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Rare Staging of Mascagni’s Iris by Fast-Rising Director James Darrah Opens at Bard SummerScape This Friday (July 22); Plus Short Operas and Excerpts in August’s Bard Music Festival

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

Opening this Friday, July 22, Bard SummerScape presents an all-too-rare, fully staged production of Iris (1898), a darkly expressionistic forerunner of Madama Butterfly by Puccini’s close contemporary Pietro Mascagni. Despite the popularity of his Cavalleria rusticana, Mascagni’s Iris – while initially successful – is little known, and has not been seen at the Metropolitan Opera for 85 years. Yet its shimmering, dreamlike score has been called “bewitchingly lovely” (Independent, UK), and a long overdue 1997 London revival proved so popular that it was immediately remounted the following year. Conceived expressly for SummerScape 2016, Bard’s original production is the creation of James Darrah – a recent Musical America New Artist of the Month – whose successes include a staging of Peter Grimes that the Wall Street Journal proclaimed “one of the strongest, most theatrically imaginative, musically and dramatically compelling productions of the work.” Starring Grammy-nominated soprano Talise Trevigne, with music director Leon Botstein leading the American Symphony Orchestra, Iris’s five performances take place on Bard’s glorious Hudson Valley campus in the striking Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center (July 22, 24, 27, 29, 31). Click here for a tantalizing taste of past opera highlights at Bard SummerScape.

Director James Darrah explains:

Iris is surreal, dark, violent, and truly expressionistic in tone and rich with imagination. It follows a young woman’s brutal transformation from idyllic isolated youth to exploited maturity as she is stolen from childhood into the erotic underbelly of society. An evocatively abstract libretto pairs with staggering orchestral writing, imbuing the piece with an otherworldly scope.”

As Leon Botstein put it, in an illuminating program note:

Iris was in its time an experiment that sought to integrate naturalism and symbolism into opera, using the rich palette of turn-of-the-century chromatic harmony and orchestral sonority in combination with alluring and consistently stunning melodic vocal writing. The time has come to embrace the mysterious beauty and theatricality of Iris, and extract the opera from the shadow cast by Cavalleria and Butterfly. Iris is among the finest and most compact Italian musical dramas ever written.”

Besides Talise Trevigne, who recently proved herself “a Butterfly worthy of mention alongside Maria Callas” (Voix des Arts), Bard’s first-rate cast includes bass-baritone Douglas Williams as the villainous brothel-keeper Kyoto; Austrian-Australian tenor Gerard Schneider as Osaka, the rich young man whose treachery spells Iris’s downfall; and bass Matt Boehler – “a bass with an attitude and the goods to back it up” (New York Times) – as her father, Il Cieco. Click here to see Trevigne “Take Five” with Opera News.

Opera in the Bard Music Festival: Puccini, Puccini/Berio, Boito, Busoni, Catalani, Massenet

As befits the most popular and successful opera composer of all time, SummerScape 2016’s immersion in “Puccini and His World” offers more opera than any season to date. Four of the eleven concert programs in this year’s Bard Music Festival showcase semi-staged opera or opera (sometimes excerpted) in concert.

Program One, “Opera, Politics, and the Italian,” features excerpts from Nerone (1877–1918) by Arrigo Boito, Loreley (1890) by Alfredo Catalani, and Puccini’s own beloved Manon Lescaut (1893). Joining Botstein and The Orchestra Now for concert performances of these selections are soprano Melody Moore, tenor Russell Thomas, and bass-baritone Paul Whelan, winner of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Song Prize.

Presented as part of Program Three, “The Symphonic and the Operatic” (August 6), Puccini’s Il tabarro (1916) has been described by Arman Schwartz – one of SummerScape 2016’s two scholars-in-residence – as, “in many regards, his most experimental and accomplished score.” Bard’s performance marks the return of baritone Louis Otey, star of last season’s hit revival of The Wreckers, alongside soprano Kelly Kaduce, tenor Michael Wade Lee, and bass-baritone Aubrey Allicock, with Botstein leading the American Symphony Orchestra.

In Program Five, “Realism and Fantasy: New Directions in Opera” (August 7), Mary Birnbaum makes her Bard directorial debut with a double-bill of complete, semi-staged rarities. Jules Massenet’s La Navarraise (1894) stars French-Canadian mezzo Nora Sourouzian, tenor Sean Panikkar, baritone Levi Hernandez, and bass-baritone Paul Whelan, while Le Villi (1884) – Puccini’s first opera – stars Iris’s leading lady Talise Trevigne with Panikkar and Hernandez, supported by Botstein and the American Symphony.

Bard’s Program Eleven, “The Turandot Project” (August 14), presents the East Coast premiere of Luciano Berio’s 2001 completion of the final act of Puccini’s Turandot (1924), alongside Ferruccio Busoni’s setting of the same story (1917). Berio’s conclusion marks an alternative to the more familiar version by Puccini’s contemporary Franco Alfano; as scholar-in-residence Schwartz remarks:

“Berio’s controversial score – paired here with Busoni’s fascinating dramatization of the same tale – suggests how Puccini’s legacy continued to be revised and debated generations after his death.”

Returning to helm both semi-staged productions is R. B. Schlather – praised by the New York Times for his “intriguing, inventive directorial vision” – who previously served as assistant director on celebrated SummerScape stagings of The Wreckers, Euryanthe, and Die Liebe der Danae. With original designs by Paul Tate dePoo III, named “2015 Young Designer to Watch” by Live Design magazine, the two operas star soprano Melody Moore. She is joined in Busoni by tenor Richard Cox and bass-baritone Nathan Stark, and in Puccini/Berio by soprano Cecilia Violetta López, bass-baritone Paul Whelan, and her Program One co-star, Russell Thomas. Anchored by Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra, it is Bard’s back-to-back presentations of these two contrasting takes on the same epic tale that draw the Bard Music Festival – and indeed, the entire seven weeks of Bard SummerScape – to a truly electrifying close.

Opera at Bard SummerScape 2016
Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945)
Iris (1898)

American Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Leon Botstein, music director
Directed by James Darrah
Set design: Mac Moc Design (Emily MacDonald; Cameron Jaye Mock)
Dramaturgy and costume design: Peabody Southwell
Choreography: Gustavo Ramírez Sansano
Lighting design: Neil Peter Jampolis
Projections: Adam Larsen

Iris: Talise Trevigne, soprano
Kyoto: Douglas Williams, baritone
Osaka: Gerard Schneider, tenor
Ragpicker/Merchant: Samuel Levine, tenor
The Geisha: Cecelia Hall, mezzo-soprano
Il Cieco: Matt Boehler, bass
Three Geishas: WIFE

Sosnoff Theater
July 22* & 29 at 7:30 pm
July 24*, 27 & 31* at 2 pm
Tickets start at $25

Opera Talk
July 24 at 12 pm
Free and open to the public

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

Opera in the 2016 Bard Music Festival, “Giacomo Puccini and His World”
August 5
Program One, “Opera, Politics, and the Italian” *
Sosnoff Theater
Bard Festival Chorale / James Bagwell
The Orchestra Now / Leon Botstein

Arrigo Boito (1842–1918)
End of Act I from Nerone (1877–1918), in concert
Nerone: Russell Thomas, tenor
Tigellino: Paul Whelan, bass-baritone

Alfredo Catalani (1854–93)
End of Act III from Loreley (1890), in concert
Loreley: Melody Moore, soprano
Walter: Russell Thomas, tenor

Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924)
Intermezzo and Act IV from Manon Lescaut (1893), in concert
Manon: Melody Moore, soprano
Des Grieux: Russell Thomas, tenor

August 6
Program Three, “The Symphonic and the Operatic”
Sosnoff Theater
Members of the Bard Festival Chorale / James Bagwell
American Symphony Orchestra / Leon Botstein

Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924)
Il tabarro (1916), in concert
Giorgetta: Kelly Kaduce, soprano
Michele: Louis Otey, baritone
Luigi: Michael Wade Lee, tenor
Il Tinca: Theo Lebow, tenor
Il Talpa: Aubrey Allicock, bass-baritone
La Frugola: Margaret Lattimore, mezzo-soprano
Song Seller: César Delgado, tenor

August 7
Program Five, “Realism and Fantasy: New Directions in Opera” *
Sosnoff Theater
Bard Festival Chorale / James Bagwell
American Symphony Orchestra / Leon Botstein
Director: Mary Birnbaum
Scenic design: Grace Laubacher
Lighting design: Anshuman Bhatia
Projection design: Andrew Lazarow

Jules Massenet (1842–1912)
La Navarraise (1894), semi-staged
Anita: Nora Sourouzian, mezzo-soprano
Araquil: Sean Panikkar, tenor
Garrido: Paul Whelan, bass-baritone
Remigio: Levi Hernandez, baritone

Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924)
Le villi (1884), semi-staged
Anna: Talise Trevigne, soprano
Roberto: Sean Panikkar, tenor
Guglielmo: Levi Hernandez, baritone

August 14
Program Eleven, “The Turandot Project” *
Sosnoff Theater
Bard Festival Chorale / James Bagwell
American Symphony Orchestra / Leon Botstein
Director: R. B. Schlather
Design: Paul Tate dePoo III
Lighting: JAX Messenger

Ferruccio Busoni (1866–1924)
Turandot (1917), semi-staged
Turandot: Melody Moore, soprano
Kalaf: Richard Cox, tenor
Altoum: Nathan Stark, bass-baritone
Barak: Steven LaBrie, baritone
Adelma: Kendra Broom, mezzo-soprano
Queen: Elizabeth Byrne, soprano
Truffaldino: Marc Molomot, tenor
Pantalone: Aubrey Allicock, bass-baritone
Tartaglia: Matthew Burns, bass-baritone

Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924)/Luciano Berio (1925–2003)
Act III from Turandot (1924/2001)
Turandot: Melody Moore, soprano
Calaf: Russell Thomas, tenor
Liù: Cecilia Violetta López, soprano
Timur: Paul Whelan, bass-baritone
Ping: Steven LaBrie, baritone

* Round-trip transportation from Manhattan to Bard is available for this performance. The round-trip fare is $40 and reservations are required; see further details below.

SummerScape 2016: other key performance dates by genre

Bard Music Festival, Weekend One: “Puccini and Italian Musical Culture” (Aug 5–7)
Bard Music Festival, Weekend Two: “Beyond Verismo” (Aug 11–14)

“Puccini and the Operatic Impulse in Cinema”
Ottaway Film Center
Thursdays and Sundays till Aug 14
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, and 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 Streets. Find additional details at:

Bard SummerScape ticket information
Tickets for all Bard SummerScape events are now on sale. 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.

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©21C Media Group, July 2016

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