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Bard SummerScape – “Smartest Mix of Events within Driving Distance of New York” – Celebrates 20th Anniversary with Seven Weeks of Music, Opera, Music-Theater & More in Idyllic Hudson Valley (June 23–Aug 13)

(April 2023, Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.) — Now celebrating its 20th anniversary season, Bard SummerScape is one of America’s “can’t miss” cultural destinations. Presented on the bucolic Bard College campus in New York’s idyllic Hudson River Valley, the annual arts festival offers a full summer of music, opera, music-theater, and more (June 23–Aug 13). SummerScape 2023 opens with the world premiere of Illinois, a new music-theater commission from Grammy nominee Sufjan Stevens, Tony Award winner Justin Peck, and Pulitzer Prize laureate Jackie Sibblies Drury. This season’s Bard Music Festival – hailed as “a highlight of the musical year” (Wall Street Journal) – presents an intensive reexamination of the great but frequently misunderstood composer Ralph Vaughan Williams in “Vaughan Williams and His World.” Set in the British composer’s homeland, Camille Saint-Saëns’s grand opera Henri VIII receives its first major American production. Bard’s beloved Belgian Spiegeltent returns for live music and dance, and locals are invited to a free, all-day 20th Anniversary Community Celebration. Chartered coach transportation from New York City is available for select programs (see details below) and Henri VIII and six of the Bard Music Festival concerts will stream live to home audiences worldwide. An ideal day trip for New Yorkers and a perfect weekend destination for culture lovers throughout the tri-state area, SummerScape is one of “New York’s 20 coolest out-of-town spots” (Time Out New York). As the New York Post declares, “It’s hard not to find something to like, and it’s even harder to beat the setting: the gleaming, Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Performing Arts Center in bucolic Annandale-on-Hudson.

It is in and around the striking Fisher Center – also celebrating its 20th anniversary – that SummerScape’s offerings take place. Time Out New York finds that “the experience of entering the Fisher Center and encountering something totally new is unforgettable and enriching.” Travel and Leisure calls the Fisher Center “a spectacular venue for innovative fare,” and Dwell magazine names it one of the “world’s best concert halls.”

As Bloomberg News has observed, Bard SummerScape offers “the smartest mix of events within driving distance of New York.”

The Fisher Center is located at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, on the east bank of the Hudson River in the picturesque Hudson Valley, about 90 miles north of New York City and 220 miles southwest of Boston. It is surrounded by numerous Hudson Valley estates, such as Montgomery Place, Clermont, Olana, Mills Mansion, the Vanderbilt Mansion, and the Roosevelt Home and Museum, all of which are open to the public. Among other nearby attractions are the Culinary Institute of America, Cary Arboretum, Innisfree Garden, country auctions, wineries, pick-your-own vegetable and fruit farms, nature sanctuaries, and historic river ports. Special events during the Bard Music Festival include daily riverboat excursions and tours of the Hudson River houses.

Bard SummerScape 2023:

  • MUSIC-THEATER: SummerScape opens with the world premiere production of Illinois. A new SummerScape commission, Illinois is a full-length theatrical adaptation of the chart-topping 2005 concept album of the same name by Grammy and Academy Award-nominated singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens. His music and lyrics form the basis of an exuberant new pageant of storytelling, theater, live music, and dance by Tony Award-winning choreographer and director Justin Peck and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury. Featuring three vocalists and a live band, the production takes audiences on a wild ride through the American heartland (June 23–July 2).
  • OPERA: SummerScape presents the first major American production of Camille Saint-Saëns’s unjustly neglected grand opera Henri VIII (1883). Combining “vocal heft and theatrical intensity” (Wall Street Journal), bass-baritone Alfred Walker sings the title role, with Leon Botstein leading the American Symphony Orchestra and Bard Festival Chorale in an original new staging by visionary French director Jean-Romain Vesperini (July 21–30).
  • MUSIC: The 33rd Bard Music Festival presents “Vaughan Williams and His World,” an illuminating series of chamber, vocal, choral, and orchestral concerts – as well as pre-concert talks, panel discussions, and special events – devoted to the life and times of Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958). One of the 20th century’s preeminent symphonists and most widely performed composers, Vaughan Williams helped shape Britain’s national sound. Because of their radical modernism, however, some of his greatest works are still only rarely heard. To redress this balance, the music festival contextualizes a broad sampling of Vaughan Williams’s music with that of his compatriots, contemporaries and others (Aug 4–6; Aug 10–13).
  • SPIEGELTENT: Bard’s one-of-a-kind Belgian tent of mirrors provides a sumptuous environment for cutting-edge live music and dancing on Fridays, Saturdays, and some Sundays throughout the festival, with a new “Bluegrass on Hudson” series on Thursdays (June 23–Aug 12; full schedule to be announced).
  • 20TH ANNIVERSARY COMMUNITY CELEBRATION: At a free, day-long celebration at the Fisher Center, members of the local community can enjoy a family-friendly Kinder Disco, interactive building tours, an al fresco mariachi performance by Flor de Toloache, and after-hours dancing with WKZE radio’s DJ MK ULTRA (July 15).

Round-trip bus transportation from New York City

Chartered coach transportation from New York City is available for Illinois (June 25 and July 2), Henri VIII (July 23 and 30) and the final program of the Bard Music Festival (Aug 13). This may be ordered online or by calling the box office at 845-758-7900, and the meeting point for pick-up and drop-off is at Lincoln Center on Amsterdam Avenue, between 64th and 65th Streets. More information is available here.

SummerScape tickets

Tickets for mainstage events start at $25. For complete information regarding tickets, series discounts, and more, visit or call Bard’s box office at (845) 758-7900.

All programs are subject to change.

The Fisher Center is generously supported by Jeanne Donovan Fisher, the Martin and Toni Sosnoff Foundation, the Advisory Boards of the Fisher Center at Bard and Bard Music Festival, Fisher Center and Bard Music Festival members, the Ettinger Foundation, the Thendara Foundation, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature. Fisher Center LAB has received funding from members of the Live Arts Bard Creative Council, the Lucille Lortel Foundation, and the Fisher Center’s Artistic Innovation Fund, with lead support from Rebecca Gold and S. Asher Gelman ’06 through the March Forth Foundation.

Illinois is a co-commission of the Fisher Center, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and the Perelman Performing Arts Center, and has been made possible with a commissioning grant from The O’Donnell-Green Music and Dance Foundation and residency support from Project Springboard: Developing Dance Musicals. The production is generously supported by Emily Blavatnik and the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

Henri VIII has received support from Villa Albertine.

The 2023 Bard Music Festival has received support from the Vaughan Williams Foundation.

Click here for high-resolution photos.

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© 21C Media Group, April 2023


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