This weekend, Bard SummerScape carries on its much-admired annual tradition of unearthing some undeservedly little-known opera and mounting a full production – often its US premiere. “The more I look at the opera – the architecture of the piece and the absolutely gorgeous music – the more I am completely bewildered why it’s not done all the time, why it’s not a stable part of the repertoire in the opera world,” says multi-award-winning director Anne Bogart of Antonín Dvorák’s Dimitrij (1882), which is rarely staged outside the Czech Republic. A 1974 Bard College graduate, Bogart is helming this new production – the first to be fully staged on these shores.
Originally set in 17th-century Russia, following the death of the tsar Boris Godunov, Dimitrij concerns a Polish-born pretender to the throne who believes himself to be the lost son of Ivan the Terrible. Dvorák’s protagonist leads the Polish army to march on Moscow, only to fall in love with Godunov’s daughter. Bogart is staging the story in “a time reminiscent of 1989 Berlin…the moment in history when Communism had collapsed but it was not yet clear what shape the future might take.”
Marie Cervinková-Riegrová, one of the relatively few 19th-century women to contribute to the grand opera genre, wrote the libretto for Dimitrij, which The New York Times has dubbed “a perfect example of a forgotten opera that deserves to be given exposure.” Bard’s historic presentation of the critical edition by Czech scholar Milan Pospíšil restores the 1882 original version of the Prague premiere, including the composer’s original, brutal conclusion.
This brand-new, large-scale production will star tenor Clay Hilley in the title role, soprano Melissa Citro as Marina, soprano Olga Tolkmit as Xenie, mezzo-soprano Nora Sourouzian as Marfa, bass Peixin Chen as Jove, baritone Levi Hernandez as Shuisky, bass-baritone Joseph Barron as Basmanov, bass-baritone Roosevelt Credit as Neborsky and baritone Thomas McCargar as Bucinsky. More than 60 singers will participate, including the Bard Festival Chorale under James Bagwell, with Leon Botstein conducting the American Symphony Orchestra.
Dimitrij will run for five performances in the Fisher Center’s Sosnoff Theater on the Bard campus. It premieres at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, July 28, with an additional evening show on Friday, August 4 and 2 p.m. matinées on Sunday, July 30, Wednesday, August 2 and Sunday, August 6. The July 30 performance will be preceded by a free Opera Talk at noon. Ticket prices start at $25. To order, call the Fisher Center box office at (845) 758-7900 or visit http://fishercenter.bard.edu/summerscape.