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Schreker’s “The Distant Sound” opens at Bard SummerScape on Friday

Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. – The eighth annual Bard SummerScape’s opera presentation, Franz Schreker’s The Distant Sound (“Der ferne Klang,” 1910), though familiar in Europe, has never yet – in the century since its composition – been fully staged in North America.  Schreker, whose music synthesized elements from Romanticism to expressionism, was hailed early in his career as the most significant musical dramatist since Wagner, and The Distant Sound is a key work of Viennese modernism.  Thaddeus Strassberger, visionary director of last season’s lavishly praised Huguenots presentation and winner of the 2005 European Opera Directing Prize, returns to direct the landmark production, with set designs by Narelle Sissons, whose credits include Babes in Toyland at Lincoln Center (2008), and costume design by Mattie Ullrich, who created the costumes for SummerScape’s productions of The Sorcerer (2007) and Les Huguenots (2009).  Tenor Mathias Schulz, a Pavarotti International Voice Competition finalist, stars as Fritz, and soprano Yamina Maamar plays Grete, in which role the New York Times described her performance as a “triumph.”  The Distant Sound’s four performances (July 30, August 1, 4, & 6) feature the festival’s resident American Symphony Orchestra under music director Leon Botstein, who gives a free Opera Talk before the August 1 performance.

It was Botstein who gave The Distant Sound its long-overdue U.S. premiere in concert form, during the American Symphony Orchestra’s 2006–07 season, prompting veteran Musical America critic Peter G. Davis to write: “Botstein’s sympathy for the score was apparent everywhere. … The spirit and sweep of the music could scarcely have been more fully captured.”  Anthony Tommasini called the work “[an] arresting masterpiece,” noting in his New York Times review, “Below its melodramatic surface the opera teems with sensuality.  Mr. Botstein brought sure dramatic pacing and fiery commitment to his account of this thick and complex score.”  Like Wagner, Schreker wrote his own libretto, and his masterful melding of disparate dramatic devices and psychological and cultural forces, combined with the beauty and brilliance of his score, makes The Distant Sound one of the most moving and groundbreaking works of 20th-century opera.

Bard offsets this gravitas with an authentic taste of Vienna’s lighter side, offering nine performances of Oscar Straus’s charming operetta The Chocolate Soldier (1908), based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Arms and the Man.  An international success, The Chocolate Soldier was the hit of the 1909 Broadway season, while its London premiere ran for 500 performances.  Directing the new production is award-winning director and choreographer Will Pomerantz, with sets and costumes by Carol Bailey, who previously collaborated with Pomerantz on Of Thee I Sing at SummerScape 2008.  Leading a first-rate cast, Lynne Abeles, praised by the New York Times for her “standout” performance in DiCapo Opera Theatre’s Emmeline, will star opposite baritone Andrew Wilkowske, whose recent Papageno for Virginia Opera “stole the show” (Washington Post).  The production will be conducted by James Bagwell, Bard Music Festival’s Director of Choruses since 2003, who inspired glowing praise when he led SummerScape 2005’s production of The Tender Land.  Opening for the first of nine performances on August 5, the new production will be sung in English (Aug 515).  Before the performance on August 8, Bagwell, who also serves as Music Director of the Collegiate Chorale, will give an Opera Talk. 

Opera and operetta at Bard SummerScape 2010

Franz Schreker (18781934)
The Distant Sound (Der ferne Klang, 1910)
Libretto: Franz Schreker
American Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Leon Botstein, music director
Directed by Thaddeus Strassberger
Grete: Yamina Maamar
Fritz: Mathias Schulz
Old Grauman: Peter Van Derick
Grauman’s wife: Susan Marie Pierson
Innkeeper: Matthew Burns
Actor: Jeff Mattsey
Dr. Vigelius: Marc Embree
The Count: Corey McKern
The Chevalier: Jud Perry
Sosnoff Theater
July 30 and August 6 at 7 pm
August 1 and 4 at 3 pm
Tickets: $25, $55, $75

Opera Talk with Leon Botstein
August 1 at 1 pm
Free and open to the public

Oscar Straus (18701954)
The Chocolate Soldier (1908)
Libretto: R. Bernauer and L. Jacobson; English libretto: Stanislaus Stange
Conducted by James Bagwell
Directed by Will Pomerantz
Nadina: Lynne Abeles
Bummerli: Andrew Wilkowske
Alexis: Glenn Seven Allen
Masha: Camille Zamora
Aurelia: Madeleine Gray
Massakroff: Jason Switzer
Theater Two
August 5–7 and 12–14 at 8 pm
August 8, 11, and 15 at 3 pm
Tickets: $45

Opera Talk with James Bagwell
August 8 at 1 pm
Free and open to the public

Highlights of the eighth annual Bard SummerScape Festival

Modernism and its roots in Vienna’s dazzling turn-of-the-20th-century culture is the subject of the eighth annual Bard SummerScape Festival, which once again features a rich tapestry of music, opera, theater, dance, film, and cabaret.  Presented in the acoustically superb Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts and other venues on Bard College’s stunning Hudson River campus, the seven-week festival opened on July 8 with the first of four performances by the Trisha Brown Dance Company, and closes on August 22 with a party in Bard’s beloved Spiegeltent, which returns for the full seven weeks.

The 21st annual Bard Music Festival explores “Berg and His World,” and some of the Austrian composer’s most gifted and thought-provoking contemporaries provide other SummerScape highlights, which include (besides The Distant Sound and The Chocolate Soldier): Austro-Hungarian playwright Ödön von Horváth’s gripping 1937 drama Judgment Day (Der jüngste Tag), a runaway hit of last fall’s London theater season; four dances from the Trisha Brown Dance Company; and “The Best of G. W. Pabst,” a film festival juxtaposing German expressionism with American film noir.  A list of key performance dates follows below.

SummerScape 2010: key remaining performance dates by genre

Bard Music Festival, Weekend One: “Berg and His World: Berg and Vienna” (August 13—15)
Bard Music Festival, Weekend Two: “Berg and His World: Berg the European” (August 20—22) 

Franz Schreker: The Distant Sound (Der ferne Klang)
Sosnoff Theater
July 30 and August 6 at 7 pm
August 1 and 4 at 3 pm
Tickets: $25, $55, $75

Oscar Straus: The Chocolate Soldier
Theater Two
August 5—7 and 12—14 at 8 pm
August 8, 11, and 15 at 3 pm
Tickets: $45

“The Best of G. W. Pabst”
Thursdays and Sundays, July 15—August 19 at 7 pm
Ottaway Film Center
Tickets: $8 

Cabaret, Family Fare, and SpiegelClub
Cabaret $25; Family Fare $15 ($5 for child under 18); SpiegelClub $5

Bard SummerScape ticket information
The Bard SummerScape Festival is made possible through the generous support of the Advisory Boards of the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts and the Bard Music Festival, and the Friends of the Fisher Center.

For tickets and further information on all SummerScape events, call the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900 or visit 

Bard SummerScape:

Bard Music Festival:

Tickets: [email protected]; or by phone at 845-758-7900

Updates: Bard’s “e-members” get all the news in regular updates.  Click here to sign up.

All program information is subject to change.

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©21C Media Group, July 2010


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