Leonard Bernstein’s rarely performed Peter Pan opens Bard Summerscape

Erin Markey and Peter Smith star in Bard SummerScape’s new production of Leonard Bernstein’s Peter Pan at the Fisher Center. (Photo by Maria Baranova)

It’s time for Bard SummerScape, the big little arts festival in the middle of the country that lures sophisticates out of the Big Apple and onto Metro North to experience the season’s hottest (and often times most unusual) cultural moments. It gets underway on June 29 and runs through August 19. Here’s an overview of some highlights to whet your appetite.

SummerScape typically gets underway with a major dance performance, but this year is a little different on account of 2018 being the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth. Bard is celebrating by unveiling a new production of Bernstein’s score for Peter Pan. This isn’t the famous 1954 Broadway musical we’re talking about, but an adaptation of J. M. Barrie’s play that debuted in 1950, ran for 321 performances and has very rarely been revived since. Bernstein wrote the lyrics of the nine songs, as well as the music.


Adapted and directed by Christopher Alden, the SummerScape production features choreography by Jack Ferver, orchestrations by Garth Edwin Sunderland, music direction by Michael A. Ferrara, scenic design (including a working 1950s carnival ride onstage) by Marsha Ginsberg, costume design by Terese Wadden, lighting design by JAX Messenger and sound design by Stowe Nelson. The cast includes Jack Ferver, Rona Figueroa, Erin Markey, William Michals and Peter Smith. Smith and Markey, who play Peter and Wendy respectively, are both trans performers, which should add an interesting metaphorical dimension to this beloved tale of magically extended prepubescence.

Bernstein’s Peter Pan has its soft opening in the Fisher Center’s black-box LUMA Theater on June 28 and “officially” opens on July 6, with shows on June 29/30, July 1, 4/5, 7/8, 11-15 and 18-22. Curtain times vary with day of the week, and ticket prices start at $25.

Another big anniversary happening this year is the 75th of T. S. Eliot’s Modernist poetry masterpiece, the Four Quartets, a work suffused with dance-related imagery. Bard decided to celebrate this landmark by commissioning a brand-new interdisciplinary dance work, with choreography by Pam Tanowitz, music by Kaija Saariaho and painted backdrops by Brice Marden. The performance features nine members of the Pam Tanowitz Dance company, with a complete narration of Eliot’s poem cycle by actress Kathleen Chalfant. Saariaho’s music will be performed live by four members of the Knights. This world premiere will be performed three times, from July 6 to 8, in the Fisher Center’s Sosnoff Theater.

This year’s SummerScape operatic offering will be Anton Rubinstein’s Demon, to be presented in the Sosnoff Theater on July 27 and 29 and August 1, 3 and 5. “Rimsky-Korsakov and His World” is the theme of the 29th annual Bard Music Festival, with Weekend One, August 10 to 12, devoted to “Inventing Russian Music: The Mighty Five” and Weekend Two, August 17 to 19, examining “Rimsky-Korsakov and His Followers.” Almanac will give you more on those when the dates get closer.

The SummerScape Film Series, running from July 26 to August $19 at the Ottaway Film Center, is loosely linked under the heading of “Rimsky-Korsakov and the Poetry of Cinema.” The Spiegeltent season, from June 29 to August 18, will feature such Bard newcomers as Chita Rivera, Nona Hendryx, Melanie and Martha Plimpton, as well as some returning favorites and the beta-test of a brand-new Welcome to Night Vale live road show.

For the full Bard SummerScape 2018 schedule, visit http://fishercenter.bard.edu/summerscape. For much more detail on the Bard Music Festival, visit http://fishercenter.bard.edu/bmf. To order tickets, call the Fisher Center box office at (845) 758-7900 or visit http://fishercenter.bard.edu/summerscape.

Bard SummerScape, June 29-August 19, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson; (845) 758-7900, http://fishercenter.bard.edu/summerscape.