Bard launches Saint-Saëns-themed SummerScape on July 6

Bard SummerScape kicks off the 2012 season with a lighthearted nod to Baroque dance on July 6, 7 and 8. Let My Joy Remain, a contemporary interpretation of the dance forms that enlivened the French court of the 17th and 18th centuries, is set to the music of J. S. Bach. It will be performed by Compagnie Fêtes Galantes, a popular French dance company founded by choreographer and Baroque specialist Beatrice Massin.

Wearing bright orange-and-red costumes whose long coats and heeled shoes recall the sartorial splendor of the bewigged courtiers, the dancers weave in and out of the structured dance, describing ever-more-intricate patterns in a style that marries the Gallic qualities of rationalism and grace, order and beauty. It’s a tonic for the eyes and ears: a welcome antidote to today’s atmosphere of anxiety, with all the reports of looming crises. Selections from Bach’s Brandenburg concertos and a cantata will accompany the piece. Compagnie Fêtes Galantes previously performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; this performance marks its Hudson Valley debut.

Performances begin at 8 p.m. on July 6 and 7 and at 3 p.m. on July 8. Ticket prices range from $25 to $55.

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The theme of this year’s SummerScape is “Saint-Saëns and His World,” with the Bard Music Festival concerts scheduled for the third and fourth weekends in August. A production of the comic opera by Emmanuel Chabrier, The King in Spite of Himself, which the American Symphony Orchestra performed as a concert five years ago, is scheduled for July 27 and 29 and August 1, 3 and 5. “The libretto is very funny, with mistaken identities and intrigue,” said Susana Meyer, associate director of Bard’s Fisher Center.

Music, in the form of comic songs, also is a feature of Molière’s play The Imaginary Invalid (featuring Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones’ fame) to performed on July 13 through 15 and 18 through 22. According to Meyer, “Moliere is quite known for writing savage satire. This time he chose doctors and the medical profession” – a class of professional that one imagines was ripe for digs back then. SummerScape also features a series of screenings of films grouped under the category of “France and the Colonial Imagination” on Thursdays and Sundays from July 12 through August 12; tickets are $8.

While in the past SummerScape has sometimes featured composers whom the general public might consider “thorny,” as Meyer puts it, Saint-Saëns is guaranteed to delight; as any fan of the Carnival of the Animals knows, he is about lush, beautiful melodies. Meyer said that SummerScape continues to attract visitors from near and far; in addition to the hordes arriving on its shuttle bus from New York, one fan will be flying in from Brazil for three performances. For more information and reservations, call the Fisher Center box office at (845) 758-7900 or visit www.fishercenter.bard.edu.

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