Bard SummerScape 2009 Presents Oresteia– Three Classic Plays by Aeschylus, July 15—August 2
Bard SummerScape 2009 Presents Oresteia– Three Classic Plays by Aeschylus, July 15—August 2
Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. – The seventh annual Bard SummerScape festival turns to betrayal, murder, and vengeance with a modern-dress version of antiquity’s greatest dramatic trilogy, Oresteia, in a vivid, accessible translation by Ted Hughes, late Poet Laureate of the U.K. From July 15 through August 2, each of the three plays by Aeschylus, the “father of tragedy,” will receive seven performances, and, on three occasions, the complete trilogy will be performed in a single day. Gregory Thompson and Ellen Cairns, the acclaimed director-and-designer team that created the SummerScape 2007 production of Saint Joan, will direct. Performances will take place in LUMA Theater of the Frank Gehry-designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts on Bard College’s stunning Hudson River campus.
The three plays – Agamemnon, Choephori, and The Eumenides – concern the ongoing tragedy and hereditary curse of a royal family. As ancient Greece’s most famous nuclear family explodes onstage, the production will draw parallels with war in the Middle East, the behind-the-scenes machinations of politicians, and the manipulative duplicity of the media.
“The trilogy sets up a cycle of revenge and retribution and then breaks it,” says director Gregory Thompson. “There are many resonances for today: the cost of waging a foreign war; the debate over the death penalty; suicide bombers; the election of a man committed to justice and the rule of law; etc. The audiences will no doubt make their own connections. Certainly to a Brit it seems a very different play in 2009 than when I was asked to do the play in the summer of 2008 when Bush was still President and people were still being held in Guantánamo Bay without prospect of release.”
According to London’s Evening Standard, Gregory Thompson “has been quietly creating spellbinding theater for years now.” In 1989 he founded the AandBC Company, and he has led Glasgow’s acclaimed Tron Theatre since 2006. The British director is known for creating innovative theater, and for revisiting classical texts with the aim of making them more accessible. According to Britain’s Guardian, Thompson’s work “often has a beguiling magic and an appealing directness.”
The story: vengeance is a family affair
The Oresteia trilogy – Agamemnon, Choephori, and The Eumenides – was first performed in Athens in 458 B.C. and tells the story of the blood feud within the house of Atreus. Upon his triumphant return from Troy, King Agamemnon is murdered by his wife, Clytemnestra. Their son, Orestes, is commanded by Apollo to avenge the crime by killing his mother. He returns from exile to do so, bringing upon himself the wrath of the Furies and the final judgment of a jury of Athenian citizens. Choephori is also known as The Libation-Bearers, and The Eumenides as The Furies.
“The three plays are dramatically independent,” says Thompson. “It is okay to see one or two: indeed they are often done separately. However, the trilogy is an event. [The plays] are being designed to be seen together in this production and were, of course, written that way.” Bard is offering special prices to those who subscribe to all three plays.
The Oresteia trilogy was an inspiration for Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, and is as influential as any written work in history. The 20th anniversary of the Bard Music Festival is featuring as its theme, “Wagner and His World.” Among those before and after Wagner who capitalized on the Oresteia were Jean Racine, Christoph Willibald Gluck, Richard Strauss, Eugene O’Neill, and Tennessee Williams.
“From a thematic perspective it’s fascinating to see the work that influenced an artist,” continues Thompson. “From a theater perspective, the power and drive of Aeschylus’s great trilogy is as strong and pertinent as ever.”
About the translation by Ted Hughes
In the final years of his life, U.K. Poet Laureate Ted Hughes focused his creative energies on translations of the classics. His translation of the Oresteia was commissioned by the Royal National Theatre and completed before his death in October 1998. He created what is regarded as an “acting version” of the trilogy, linguistically sensuous and emotionally gripping for modern audiences.
Director Gregory Thompson describes Hughes’s translation as using “heightened language that sounds like speech. It is poetry that wears its poetry lightly. Most translations are either academic, with an accent on making the Greek clear, or poetic and designed to be read. Hughes’s version is for performance. I find the language muscular, earthy, and intelligent.”
The director concludes, “It is a privilege to work on something so powerful that addresses a question that arises for so many of us: how do we move on when we want revenge? The Oresteia is a phenomenal concentration of human experience into three social experiences. It is theater with an agenda: it wants to affect its audience. It entertains in order to engage so that there is an emotional and psychological shift. For me this is a great privilege and a responsibility.”
Bard SummerScape 2009 Highlights
July 9 – August 23: Seven weeks of dance, opera, drama, music, film, cabaret, and other events on Bard College’s stunning Hudson River Valley campus
July 9 – July 12 SummerScape opens with Lucinda Childs’s Dance, to music by Philip Glass and a film by Sol LeWitt.
July 11 Gala Benefit before and after performance of Lucinda Childs’s Dance
July 15 – August 2 Seven complete performances of Aeschylus’s Oresteia trilogy, translated by Ted Hughes.
July 16 – August 20 Film Festival: “Politics, Theater, and Wagner” (ten films)
July 31 – August 7 Four performances of Meyerbeer’s opera Les Huguenots
August 9 Special single performance of Mendelssohn’s oratorio St. Paul
August 14 Annual Bard Music Festival Opening Night Dinner in the Spiegeltent
August 14-16 Bard Music Festival, Weekend One: “Wagner and His World”
August 21-23 Bard Music Festival, Weekend Two: “Wagner and His World”
Critical Acclaim for Bard SummerScape
London’s Times Literary Supplement lauded SummerScape as “The most intellectually ambitious of America’s summer music festivals.” The New Yorker called it “one of the major upstate festivals”; Travel and Leisure reported, “[At] Bard SummerScape … Gehry’s acclaimed concert hall provides a spectacular venue for innovative fare”; Newsday called SummerScape “brave and brainy”; and the New York Sun observed, “Bard’s [SummerScape] … offers one of the best lineups of the summer for fans of any arts discipline.”
Bard SummerScape 2009:
(Agamemnon, Choephori, and The Eumenides)
Aeschylus’s trilogy, translated by Ted Hughes
Directed by Gregory Thompson
Set and costume designer: Ellen Cairns
Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts – LUMA Theater
Wednesday, July 15 – Sunday, August 2
Wednesday, July 15 at 3 pm: Agamemnon
Thursday, July 16 at 8 pm: Choephori
Friday, July 17 at 8 pm: The Eumenides
Saturday, July 18 at 11 am: Agamemnon*
Saturday, July 18 at 3 pm: Choephori*
Saturday, July 18 at 7 pm: The Eumenides*
Sunday, July 19 at 4 pm: Agamemnon
Wednesday, July 22 at 3 pm: Choephori
Thursday, July 23 at 8 pm: The Eumenides
Friday, July 24 at 8 pm: Agamemnon
Saturday, July 25 at 11 am: Agamemnon
Saturday, July 25 at 3 pm: Choephori
Saturday, July 25 at 7 pm: The Eumenides
Sunday, July 26 at 4 pm: Choephori
Wednesday, July 29 at 3 pm: The Eumenides
Thursday, July 30 at 8 pm: Agamemnon
Friday, July 31 at 3 pm: Choephori
Saturday, August 1 at 11 am: Agamemnon
Saturday, August 1 at 3 pm: Choephori
Saturday, August 1 at 7 pm: The Eumenides
Sunday, August 2 at 4 pm: The Eumenides
Schedule by play:
Wednesday, July 15 at 3 pm
Saturday, July 18 at 11 am*
Sunday, July 19 at 4 pm
Friday, July 24 at 8 pm
Saturday, July 25 at 11 am
Thursday, July 30 at 8 pm
Saturday, August 1 at 11 am
Thursday, July 16 at 8 pm
Saturday, July 18 at 3 pm*
Wednesday, July 22 at 3 pm
Saturday, July 25 at 3 pm
Sunday, July 26 at 4 pm
Friday, July 31 at 3 pm
Saturday, August 1 at 3 pm
Friday, July 17 at 8 pm
Saturday, July 18 at 7 pm*
Thursday, July 23 at 8 pm
Saturday, July 25 at 7 pm
Wednesday, July 29 at 3 pm
Saturday, August 1 at 7 pm
Sunday, August 2 at 4 pm
Oresteia trilogy series
Wednesdays, July 15, 22, and 29 at 3 pm
Sundays, July 19, 26, and August 2 at 4 pm
Saturday, July 18 at 11 am, 3 pm, and 7 pm*
Saturday, July 25 at 11 am, 3 pm, and 7 pm
Saturday, August 1 at 11 am, 3 pm and 7 pm
Tickets: $45 per play; $90 for the trilogy
* Round-trip transportation by coach from Columbus Circle to the Fisher Center will be provided for the complete trilogy for ticketholders on July 18. The cost is $10 round-trip; reservations are required.
For tickets and further information on all SummerScape events, call the Fisher Center box office at (845) 758-7900 or visit www.fishercenter.bard.edu.
Updates: Bard’s “e-members” get all the news in regular updates. Click here to sign up.
All program information is subject to change.
(High-resolution photos available at www.fishercenter.bard.edu/press.)
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.
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