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Bard SummerScape 2008 Opens on July 4 with the Historic World Premiere of Prokofiev's Original Version of His Ballet Romeo & Juliet, with Choreography by Mark Morris

The New Production, Which Opens Bard's Sixth Annual Festival of Performing Arts, Restores 20 Minutes of Never-Before-Heard Music, Six Dance Numbers, and the Composer's Original Ending
Mark Primoff
845-758-7412
primoff@bard.edu
07-04-2008

 
 

BARD SUMMERSCAPE, FOCUSING THIS YEAR ON THE WORKS AND WORLD OF RUSSIAN COMPOSER SERGEY PROKOFIEV, RUNS FROM JULY 4 – AUGUST 17, PRESENTING OPERA, MUSIC, THEATER, DANCE, FILM, THE SPIEGELTENT, AND THE 19TH ANNUAL BARD MUSIC FESTIVAL, PROKOFIEV AND HIS WORLD
 

 
 

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—On Friday, July 4, the eyes and ears of the international dance and music communities will be focused on Bard SummerScape, which opens its sixth season with the world premiere of the original version of Sergey Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet, on Motifs of Shakespeare. The new production, which uses the original story concept by Soviet dramatist Sergey Radlov, and Prokofiev’s original music score, will be choreographed by dance master Mark Morris in his SummerScape debut. The fully staged production features the Mark Morris Dance Group and the American Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leon Botstein. Performances will be in the Frank Gehry-designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College. Opening night, July 4 at 8 pm, is a gala benefit for SummerScape; five additional performances are on July 5, 6, 8, and 9.
 

Bard’s historic world premiere production of Romeo & Juliet, on Motifs of Shakespeare includes 20 minutes of previously unheard music and six new dance numbers, along with the happy ending Prokofiev originally envisioned, but which, in the 1930s, Stalin’s regime disallowed. The work has been reconstructed from exclusive documents unearthed in Moscow by Princeton University musicologist and Bard Scholar in Residence Simon Morrison, and represents the first time Prokofiev’s ballet will be performed as originally conceived by the composer. The production will feature scenic design by Allen Moyer, costume design by Martin Pakledinaz, and lighting design by James F. Ingalls, all of whom are longtime collaborators of Mark Morris.
 

“The opportunity to present the premiere of one of the greatest full-length works for dance in its original form—the one completed by the composer without regard


 

to the pressures of Stalinist censorship—is thrilling,” said Leon Botstein, coartistic director of the Bard Music Festival, music director of the American Symphony Orchestra, and president of Bard College. “This is one of the few, genuinely significant moments of discovery. And if that were not enough, the opportunity to collaborate with Mark Morris, a choreographer uniquely attuned to music, promises to make the occasion memorable and historic.”
 

In a New York Times article in November 2007 announcing Bard’s upcoming world premiere, Leon Botstein, Simon Morrison, and Mark Morris expressed their interest and delight in the project. Mr. Morrison, who has restored the score’s additional music, said:
“I knew that Prokofiev had conceived a happy ending for the ballet, but I did not know that the piano music existed intact, with the orchestration either written in or modeled elsewhere in the score. When the audience hears this piece, they’ll hear a time-warping score. They’ll hear what [Prokofiev] once was, as opposed to what he became [under Stalin].”
 

Like Mr. Morrison, Mark Morris has no doubt about the superiority of the original. “I like it way better, or I wouldn’t be doing it,” he said. “It’s not the gospel according to Shakespeare. I think that’s fascinating and interesting and wonderful.”
 

The world premiere production of Romeo & Juliet, on Motifs of Shakespeare at Bard SummerScape will feature two alternating casts dancing the lead roles, all from Mark Morris Dance Group: Maile Okamura and Noah Vinson; and Rita Donahue and David Leventhal. Likewise, the roles of the lovers’ parents, the Montagues and Capulets, will be performed by alternating casts of former MMDG dancers: Teri Weksler and Guillermo Resto, and Megan Williams and Shawn Gannon, respectively.
 

Commissioning the $1.3 million production in association with the lead commissioners, the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College and the Mark Morris Dance Group, are: barbicanbite08, London; Cal Performances, Berkeley; Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Millennium Park, Chicago; Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Virginia Arts Festival; and additional individual commissioners.
 

 
 

Romeo & Juliet, on Motifs of Shakespeare is the opening salvo in Bard’s popular and widely acclaimed SummerScape festival, described by the International Herald Tribune as “seven weeks of cultural delight.” Among the many highlights of this year’s wide-ranging offerings are a double-bill of works by Polish composer Karol Szymanowski—the opera King Roger and ballet-pantomime Harnasie; a new production of George and Ira Gershwin’s political satire Of Thee I Sing; and a new production of Chekhov’s Uncle Ványa, starring Peter Dinklage. The 19th annual Bard Music Festival—described by the New York Times as “Part boot camp for the brain, part spa for the spirit”—will explore “Prokofiev and His World” in concerts, lectures, and symposia held over two weekends in August. Many Bard events will be held in Frank Gehry’s acclaimed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, which Travel and Leisure has called “a spectacular venue for innovative fare.”
 

About Prokofiev’s Original Romeo & Juliet
 

According to Princeton musicologist Simon Morrison, Bard Scholar in Residence for the 2008 SummerScape and Bard Music Festivals, the project has no parallel in ballet history and will correct an historical injustice. It is perhaps hard to imagine that Romeo & Juliet, arguably the most popular ballet of the 20th century, has never been performed as the composer intended. But the original, intended Romeo & Juliet score, which is preserved at the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art, has never been performed, even though the composer left precise and detailed instructions with respect to the orchestration. It includes six dance numbers and more than 20 minutes of music omitted from the usual performing score, resulting in a radically different ending to the story.
 

Prokofiev conceived the ballet in 1935 in collaboration with innovative Soviet dramatist Sergey Radlov, who re-imagined the familiar tragedy “as a struggle for the right to love by young, strong, and progressive people battling against feudal traditions and feudal outlooks on marriage and family.” Much of Prokofiev’s score addresses the theme of love’s transcendence over oppression. However, in a radical gesture that caused a scandal in Soviet ballet circles, Prokofiev and Radlov gave the ballet a happy ending. In the final scene, Juliet rouses from her potion-induced sleep just as Romeo begins to conclude that she has died. The two lovers express their feelings of relief and joy in a final dance. The music represents the two lovers willing away their world—the Verona square and palace—and entering another, greater one.
 

But this final act has never been staged. Prokofiev presented his score to Soviet cultural officials, who responded by canceling the premiere productions in Leningrad and Moscow. Prokofiev at first defended his and Radlov’s ending, arguing that “living people can dance, the dying cannot” and that “Shakespeare was himself said to be uncertain about the endings of his plays.” However, had he not rewritten the score, he would never have seen it staged.
 

The artistic climate in Stalin’s Russia darkened: in dance, music, and drama, conservative neoclassicism supplanted accessible innovation. Not only was Prokofiev forced to rewrite the ending of the ballet, replacing the entire fourth act with an epilogue, but he was also forced to insert large-scale solo dances for the Ball and Balcony Scenes, which resulted in a break-up of the dramatic flow. A divertissement involving three exotic dances in Act III was thrown out for logistical reasons. The Kirov Theater dancers complained about the difficulty of the rhythms and the original choreographer, Leonid Lavrovsky, insisted on thickening the orchestration. As the demands piled up, Prokofiev became increasingly frustrated, but each time, he acquiesced in an effort to see the work performed. The ballet received its Russian premiere in 1940. When Prokofiev saw it, he had a hard time recognizing parts of his own music. He begged, to no avail, to undo the changes that he had not sanctioned.
 

Sergey Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet, on Motifs of Shakespeare, Op.64, restored by Simon Morrison, is performed with exclusive permission of the Prokofiev Estate and G. Schirmer Inc., the bearers of the rights to the music. Source materials used in this production are provided by the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art.
 

The presenters express their sincere gratitude to the Prokofiev Estate, especially Serge Prokofieff Jr., and to the director and assistant director of the Russian State Archive of Literature (RGALI), Tatiana Goryaeva, and Galina Zlobina, for making this event possible.
 

Special thanks to G. Schirmer, Associated Music Publishers, Inc. for their support of these performances.
 

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

Dance at Bard SummerScape since 2005
 

For the last three seasons, SummerScape has opened with a dance newly commissioned by Bard’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. In 2007 the companies of Doug Varone and Susan Marshall were commissioned with separate works to open the festival, and in 2006 the Donna Uchizono Company performed. A front-page article in the New York Times Arts section said Uchizono’s opening-night dances, featuring guest artist Mikhail Baryshnikov, “led off Bard’s SummerScape in grand style.” In 2005, the first SummerScape season to include dance in its wide range of presentations, the Martha Graham Company had the opening honors, performing three of the great Graham’s timeless creations.
 

The Mark Morris Dance Group
 

The Mark Morris Dance Group was formed in 1980 and gave its first concert that year in New York City. The company’s touring schedule steadily expanded to include cities both in the U.S. and in Europe, and in 1986 it made its first national television program for the PBS series Dance in America. In 1988, MMDG was invited to become the national dance company of Belgium, and spent three years in residence at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels. The company returned to the United States in 1991 as one of the world’s leading dance companies, performing across the U.S. and at major international festivals.
 

 
 

Based in Brooklyn, NY, the company has maintained and strengthened its ties to several cities around the world, most notably its west-coast home, Cal Performances in Berkeley, CA, and its midwest home, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana, IL. MMDG also appears regularly in New York City, NY; Boston, MA; Fairfax, VA; Seattle, WA; and at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, MA. MMDG made its debut at the Mostly Mozart Festival in 2002 and at the Tanglewood Music Festival in 2003 and has since been invited to both festivals annually. The company’s London seasons have garnered two Laurence Olivier Awards.
 

 
 

MMDG is noted for its commitment to live music, a feature of every performance on its full international touring schedule since 1996. MMDG collaborates with leading orchestras, opera companies, and musicians. These include cellist Yo-Yo Ma in the Emmy Award-winning film Falling Down Stairs (1997); Indian composer Zakir Hussain, Mr. Ma, and jazz pianist Ethan Iverson in Kolam (2002); The Bad Plus band in Violet Cavern (2004); pianists Emanuel Ax and Yoko Nozaki for Mozart Dances (2006); and with the English National Opera in Four Saints in Three Acts (2000) and King Arthur (2006), among others. MMDG’s film and television projects also include Dido and Aeneas, The Hard Nut, and two documentaries for Great Britain’s South Bank Show.
 

 
 

In the fall of 2001, MMDG opened the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn, NY, housing rehearsal space for the dance community, outreach programs for local children, and a school offering dance classes to students of all ages. For more information, visit www.mmdg.org.
 

   
 

Highlights of Bard SummerScape 2008:
 

July 4 – August 17
 

Seven weeks of dance, opera, drama, music, film, cabaret, and other events on Bard College’s stunning Hudson River Valley campus
 


  • 19th annual Bard Music Festival explores “Prokofiev and His World”
     
  • Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet, on Motifs of Shakespeare choreographed by Mark Morris in its never-before-performed original form
     
  • Karol Szymanowski’s romantic opera King Roger and the U.S. Premiere of Harnasie
     
  • Erica Schmidt directs Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Ványa, starring Peter Dinklage
     
  • George and Ira Gershwin’s 1931 political satire Of Thee I Sing with book by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind
     
  • Cinéma Transcontinentale, a classic film series that explores American, Russian, and French cinema of Prokofiev’s time
     
  • The Spiegeltent’s daytime family programming includes an updated Peter and the Wolf and shows for adults in the evenings
     

Bard SummerScape Opening Night, July 4, 2008:
 

 
 

Sergey Prokofiev: Romeo & Juliet, on Motifs of Shakespeare, Op. 64
 

Mark Morris Dance Group
 

American Symphony Orchestra
 

Leon Botstein, music director and conductor
 

The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts (Sosnoff Theater)
 

 
 

Friday, July 4 at 8 pm*
 

Additional performances July 5, 6, 8, and 9
 

Saturday, July 5 at 2 pm** and 8 pm
 

Sunday, July 6 at 3 pm
 

Tuesday, July 8 at 8 pm
 

Wednesday, July 9 at 8 pm
 

Tickets: $25, $55, $75
 

Tuesday and Wednesday performances: $20, $45, $65
 

* 2008 SummerScape Gala Benefit. Call 845-758-7926 for tickets or more information.
 

** Round-trip transportation by coach from Columbus Circle to the Fisher Center will be provided for this performance. For information, please call 845-758-7900. Reservations are required.
 

  
BARD SUMMERSCAPE – TICKET INFORMATION
 

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

  
 

 
 

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(03.25.08)
 

 

Editor's Note: To download high-resolution (300 dpi) press photos, please click on thumbnail images below or visit www.fishercenter.bard.edu/press:
 



 

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This event was last updated on 07-17-2008