der Danae, conducted by Leon Botstein and featuring the radiant young American soprano Meagan Miller, directed by Kevin Newbury with sets by renowned architect Rafael Viñoly (July 29–August 7); and nine performances of Noël Coward’s operetta Bitter Sweet (August 4–14). Bard’s Spiegeltent will also return for the entire run of the festival.
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”; Travel + Leisure reported, “At Bard SummerScape…Gehry’s acclaimed concert hall provides a spectacular venue for innovative fare”; and Newsday called SummerScape “brave and brainy”.
Additional details for Bard SummerScape 2011 highlights follow.  Complete schedules and additional information are available at
Chronological list of SummerScape 2011 highlights
July 7–10
Finland’s Tero Saarinen Company
Dance is a vital component of SummerScape, which has opened with celebrated dance performances each summer since 2005.  This year’s opener on July 7 is “outstanding contemporary dance troupe” (Globe and Mail, Toronto) Tero Saarinen Company.  One of Finland’s leading cultural exports, the group has appeared in more than 30 countries, and Saarinen’s choreography has been incorporated into the repertoire of such prominent dance groups as Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT1), the Batsheva Dance Company, Lyon Opera Ballet, and the Finnish National Ballet. Dancer/choreographer Tero Saarinen has been recognized for his work as an artist with the Pro Finlandia medal (2005), the most prestigious recognition given to artists in Finland; the International Movimentos Dance Prize for Best Male Performer in Germany (2004); and the title of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2004) by the French Ministry of Culture. In a New York Times review of Saarinen’s most recent New York appearance, at the 2010 Fall for Dance festival, dance critic Roslyn Sulcas described Saarinen as “an extraordinarily compelling stage presence.” The Tero Saarinen Company launches SummerScape 2011 with a triple bill of works that plumb themes of friendship, love, and death. Westward Ho! is a quietly humorous, lightly melancholy portrayal of friendships that have begun to dip in and out of selfishness and betrayal. Wavelengths focuses on a couple that is trying to escape the threatening ho-hum of their long-term relationship. The triple bill concludes with Saarinen himself performing the solo piece HUNT, one of the most important contemporary interpretations of The Rite of Spring (choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky, music by Igor Stravinsky).
July 13–24
Henrik Ibsen’s drama The Wild Duck
The Wild Duck, published in 1884, was described by George Bernard Shaw as combining “the profoundest tragedy with irresistible comedy.” Considered by many as Ibsen’s finest and most complex work, The Wild Duck marked a departure for the dramatist, blending the naturalism of his middle dramas with the symbolism of his late period. It portrays the disastrous consequences visited by the truth-seeking impulses of its protagonist upon a family whose peaceful existence is founded on a tissue of lies. Ibsen posits the notion that some people depend on their illusions to get by: that absolute truth can be too much for the human heart to bear.  In 1963 the play was made into a motion picture by Ibsen’s grandson, director Tancred Ibsen, and in 1983 Jeremy Irons and Liv Ullmann starred in an English-language film adaptation.  However, despite the admiration it has inspired, The Wild Duck is infrequently staged. The production is directed by young Irish director Caitriona McLaughlin, creator of last season’s Judgment Day, for ten performances in all.
July 14–Aug 18
Film Festival “Before and After Bergman: The Best of Nordic Film” (16 films)
Inspired by the Bard Music Festival’s focus on Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, the SummerScape 2011 film festival celebrates three widely divergent aspects of Nordic cinema. The first is the so-called golden age of the industry, most notably seen in the works of two Swedish directors, Mauritz Stiller and Victor Sjöström, and their Danish counterparts, Benjamin Christensen and Carl Dreyer. These silent films are highly regarded for vividly photographed northern landscapes that serve as a haunting backdrop for sophisticated characterizations and restrained performances. The second is the psychologically penetrating, erotically candid work of the legendary Ingmar Bergman. The festival concludes with a double feature of films by the still-active Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki, primarily known for his darkly comic vision of working-class life.   
July 29–August 7
Five performances of Richard Strauss’s opera Die Liebe der Danae
This year’s opera presentation is Die Liebe der Danae (The Love of Danae, 1940), Richard Strauss’s penultimate opera.  In this rarely performed work, Strauss employs a comic rendering of a Greek myth – the Midas story – to comment on love, money, and human nature. Sibelius, too, was drawn to Greek mythology, as evidenced by his two tone poems, The Dryad (1910) and The Oceanides (1914).  The two composers were close contemporaries, and there are a number of noteworthy parallels between them that Bard aims to investigate.  Like the great Finn, Strauss resisted musical modernity, and this conservatism extended also to politics; both composers, facing different pressures in their respective corners of Europe, made compromising concessions to the Nazis despite their private misgivings. The new, fully-staged production will showcase the “strong and brilliant” (New York Times) soprano of Meagan Miller, a 1999 winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, under the direction of award-winning opera and theater director Kevin Newbury, with a set designed by Rafael Viñoly. Its five performances will be conducted by music director Leon Botstein, who will give an Opera Talk, free and open to the public, before the performance on July 31.
August 4–14
Noël Coward’s operetta Bitter Sweet
This season, in addition to a full-length opera, Bard SummerScape presents Noël Coward’s chamber opera Bitter Sweet (1929). As quintessentially English as Sibelius was Finnish, Coward (1899–1973) is best remembered today as the director of such films as Brief Encounter and the Academy Award-winning In Which We Serve; for plays like Blithe Spirit and songs like “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”; and for his wit and distinctive personal style.  In his day, Coward was also successful as an actor, singer, novelist, and painter, besides volunteering for the Secret Service and running the British propaganda office in Paris during the Second World War. Coward wrote both book and music for Bitter Sweet, modeling it after Die Fledermaus in an attempt to revive old-style operetta. True to its name, the work combines a lightness of tone with the regretful nostalgia of its premise; an aging heiress, while advising a younger woman to marry for love, recalls her own youth, when she eloped with her music teacher, only to see him die at the hands of a jealous aristocrat.  The whimsical, romantic score features such songs as “I’ll See You Again” and the reflective “If Love Were All.” Conductor James Bagwell and arranger Jack Parton – the artistic team behind last season’s chamber opera The Chocolate Soldier – are joined by director Michael Gieleta for the new production, which opens on August 4.
August 12–14  and August 19–21
Bard Music Festival
The numerous offerings that make up the comprehensive 22nd annual Bard Music Festival, “Sibelius and His World,” take place during SummerScape’s two final weekends: August 12– 14 and August 19–21.  Through the prism of Sibelius’s life and career, this year’s festival will explore the music of Scandinavia and examine the challenges faced by those who continued working within a tonal framework after the revolutions of musical modernism. Sibelius’s orchestral mastery was exceptional; his compositional output includes one of the most revered and beloved symphonic cycles since Beethoven’s and the most frequently recorded violin concerto of the 20th century, in addition to such favorites as FinlandiaValse triste, and Tapiola. The twelve musical programs, built thematically and spaced over two weekends, range from “Jean Sibelius: National Symbol, International Iconoclast” to “Silence and Influence.”  Along with presentations of music by his contemporaries, a broad sampling of Sibelius’s own compositions will range from canonical works like the Fifth and Seventh Symphonies to such comparative rarities as his choral symphony Kullervo. Two panel discussions and a symposium will be supplemented by talks before each performance that illuminate the concert’s themes and are free to ticket-holders.
Weekend One: “Sibelius and His World: Imagining Finland” (August 12–14)
It is not surprising that Sibelius is so closely identified with his homeland, since its breathtaking scenery, literature, and mythology – most notably the Kalevala, its national epic – proved his most profound inspiration. His music helped unify a Finland struggling for independence from Tsarist Russia, and established him not only as its leading composer but also as one of its greatest national figures. Nevertheless, Sibelius was neither Finland’s first composer of note nor the first to draw on Finnish legend; Bard introduces the less familiar figure of Robert Kajanus, once the nation’s most prominent composer, in addition to music by other Scandinavian and Russian composers of Sibelius’s time.
Weekend Two: “Sibelius and His World: Sibelius – Conservative or Modernist?”  (August 19–21)
In his long lifetime, Sibelius witnessed almost a century of musical change, including the radical innovations of Stravinsky and the Second Viennese School.  His own sonorities remained stubbornly consonant, his works benefitting by remaining within the confines of late-Romantic tonality. This inevitably drew criticism, and it was in the aftershock of such succès de scandale as Pierrot lunaire and The Rite of Spring that Sibelius received his first negative reviews. Yet his own musical outlook was far from hidebound; he admired Schoenberg and named Bartók the 20th century’s greatest composer. The debate continues: while Sibelius’s detractors dismiss his work as overly accessible and populist, there are still members of the avant-garde who revere him as an innovator.
July 7–August 21
The opening of the 2011 Bard SummerScape festival on Thursday, July 7, signals the return of the authentic, one-of-a-kind Belgian Spiegeltent, the luxurious “tent of mirrors” that has proved a sensation since 2006, when its introduction to Bard marked the first time one of these fabled old-world structures appeared in America.  The New York Times pronounced it “agreeably funky,” while the Village Voice praised its “wooden floors, mirrored walls, stained-glass panels, and red velvet ceiling.”  Conveniently situated near the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center, the Spiegeltent affords a sumptuous and magical environment throughout the seven-week festival to enjoy cutting-edge cabaret and musical performances – almost all of which sold out last year – plus family fare, late-night dancing, and tasty refreshments. Friday and Saturday nights are for adults only, with Evening Cabaret featuring colorful entertainment with a hip, downtown edge.  Returning this year is the seductive slapstick of the Wau Wau Sisters and the popular Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, while new acts include Emmy Award-winning comedian Judy Gold and critically acclaimed jazz singer Lea DeLaria. 
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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