The Bard College Conservatory of Music Graduate Vocal Arts Program Presents an Opera Double Bill
by Composer Elena Langer
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—The Graduate Vocal Arts Program of The Bard College Conservatory of Music presents evening and matinée opera performances in the Sosnoff Theater of The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, March 9, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 11, at 3 p.m. The double bill features two professionally staged one-act operas, including the world premiere of a Conservatory-commissioned opera, Four Sisters by Elena Langer, and Nélée et Myrthis by Jean-Philippe Rameau. The operas will be preceded by two short works, Claudio Monteverdi’s Dialogo di ninfa e pastore and Michel Pignolet de Montéclair’s La mort de Didon. The production is directed by Marc Verzatt and conducted by James Bagwell and features the singers of the Conservatory Graduate Vocal Arts Program and the Conservatory Orchestra. Tickets are $15, $25, $35, and $100 (the latter includes priority seating and an invitation to the March 11 postconcert champagne reception with the artists). All ticket sales benefit the Conservatory’s scholarship fund. To purchase tickets, call the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900 or go to www.fishercenter.bard.edu.
“We are delighted to present the world premiere of Four Sisters, an opera by the London-based composer Elena Langer and librettist John Lloyd Davies,” says Dawn Upshaw, artistic director of the Graduate Vocal Arts Program. “Langer came to our attention by way of the Young Composer/Singer Professional Training Workshop, which Bard has undertaken with the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall. Collaborating with composers has been a vital and enriching part of my musical life, and it’s a joy I wish to pass on to the students in the Graduate Vocal Arts Program. We’re thrilled that Elena and John agreed to be part of our opera project, and we’ve enjoyed working with them, James Bagwell, and Marc Verzatt on this new piece. Together with Rameau's beautiful Nélée et Myrthis and the shorter gems by Monteverdi and Montéclair, this is a rich and varied musical and theatrical offering and is a key part of the Graduate Vocal Arts Program experience for our young artists.”
The opera programs showcase new and classic works performed by the highly skilled and talented singers of the Graduate Vocal Arts program. This production will be performed by sopranos Faylotte Crayton, Lucy Dhegrae, Hannah Goldshlack, Vanessa Langer, Heejung Lee, Kameryn Lueng, Marie Marquis, and Jacquelyn Stucker; Abigail Levis, mezzo-soprano; Hyunhak Kim and Barrett Radziun, tenors; and Matthew Morris and Logan Walsh, baritones.
The Conservatory’s Graduate Vocal Arts program produces a fully staged opera program every two years, giving young artists the opportunity to collaborate with theater professionals. In addition to director Marc Verzatt and conductor James Bagwell, this year’s opera production engages the talents of costume designer Michelle Tarantina, scenic and lighting designer Vin Roca, choreographer Marjorie Folkman, and projection designer Laura Eckelman.
About the Program:
Dialogo di ninfa e pastore (Dialogue between a nymph and a shepherd), by Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643), with text by Ottavio Rinuccini, is a short duet written in the form of a canzonetta, which was closely related to a popular Neapolitan form, the villanella, or literally, a “small town song.” The songs were always secular, and generally involved pastoral, irreverent, or erotic subjects. In this song, two teens in the throws of “puppy love” find their affections rewarded. “In this scene, the ‘ninfa,’ a metaphor for a young, unmarried girl, demands to be told how much her shepherd loves her, but nothing he says seems adequate to satisfy her,” says director Marc Verzatt. “Men have never been very good at figuring out what women want, but are foolish enough to keep trying.” Dialogo di ninfa e pastore will be sung in Italian with English supertitles.
Le mort de Didon (The Death of Dido), by Michel Pignolet de Montéclair (1667–1737) is an 18th-century French cantata, a dramatic form of music composed for the intimate venue of the musical salon. Le mort de Didon is intense and exciting throughout, telling the classic tale of Dido, Queen of Carthage, and Aeneas, her fickle lover, in which romantic love ends tragically. “The amazing thing about this cantata is that it is very feminist despite being written by a man,” says Verzatt. Le mort de Didon will be sung in French with English supertitles.
The theme of romantic love is continued with Nélée et Myrthis (Nélée and Myrthis), by Jean Philippe Rameau (1683–1764), who is considered one of the most important French composers and music theorists of the Baroque era. A short opera in the form of a one-act acte de ballet, Nélée et Myrthis is the story of Nélée, the winner of an Olympic sport, who will be crowned by Myrthis. Nélée must choose a bride at his victory celebration, during which sincerity wins out over pride and love is rewarded. Nélée et Myrthis will be sung in French with English supertitles.
Act Two of the double bill features the world premiere of the Conservatory-commissioned opera, Four Sisters by Elena Langer (b. 1974), with libretto by John Lloyd Davies. Four Sisters is the modern tale of four wealthy Park Avenue sisters who opine on how they will fund their dreams with their father’s inheritance. “When Dawn Upshaw asked me to write an opera for her students at Bard, I thought it would be nice to have an original contemporary libretto specifically written for this occasion—perhaps with a few frivolous young girls at the center of the piece,” says composer Elena Langer. “Soon after, I happened to have a chat with the director John Lloyd-Davies, and shared these thoughts. John at that time was designing Chekhov’s Three Sisters in Vienna. A few days later I received a short scenario of Four Sisters! … The sisters believe that inheriting a lot of money will help their dreams come true. They sing about their dreams in their arias, which are distinctly different—the music in Four Sisters is intentionally eclectic… it is mixed with calypso moments, waltz moments, even some 12-tone moments, and I have tried to create contrasts in tempi, moods and situations.”
For more information about this performance or to purchase tickets, call the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900 or go to www.fishercenter.bard.edu.
ABOUT THE ARTISTIC TEAM
Marc Verzatt, Director
Marc Verzatt directs opera, operetta, and musical theater throughout the United States, South America, and Europe. He began his theatrical career as a dancer with the Metropolitan Opera after studying drama at Rutgers University and ballet with New Jersey’s Garden State Ballet. After several seasons as a soloist with the MET Ballet, he left to continue his education in production as a stage manager with the Cincinnati Opera and Pittsburgh Opera companies. He made his professional directing debut with a production of Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann with Opera Columbus. He has since directed productions with the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires; Chicago Lyric Opera; Houston Grand Opera; Florida Grand Opera; and the opera companies of Fort Worth, Lake George, Madison, Arizona, Toledo, Atlanta, Kansas City, Baltimore, Idaho, and Mississippi. In Austin, he directed both Puccini’s La bohème and Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Verzatt has taught and directed at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts and Notre Dame University. As lecturer in opera at Yale University’s School of Music, he has directed Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Purcell/Britten’s Fairy Queen, Puccini’s Il trittico, Poulenc’s Les mamelles de Tirésias, and Debussy’s L’enfant prodigue, all of which were subsequently produced for Orchestra Sinfonico di Giuseppe Verdi in Milan. For the Boston Youth Symphony, he has staged Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Verdi’s Macbeth. In 2005 he was engaged by the Metropolitan Opera for an acting role in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. In 2006 he was named Outstanding Stage Director of the Year by Classical Singer magazine. He has been a guest lecturer and coach for Bard’s Graduate Vocal Arts Program since its inception, and was appointed to its faculty in fall 2010.
James Bagwell, Conductor
James Bagwell maintains an active schedule throughout the United States as a conductor of choral, operatic, and orchestral music. In 2009 he was appointed music director of The Collegiate Chorale and led the ensemble in concerts at Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall during the 2009–10 season. He is the principal guest conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra in New York, and since 2003 has been director of choruses for the Bard Music Festival, conducting and preparing choral works during the summer festival at Bard College. He has also prepared The Concert Chorale of New York for performances with the American Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Mostly Mozart Festival (broadcast nationally in 2006 on Live from Lincoln Center), all in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. Bagwell has trained choruses for a number of major American and international orchestras, including the San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, NHK Symphony (Japan), St. Petersburg Symphony, Budapest Festival Orchestra, and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, among others, and has worked with noted conductors such as Lorin Maazel, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Michael Tilson Thomas, Leon Botstein, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Robert Shaw. He holds degrees from Birmingham-Southern College, Florida State University, and Indiana University. He has taught since 2000 at Bard College, where he is the chair of the undergraduate Music Program and codirector of the Graduate Program in Conducting.
Elena Langer, Composer
Elena Langer was born in Moscow and is now based in London. After graduating from the Gnessin Music College, where she majored in musicology and piano, she entered the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory to study composition with professor Yuri Vorontsov. In 1999 she moved to London to complete her degrees at the Royal College of Music (M.M.) and the Royal Academy of Music (Ph.D.). She has studied with Julian Anderson, Simon Bainbridge, and Gerard McBurney, and taken lessons with Sofia Gubaidulina (Centre Acanthes, France), Dmitri Smirnov (U.K.), Jo Kondo (Dartington International Summer School, U.K.), and Jonathan Harvey (Centre Acanthes/IRCAM, France). In 2002 and 2003 she was a composer-in-residence with Almeida Theatre, London. Langer has written compositions in diverse genres, including opera and multimedia, orchestral, and chamber and choral works, and has received commissions and performances from international ensembles, festivals, and organizations such as The Royal Opera House’s ROH2, Zurich Opera (Switzerland), Almeida Opera Festival, Carnegie Hall, Gaudeamus New Music Week (Netherlands), and Homecoming Chamber Music Festival (Russia), among many others. Some of her works have been commercially recorded on the Black Box, Quartz Music, and Usk (all U.K.) labels, and some broadcast on BBC Radio 3, BBC World Service, Radio Echo of Moscow, and Dutch Radio.
John Lloyd Davies, Librettist
John Lloyd Davies has directed, designed, and lit more than operas and plays in Europe, including Don Giovanni, Die Zauberflöte and Rigoletto (Vienna Kammeroper); Madama Butterfly (Royal Danish Opera); Un ballo in maschera (Klagenfurt); Danton’s Death and The Enchantress (Brighton); Albert Herring and The Turn of the Screw (Aldeburgh); Cabaret (Graz); and Tosca (Malmö). In Vienna, he has worked as a specialist in modern opera, including the Viennese premiere of Britten’s Death in Venice and the Austrian premieres of Aribert Reimann’s Das Schloss, Philip Glass’s The House of Usher, and Thomas Adès’s Powder Her Face. He designed and lit the world premiere of John Casken’s God’s Liar (Almeida and La Monnaie, Brussels). For the Royal Opera House London he has directed and designed The Rape of Lucretia, Il re pastore, and the docu-opera Yes. Recent awards include the Josef Kainz Medal, one of Austria’s major theater prizes. He is currently head of opera development at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Laura Eckelman, Projections Designer
Laura J. Eckelman is a New York City–based lighting and projection designer. Selected design credits include Animals Out of Paper (Perseverance Theatre); Kiss Me Kate (New Jersey Youth Theatre); Bossa Nova [world premiere] and Romeo & Juliet (Yale Repertory Theatre); Orlando, Phèdre, and Hamlet (Yale School of Drama); Fly-By-Night, The Mystery of Irma Vep, and Late: A Cowboy Song (Yale Summer Cabaret); Crave, Somewhere in the Pacific, and Scenes from an Execution (Potomac Theater Project); and Ghosts and Bus Stop (Columbia University). She is a proud alumna of Middlebury College and Yale School of Drama, and is a 2012 recipient of the S&R Washington Award.
Marjorie Folkman, Choreographer
Marjorie Folkman is visiting assistant professor of dance in First-Year Seminar and the Language and Thinking Program at Bard College. She was a principal performer with Mark Morris Dance Group (1996–2007), Martha Clarke, and Sara Rudner, among others, and a member of Merce Cunningham’s Repertory Group under Chris Komar. Recent choreographic projects include Boston Baroque’s Pygmalion and Les Indes galantes; Faust for L’Opéra Français de New York; collaborations with the new music ensemble Contemporaneous; and Bard SummerScape’s Der Ferne Klang.
Vin Roca, Scenic and Lighting Designer
Vin Roca graduated from Western Connecticut State University with a B.A. in communications. After receiving his M.F.A. in scenic design from SUNY Purchase, he moved to the West Coast to pursue both acting and design work. While in Los Angeles, he was the production director for Long Beach Playhouse, a completely self-sustained non-profit theater. He also worked as the assistant technical director and lighting director for the James Armstrong Theatre in Torrance, California. Outside of theater, he was an associate art director for Ina Mayhew and worked on many national commercials, including spots for Subway, Burger King, and John Deere. He also worked on the BET Awards and the Queue Line Video for the Men In Black ride at Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida. He moved back to the East Coast with his wife and two children in 2006, landing at Bard College’s SummerScape Festival as a stage carpenter. He has had the privilege of lighting President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, Vice President Al Gore, Dr. Jane Goodall, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to name a few. He is currently the technical director for The Richard B Fisher Center of Performing Arts at Bard College.
Michelle Tarantina, Costume Designer
Michelle Tarantina received a B.A. in theater design and production from Fordham University. Her recent design credits include Little Town Blues (Less than Rent); Sarita and and Crave (Fordham Theatre Company); and A Doll’s House (Hip Obscurity). Since graduation, she has worked with Barrington Stage Co. and The Civilians, and has assisted in the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Examples of her work are available at www.michelletarantina.squarespace.com.
Building on its distinguished history in the arts and education, Bard College launched The Bard College Conservatory of Music, which welcomed its first class in August 2005. This innovative five-year program of study is guided by the principle that musicians should be broadly educated in the liberal arts and sciences to achieve their greatest potential. All students complete two degrees, a bachelor of music and a bachelor of arts in a field other than music. The Conservatory also includes the Preparatory Division for young people up to the age of 18. The Graduate Vocal Arts Program is a two-year master of music degree conceived by soprano Dawn Upshaw. The course work is designed to support a broad-based approach to a singing career that extends from standard repertory to new music. Alongside weekly voice lessons and diction and repertory courses is training in acting, as well as core seminars that introduce and tie together the historical/cultural perspective, analytical tools, and performance skills that distinguish vocal and operatic performance at the highest level. The Orchestral and Choral Conducting Program is a new two-year graduate curriculum that culminates in the master of music degree. The program is designed and directed by Harold Farberman, founder and director of the Conductors Institute at Bard; James Bagwell, director of Bard’s undergraduate Music Program and music director of The Collegiate Chorale and The Concert Chorale of New York; and Leon Botstein, president of Bard College and music director of the American Symphony Orchestra.
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