Bard SummerScape 2016 Presents Rare Staging of Mascagni’s Iris by Fast-Rising Director James Darrah (July 22–31); Plus Short Operas and Excerpts by Puccini, Puccini/Berio, Boito, Busoni, Catalani, and Massenet in Bard Music Festival

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Bard SummerScape 2016 Presents Rare Staging of Mascagni’s Iris by Fast-Rising Director James Darrah (July 22–31)

Plus Short Operas and Excerpts by Puccini, Puccini/Berio, Boito, Busoni, Catalani, and Massenet in Bard Music Festival

An indispensable part of the summer operatic landscape.”

Musical America on Bard SummerScape

Annandale-on-Hudson, NY: Reviving important but neglected operas has long been central to Bard SummerScape’s mission, and this year’s immersion in “Puccini and His World” – as befits the most popular and successful opera composer of all time – offers more opera than any season to date. Presented on Bard’s glorious Hudson Valley campus in the striking Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center, the festival’s operatic centerpiece is an all-too-rare, fully staged production of Iris, a darkly expressionistic forerunner of Madama Butterfly by Puccini’s close contemporary Pietro Mascagni. Starring Grammy-nominated soprano Talise Trevigne in an original new staging by James DarrahMusical America’s New Artist of the Month for December 2015 – Iris runs for five performances between July 22 and 31, with an Opera Talk, free and open to the public, before the matinee on July 24.

In addition, SummerScape 2016 offers a wealth of short operas and excerpts under the auspices of the Bard Music Festival, with semi-stagings or concert performances of Puccini’s Il tabarro (August 6) and Le Villi (August 7), Massenet’s La Navarraise (August 7), and contrasting takes on Turandot from Puccini/Berio and Busoni (August 14). Like Iris, these performances feature the American Symphony Orchestra under the baton of music director Leon Botstein, who also leads The Orchestra Now (TŌN), currently in its inaugural season, in concert excerpts from Boito’s Nerone, Catalani’s Loreley, and Puccini’s Manon Lescaut (August 5). As Time Out New York observed last season, Botstein and Bard SummerScape show courage, foresight and great imagination, honoring operas that larger institutions are content to ignore.” Indeed, as the Financial Times notes, “Some of the most important summer opera experiences in the U.S. are not at the better known festivals but at Bard SummerScape.

Pietro Mascagni’s Iris (1898)

Puccini’s close friend, sometime rival, and one-time roommate, Pietro Mascagni (1863–1945) is best known today for Cavalleria rusticana, the perennially popular one-act opera with which he ushered in the age of verismo. By contrast, his later opera Iris (1898), despite its initial success, is rarely staged, 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 revival at London’s Opera Holland Park proved so popular that it was immediately remounted the following year. Like Madama Butterfly, which it preceded by six years, Iris is a product of the “japonisme” movement then sweeping Europe. As Barrymore Laurence Scherer writes, in an illuminating liner note to CBS Masterworks’ premier recording of the opera:

Iris [is] an excursion into the hothouse world of Japanese orientalism that remains possibly the finest example of [Mascagni’s] work. … [And] Puccini was definitely listening: time after time, we hear anticipations not only of Butterfly, but of Turandot.”

Librettist Luigi Illica worked on both Iris and Madama Butterfly, and the two are thematically linked, alike in depicting tragedies of innocence betrayed in fin-de-siècle Japan. Yet there the similarities end; as 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.”

Mascagni’s Iris is a young girl violently abducted from the home she shared with her blind father, and forced into prostitution in Tokyo’s notorious red-light district. Discovered and denounced by her father, she throws herself into the city sewers, where she undergoes yet further suffering and eventually dies. As Paul Griffiths remarked in the New York Times after a rare 1998 concert performance, the opera’s many “interesting dramatic points … make one dream about how it might look in the theater.”

Bard’s original production, then, represents an all-too-rare opportunity to realize this dream. Conceived expressly for SummerScape 2016, it is the creation of Darrah, whose recent successes include a staging of Peter Grimes for the San Francisco Symphony that Opera News hailed as “a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” and the Wall Street Journal proclaimed “one of the strongest, most theatrically imaginative, musically and dramatically compelling productions of the work.” An advocate of multidisciplinary collaboration, Darrah is the founder of the Los Angeles-based production and design collective Chromatic. His longtime professional partner and co-creative director of Chromatic, Peabody Southwell, serves as both dramaturg and costume designer for Iris. Other Chromatic artists rounding out the opera’s creative team include projection designer Adam Larsen and set design team Mac Moc, aka Emily MacDonald and Cameron Jaye Mock. Gustavo Ramírez Sansano – named one of “25 to Watch” by Dance magazine – will choreograph, and lighting is by Tony and Drama Desk Award-winner Neil Peter Jampolis.

Headlining Bard’s first-rate cast is Grammy-nominated soprano Talise Trevigne, who recently proved herself “a Butterfly worthy of mention alongside Maria Callas” (Voix des Arts). Bass-baritone Douglas Williams – “the most completely satisfying singer” (New York Times) – portrays the villainous brothel-keeper Kyoto, with Austrian-Australian tenor Gerard Schneider, whose credits include Carnegie Hall and the Salzburg Festival, as Osaka, the rich young man whose treachery spells Iris’s downfall, and Matt Boehler – “a bass with an attitude and the goods to back it up” (New York Times) – as her father, Il Cieco. Rounding out the vocal cast are the “wonderfully appealing” (New York Times) young tenor Samuel Levine, and mezzo-soprano Cecelia Hall, a top prizewinner at the Gerda Lissner International Vocal Competition, while the Dance of the Geishas will be performed by WIFE, the innovative Los Angeles-based dance trio described as “too badass to ignore” (L.A. Weekly).

Douglas Williams (photo: Kevin McDermott) Gerard Schneider (photo: Luigi Caputo)

Excerpts from Nerone, Loreley, and Manon Lescaut (Bard Music Festival, Program 1)

Four of the eleven concert programs in this year’s Bard Music Festival, which celebrates “Giacomo Puccini and His World,” showcase either semi-staged opera or opera (sometimes excerpted) in concert. Program One, “Opera, Politics, and the Italian,” features excerpts from three Italian operas: the end of Act I from Nerone (1877–1918), an incomplete and rarely staged depiction by Arrigo Boito of the plight of the Christians under Nero’s rule; the end of Act III from Loreley (1890), an Italian treatment of the German Lorelei legend by Puccini’s rival Alfredo Catalani; and the Intermezzo and Act IV from the Tuscan master’s own beloved Manon Lescaut (1893). Joining Botstein and The Orchestra Now for concert performances of these selections are soprano Melody Moore, who impressed Opera News with her “vocal richness and emotional power” at Washington National Opera this winter; tenor Russell Thomas, a familiar face at the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Covent Garden; and bass-baritone Paul Whelan, winner of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Song Prize.

Il tabarro (Bard Music Festival, Program 3)

Presented as part of Program Three, “The Symphonic and the Operatic,” Il tabarro (1916) represents the latter end of Puccini’s long career. The high-octane first “panel” of Il trittico, his late triptych of one-act operas, it is a Zola-esque melodrama set on the Seine that has been described as “top-flight Puccini” (Telegraph, UK). As barge-owner Michele, Bard’s performance marks the return of baritone Louis Otey, star of last season’s hit revival of The Wreckers, with soprano Kelly Kaduce“an exceptional actress whose performance was as finely modulated dramatically as it was musically” (Opera News) – as his wife, Giorgetta. Tenor Michael Wade Lee – “a spot-on bel canto tenor … [who] radiated easy charm” (Independent, UK) – sings the role of Giorgetta’s lover, the stevedore Luigi, with bass-baritone Aubrey Allicock demonstrating “the full range of his musicianship” (Washington Post) as fellow stevedore Il Talpa.

La Navarraise and Le Villi (Bard Music Festival, Program 5)

In Program Five, “Realism and Fantasy: New Directions in Opera,” Bard offers a double-bill of complete, semi-staged rarities with which Mary Birnbaum makes her Bard directorial debut, with scenic design by Grace Laubacher, lighting by Anshuman Bhatia, and projections by Andrew Lazarow. Jules Massenet’s short two-act opera La Navarraise (1894) represents a rare French contribution to the predominantly Italian verismo movement. Sensuous in sound, and set against a backdrop of Spain’s Third Carlist War, it proved especially popular and was often programmed alongside Cavalleria rusticana. Reprising the role in which, at the Wexford Festival, she was pronounced “terrific, … her singing lush and firm in tone and phrase, her acting committed and uninhibited” (Telegraph, UK), Bard’s revival stars French-Canadian mezzo Nora Sourouzian as the titular Anita, opposite tenor Sean Panikkar – “an appealing performer who clearly pushed his way in front of the line when they were handing out vocal gifts” (Opera News) – as Araquil, the soldier she loves. Levi Hernandez lends his “secure, beautifully modulated baritone” (Opera News) to Araquil’s father, Remigio, with Paul Whelan as commander Garrido.

Bard pairs La Navarraise with Puccini’s first opera, Le Villi (1884), which draws on the same Central European legend as Adolphe Adam’s ballet Giselle, a depiction of the Willis, or vengeful spirits of jilted girls. As the New York Times noted after a rare 2006 concert performance, “With its elusive chromatic harmony and wayward lyricism, … the opera wins you over.” Trevigne, leading lady of Iris, stars as Anna, with Panikkar as her fiancé, Roberto, and Hernandez as her father, the head forester Guglielmo.

Turandot by Puccini/Berio and Busoni (Bard Music Festival, Program 11)

When Puccini died after surgery for throat cancer, he had completed all but the closing scene of his final opera. Franco Alfano was commissioned to finish off his story of a cold-hearted Chinese princess, and although many would find this posthumous completion both musically and dramatically disappointing, it is in this form that Turandot endures. Only very recently did a viable alternative emerge, when Luciano Berio, whose completion of Schubert’s tenth symphony was heard at Bard two years ago, made his own attempt. The Guardian pronounced this “the ending [Turandot] deserves,” and the New Yorker agreed:

Berio’s effort is far more satisfying than Alfano’s, not only because it is beautifully crafted but because it honors the fact of Puccini’s death; the new material begins with a shivery sequence of polytonal chords, suggesting a spirit gliding away, while also recalling the harsh sonorities with which the opera began. This version ought to replace Alfano’s at the Met and elsewhere.”

It is not known whether Puccini knew the operatic adaptation of the Turandot fable by Ferruccio Busoni (1866–1924). This was completed seven years before his own, in comparison with which the New York Times found Busoni’s “cool and analytical,” yet “distinctive, challenging and true.” Bard’s Program Eleven, “The Turandot Project,” pairs the two, juxtaposing the final act of Puccini’s opera (1924), as rendered by Berio (2001), with Busoni’s setting of the same story (1917).

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, whose portrayal of Tosca at San Francisco Opera captured the role “right down to the ground” (San Francisco Classical Voice). Undertaking both title roles, Moore heads a pair of stellar casts. As the prince who must solve three riddles to win her, she is partnered in Busoni by Richard Cox, praised for his “impressive, substantial tenor, rock solid in its delivery but malleable in its deployment” (Opera Today), and in Puccini/Berio by her Program One co-star Russell Thomas. Soprano Cecilia Violetta López, named one of opera’s “25 Rising Stars” (Opera News) sings Puccini/Berio’s slave girl, Liù, and bass-baritone Nathan Stark, who boasts a voice of “unearthly power” (Washington Post), plays Altoum, Turandot’s father in the Busoni. Steven LaBrie, a top prize-winner at the 2016 George London Foundation Awards, does double duty as Busoni’s Barak and Puccini/Berio’s Ping, and bass-baritone Paul Whelan returns as Puccini/Berio’s Timur. 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.

About opera at Bard SummerScape

Since the opening of the Fisher Center at Bard, Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra have been responsible for championing and restoring to the stage a growing number of important but long-neglected operas. All these presentations and their remarkable stagings have been warmly received by audiences and critics alike – not least, last season’s first full American staging of The Wreckers by Dame Ethel Smyth. The New York Times pronounced Smyth’s opera “extraordinarily successful,” the New Yorker praised the “rough-edged passion” of Bard’s performance, and the Boston Musical Intelligencer marveled, “Botstein is nothing less than a visionary in bringing Smyth’s opera to light.In short,” as ConcertoNet concluded, “this was a revelation.”

Illustrating the scope and originality of the festival’s programming, a list of Bard’s previous operatic offerings follows below:

2015: Smyth – The Wreckers (first fully staged American production)

2014: Weber – Euryanthe (first American revival in 100 years)

Schubert – Fierrabras; Die Verschworenen

von Suppé – Franz Schubert

2013: Taneyev – Oresteia (first fully staged production outside Russia)

Stravinsky – Oedipus Rex, Perséphone, and Mavra

2012: Chabrier – Le roi malgré lui (first staged revival of original version)

Saint-Saëns – Henry VIII

2011: Strauss – Die Liebe der Danae (first fully staged New York production)

2010: Schreker – Der ferne Klang

Hindemith – Sancta Susanna

Weill – Royal Palace

2009: Meyerbeer – Les Huguenots

2008: Szymanowski – King Roger; Harnasie (double-bill)

2007: Zemlinsky – Der Zwerg; Eine florentinische Tragödie (first U.S. double-bill production)

2006: Schumann – Genoveva (first U.S. professional production)

2005: Blitzstein – Regina

2004: Shostakovich – The Nose (first East-coast professional production)

2003: Janáček – Osud (first U.S. staged production)

Click here to see a celebration of opera at Bard SummerScape.

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

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

MUSIC

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

Bard Music Festival, Weekend Two: “Beyond Verismo” (Aug 12–14)

DANCE

John Heginbotham and Amy Trompetter: Fantasque (world premiere)

Sosnoff Theater

July 1 & 2 at 7:30 pm

July 3* at 2 pm

Tickets start at $25

THEATER

Dan Hurlin: Demolishing Everything with Amazing Speed (world premiere)

LUMA Theater

July 7, 8, 9*, 14, 15 & 16 at 7:30 pm

July 10*, 13 & 17* at 2 pm

Tickets start at $25

FILM SERIES

Puccini and the Operatic Impulse in Cinema

Ottaway Film Center

Thursdays and Sundays, July 21–Aug 14

Tickets: $10

SPIEGELTENT

Live Music, Cabaret, Festival Dining, and After Hours salon

Dates, times, and prices vary

Venues:

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: fishercenter.bard.edu/transportation.

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 fishercenter.bard.edu/summerscape. 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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