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Opening Friday, July 22: Christian Räth Directs New Production of Richard Strauss’s Rarely Staged Comic Opera The Silent Woman (“Die Schweigsame Frau”), at Bard SummerScape

Jana McIntyre & David Portillo in The Silent Woman at Bard SummerScape; photo: Maria Baranova

“Bard has become a haven for important operas.” – New York Times

(June 2022)—Annandale-on-Hudson, NY: Opening Friday, July 22, Richard Strauss’s comic opera, The Silent Woman (“Die Schweigsame Frau”), receives a rare American presentation at Bard SummerScape. Harold Wilson, “a stentorian bass … with impressive focus, carrying power and quiet charisma” (New York Times), heads a strong cast in a new production by Christian Räth, whose SummerScape staging of Das Wunder der Heliane prompted Musical America to declare: “Opera productions don’t get much better than this.” Running for five performances on July 22, 24, 27, 29 and 31, Räth’s exuberant and colorful treatment features the American Symphony Orchestra and Bard Festival Chorale under the baton of festival founder and co-artistic director Leon Botstein, in the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center on Bard’s idyllic Hudson Valley campus. In two pre-performance Opera Talks, which are free and open to the public, Räth speaks before the matinee on July 24, and Botstein before the matinee on July 27. New Yorkers can take chartered coach transportation to the matinee on July 24, and home audiences around the world can enjoy the opening-night performance when it streams live online on July 22, with an encore stream on July 30.

Like Sergei Rachmaninoff, subject of this year’s Bard Music Festival, Richard Strauss is one of the last great exponents of musical Romanticism. In spite of his importance to the field, however, the composer’s eleventh opera, The Silent Woman (1935), was banned by the Third Reich after just four performances, because of librettist Stefan Zweig’s Jewish identity. Even today, despite having long overcome these troubled origins, the opera is still only rarely staged in the States, because of Strauss’s fiendishly difficult vocal writing. Such neglect should not be ascribed to any artistic failings, however. As the Los Angeles Times observes, The Silent Woman is “remarkable for its joie de vivre and, more important, its moments of profound old-world warmth, affection and rapture,” not to mention its “intricate, radiant score.” Set to Zweig’s sparkling libretto, the opera tells the madcap tale of a retired British admiral who craves the quiet life, his nephew Henry, Henry’s actress wife, and the scheming barber who intervenes between them. Featuring a counterfeit wedding designed to secure Henry’s inheritance, The Silent Woman is an intricately plotted screwball comedy in which all is ultimately forgiven. As Air Mail noted last month in a preview piece:

“Its charms are many: hummable tunes, a rapturous love duet, scintillating pastiche harking back to Monteverdi, … all driving a well-told tale. Even so, The Silent Woman remains a wallflower. How like Leon Botstein, inveterate champion of neglected genius, to give the piece a spin at his adventurous festival on the campus of Bard College.”

Bard’s new production and set design are both by Christian Räth, whose work has graced stages from the Metropolitan Opera to Covent Garden and La Scala. He explains: “The Silent Woman is first and foremost a declaration of love to the art of opera. This ‘woman’ is anything but silent, and even at the age of 87 feels surprisingly up to date.”

Räth’s production stars bass Harold Wilson as Sir Morosus, the cantankerous naval veteran. Seen earlier this spring in Elektra at the Metropolitan Opera, Wilson is also a familiar face at houses and festivals from Deutsche Oper Berlin to Opera Philadelphia, Santa Fe Opera, Glimmerglass and Caramoor, where his Il pirata performance prompted the Washington Post to urge: “Casting directors take note.”

Praised by Opera News for hitting “high notes with ease, singing with a luxuriant warm glow that seduced the ear,” tenor David Portillo sings the admiral’s nephew Henry, with soprano Jana McIntyre, a Metropolitan Opera National Council grand finalist, as his wife, Aminta; mezzo-soprano Michaela Martens, a “passionate and sympathetic vocal actress” (Boston Globe), as the admiral’s Housekeeper; and baritone Edward Nelson, winner of the 2020 Glyndebourne Opera Cup, as the Machiavellian barber.

Bard’s colorful and elegant costumes are by European Opera Prize-winner Mattie Ullrich, who previously worked on SummerScape stagings of Le roi malgré lui and Euryanthe, with choreography by Lucille Lortel, Outer Critics Circle and Tony Award-nominee David Neumann, and lighting by Tony and Drama Desk Award-winner Rick Fisher. The supertitle translation is by Stover Prize-winning poet and translator Peter Filkins.

Round-trip bus transportation from New York City

Chartered coach transportation from New York City is available for the matinee performance on Sunday, July 24. This may be ordered online or by calling the box office, and the meeting point for coach pick-up (at 10:30am) and drop-off (at approximately 8:30pm) is at Lincoln Center, Amsterdam Avenue, between 64th and 65th Streets. More information is available here.

SummerScape tickets

Tickets for all SummerScape and Bard Music Festival emainstage events are now on sale, starting at $25. For complete information regarding programs, tickets, series discounts and more, visit or call Bard’s box office at (845) 758-7900.

The 2022 SummerScape season is made possible in part by the generous support of Jeanne Donovan Fisher, the Martin and Toni Sosnoff Foundation, the Advisory Boards of the Fisher Center at Bard and Bard Music Festival, and Fisher Center and Bard Music Festival members. The 2022 Bard Music Festival has received funding from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.

Opera at SummerScape 2022

The Silent Woman (“Die Schweigsame Frau,” 1935)
Composed by Richard Strauss
Libretto by Stefan Zweig
Sosnoff Theater, Fisher Center
Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
     Friday, July 22 at 6:30pm
     Sunday, July 24 at 2pm*
     Wednesday, July 27 at 2pm
     Friday, July 29 at 4pm
     Sunday, July 31 at 2pm*

The opening night performance will stream live online on July 22 at 6:30pm ET, with an encore presentation on July 30.

American Symphony Orchestra
Bard Festival Chorale
Conducted by Leon Botstein
Directed and designed by Christian Räth
Costume design: Mattie Ullrich
Lighting design: Rick Fisher
Choreography: David Neumann
Supertitle translation: Peter Filkins

Morosus: Harold Wilson, bass
Aminta: Jana McIntyre, soprano
Henry: David Portillo, tenor
The Barber: Edward Nelson, baritone
Housekeeper: Michaela Martens, mezzo-soprano
Vanuzzi: Matthew Anchel, bass
Carlotta: Chrystal E. Williams, mezzo-soprano
Isotta: Anya Matanovic, soprano
Farfallo: Federico De Michelis, bass
Morbio: Jorell Williams, baritone

Sung in German with English supertitles

Opening Night Reception for Members
July 22

Opera Talks

Christian Räth: July 24 at 1pm
Leon Botstein: July 27 at noon

Free and open to the public

* Round-trip transportation from Manhattan to Bard is available for this performance. The round-trip fare is $75 and reservations are required; click here for details.

SummerScape 2022: other key dates

June 23–July 17
Theater: Molière’s Dom Juan (world premiere of new adaptation & translation)

June 24–August 6
Spiegeltent: live music and dancing

July 1–3
Dance: Song of Songs by Pam Tanowitz and David Lang (world premiere)

July 16
Special benefit: “Summer Enchanted Evening”

August 5–7
Bard Music Festival: Rachmaninoff and His World
Weekend One: Russia and Modernity

August 12–14
Bard Music Festival: Rachmaninoff and His World
Weekend Two: New Worlds

All programs subject to change

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© 21C Media Group, June 2022


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