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Double Bill of Zemlinsky Operas and Breakthrough Gilbert & Sullivan Work Headline SummerScape

Mark Primoff
845-758-7412
primoff@bard.edu
06-06-2007

DOUBLE BILL OF ONE-ACT ZEMLINSKY OPERAS AND BREAKTHROUGH GILBERT AND SULLIVAN WORK HEADLINE BARD SUMMERSCAPE’S OPERA OFFERINGS, AS PART OF FESTIVAL’S FOCUS ON “ELGAR AND HIS WORLD”

ZEMLINSKY’S A FLORENTINE TRAGEDY AND THE DWARF, BOTH BASED ON OSCAR WILDE STORIES, ARE STAGED TOGETHER FOR FIRST TIME IN U.S. – NEW PRODUCTION DIRECTED BY OLIVIER TAMBOSI AND CONDUCTED BY LEON BOTSTEIN FEATURES SETS BY GIFTED DESIGN TEAM McDERMOTT & McGOUGH; FIVE PERFORMANCES BEGINNING FRIDAY, JULY 27

NEW PRODUCTION OF THE SORCERER, GILBERT AND SULLIVAN’S FIRST FULL-LENGTH COLLABORATION, IS DIRECTED BY

ERICA SCHMIDT AND CONDUCTED BY JAMES BAGWELL;

EIGHT PERFORMANCES BEGINNING FRIDAY, AUGUST 3

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – Bard SummerScape’s exploration of “Elgar and His World” will feature two extraordinary and complementary new opera productions this season. Under its music director, Leon Botstein, the festival’s resident American Symphony Orchestra will play for the first combined U.S. staged productions of A Florentine Tragedy and The Dwarf, two Viennese one-act operas by Alexander Zemlinsky, both based on works by Oscar Wilde. They will be directed by Olivier Tambosi, founder of Neue Oper Wien, whose acclaimed Metropolitan Opera production of Leoš Janácek’s Jenufa was revived this season. The contemporary visual art team of McDermott &McGough has designed the sets and costumes, incarnating a 19th-century aesthetic with modern overtones. Lighting designs are by Robert Wierzel. The Zemlinksy double bill opens on July 27, with additional performances on July 29, and August 2, 4, and 5. A free Opera Talk by Leon Botstein precedes the July 29 performance.

On a lighter – but no less intriguing – note, Gilbert and Sullivan’s first full-length collaboration, The Sorcerer, will make its Bard debut on Friday, August 3, with additional performances on August 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. Erica Schmidt directs the new production, which features set designs by David Korins, costumes by Mattie Ullrich, lighting by David Weiner, and choreography by Sean Curran. There are afternoon as well as evening curtain times, and the August 4 performance will be preceded by an enlightening Opera Talk, free of charge, with Byron Adams and Erica Schmidt.

Zemlinsky double bill

Austrian composer Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871–1942) was a key figure in early 20th-century Viennese artistic circles, but much of his output was overshadowed by the work of his more famous contemporaries. For decades his

music languished, but there has been an upsurge of interest in it over the past several years. Bard’s double bill will give audiences a fresh and important opportunity to experience Zemlinsky’s rich, vibrant sound world, which is reminiscent of Richard Strauss but tinged with splashes of exotic color. Zemlinsky wrote eight operas, and the two drawn from stories by Oscar Wilde are considered to be his finest efforts in the genre. They are also turbulent works that reflect the anguished nature of Zemlinsky’s love life.

A Florentine Tragedy (1914–16) is the story of a merchant who, finding his wife in the arms of a prince, strangles his rival. James Johnson will sing the role of Simone, Deanne Meek that of Bianca, and Bryan Hymel the part of Guido.

The Dwarf (1919–21) is based on Wilde’s Birthday of the Infanta, and tells of a Spanish princess’s cruelty to her “birthday gift,” a dwarf she forces to dance at her birthday party, then spurns his naïve advances. This “tragedy of an ugly man” no doubt reflects Zemlinsky’s own painful experiences; he was rejected by his love interest Alma Schindler, whose decision to marry composer Gustav Mahler was clearly a blow to Zemlinsky’s self-esteem. Jeffrey Dowd sings the title part in Bard’s production, while Sarah Jane McMahon will perform the Princess, Donna Clara. Ghita is sung by Hannan Alattar and Don Estoban by Thomas Goertz.

These two operas, to be sung in German with English supertitles, merge Wilde’s sardonic wit with Zemlinsky’s opulent music, itself at times as mordant as the language of the great Anglo-Irish wordsmith.

Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Sorcerer

The Sorcerer is both rollicking and cynical drollery in true Gilbert and Sullivan style. Written in 1877, the pioneering work marked the first full-length collaboration between composer Sir Arthur Sullivan and librettist W. S. Gilbert. The success of the work, though modest, encouraged the show’s authors to continue their collaboration, leading first to the H.M.S. Pinafore and then to the string of successes that made their “Savoy Operas” household names.

In The Sorcerer, “G & S” depict Alexis, a scion of a noble family who entertains the modern idea that the world would be better off if everyone married for love, without regard for social class. He visits a magician who introduces himself with these lines: “My name is John Wellington Wells / I’m a dealer in magic and spells / In blessings and curses / And ever-filled purses, / In prophecies, witches, and knells!”  Wells prepares a love potion for Alexis to pour into tea for everyone in his village, with ensuing hilarity. The Bard cast includes Jonathan Hays as John Wellington Wells, Javier Abreu as Alexis, Tonna Miller as Aline, Gloria Parker as Lady Sangazure, and Jeffrey Tucker as Marmaduke.

Two members of Bard’s production team for The Sorcerer, director Erica Schmidt and conductor James Bagwell, teamed up two seasons ago for Bard SummerScape’s production of Copland’s The Tender Land. Their collaboration earned an enthusiastic review in The New Yorker:  “The Tender Land, which tells of a farm girl’s rebellion against her tight-knit family, has felt anemic in prior revivals, but here, with a gorgeous set…[,] expert direction by Erica Schmidt, strong conducting by James Bagwell, and piercing lead performances…[,] it felt like a major work on an intimate scale.”

Opera at Bard SummerScape

Since its opening season five years ago, Bard SummerScape has been widely acclaimed for its innovative and adventurous presentations of “off-the-beaten-track” operas. The Associated Press described Bard’s 2004 production of Shostakovich’s rarely staged opera The Nose as “attractive, fast-paced and engaging,” and the Wall Street Journal called it “top-flight.”  London’s Times Literary Supplement called Bard’s production of Blitzstein’s Regina, presented in summer 2005 as part of “Copland and his World,” “exemplary”; the New Yorker called it “gripping.”  Last summer, Bard presented the first staged production in the U.S. of Schumann’s only opera, Genoveva, to enthusiastic acclaim. A critic for the New York Observer wrote, “I was deeply moved by Genoveva, as performed at Bard’s space-age, Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, and I would jump at the chance to see it again…. [This] was a Genoveva that should not be allowed to disappear.”  Opera News added, “[Director] Holten and Botstein really assembled a festival performance in the best sense of the term.”

OPERA AT BARD SUMMERSCAPE 2007

Alexander Zemlinsky / Oscar Wilde: A Florentine Tragedy; The Dwarf

Sosnoff Theater

July 27, August 2 and August 4 at 8 pm

July 29 and August 5 at 3 pm

Tickets: $35, $55, $85

Thursday performance (August 2): $25, $45, $75

Arthur Sullivan and William S. Gilbert: The Sorcerer

LUMA Theater

August 3, 8, and 9 at 8 pm

August 5 at 7 pm

August 10 at 5 pm

August 4, 11, and 12 at 3 pm

Tickets: $45 (General Admission)

BARD SUMMERSCAPE – TICKET INFORMATION

For tickets and further information on all SummerScape events, phone the Fisher Center box office at (845) 758-7900 or visit www.fishercenter.bard.edu.

# # # (6.6.2007)

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This event was last updated on 08-20-2007