Great news, Hudson Valley culture vultures: Bard SummerScape is back full-blast, running June 23 through August 14 with all performances live and even the intimate Spiegeltent returning after a two-year hiatus. If you move fast, you might still be able to get tickets for the formidable Nona Hendryx, once of Labelle and now fronting Mamafunk, who performs in the stained-glass cabaret space this Friday, July 1.
The composer being celebrated during the 2022 Bard Music Festival — the 32nd of its kind, if you’re counting — is Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943), terror of aspiring piano students everywhere. Per usual, the two weekends of the Festival will feature performances of symphonic, chamber and choral works by the expatriate Russian who brilliantly represents the last wave of the Romantic movement.
Also on the 12-concert program will be works by many of Rachmaninoff’s contemporaries, influences, mentors and protégés, along with fellow pianist/composers and some whose music he transcribed and recorded. Panel discussions will be a feature, as always, of Rachmaninoff and His World’s two weekends: August 5 to 7, “Russia and Modernity,” and August 12 to 14, “New Worlds.”
Opera fans always look forward to finding out which undeservedly obscure, neglected, rarely performed work will be dusted off each summer in the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College by the American Symphony Orchestra and Bard Festival Chorale under the baton of Leon Botstein. This year it’s the comic opera The Silent Woman (“Die schweigsame Frau”) by Rachmaninoff contemporary Richard Strauss, with a libretto by Stefan Zweig.
This new production by German director Christian Räth, whose Das Wunder der Heliane was a hit at SummerScape 2019, will feature bass Andrea Silvestrelli, tenor David Portillo, soprano Jana McIntyre and baritone Edward Nelson. The Silent Woman runs from July 22 through July 31.
Two premieres are on the schedule — in fact, one has already opened: a newly commissioned translation/adaptation of Molière’s 1665 tragicomedy Dom Juan, by scholar Sylvaine Guyot and the artistic director of the Fisher Center, Bard’s own Gideon Lester. Ashley Tata, visiting artist-in-residence in Theater and Performance, directed Bard’s livestreamed production of Caryl Churchill’s Mad Forest during the 2020 lockdown, which subsequently transferred off-Broadway to the Theatre for a New Audience. Now, Tata has come up with an inventive approach to this famous tale of an infamous rake: She has cast female actors as both Dom Juan himself and his wingman Sganarelle.
Not only is this year Molière’s 400th anniversary, but it has also been a decade since SummerScape featured a gender-bending interpretation of Molière by a previous Bard artist-in-residence, Erica Schmidt. Schmidt’s 2012 production of The Imaginary Invalid had an all-male cast, notably including her husband Peter Dinklage as the salty maidservant Toinette. It seems that the works of the French master farceur lend themselves well to such outrageous twists, but Dom Juan in particular will be interesting to see in an entirely new light, with the notorious sexual predator portrayed as a woman. The play’s debates on the subject of faith versus atheism should also resonate in new ways, given the current political climate. Dom Juan opened on June 23 and runs through July 17.
The other premiere specially commissioned by SummerScape this year is Song of Songs, a collaborative dance piece based on the Song of Solomon, by Pam Tanowitz, the Fisher Center’s longtime choreographer-in-residence, and Pulitzer- and Grammy-winning composer David Lang. Tanowitz’s two previous Fisher Center commissions, I was waiting for the echo of a better day and Four Quartets, both received extravagant critical praise.
In this major proscenium ensemble dance set to Lang’s original choral interpretation of the biblical text, Tanowitz explores her Jewish identity with a collage of sound, song and movement that reimagines ancient rituals of love and courtship. Song of Songs will have three performances with live musical accompaniment on July 1, 2 and 3.
The return of the Spiegeltent, open June 24 through August 6, is organized around the theme of Black Roots Summer, with many African American artists in the spotlight. Late-night dancing on weekends is back as well. This year’s SummerScape Gala, “Summer Enchanted Evening,” honoring Ted Chapin, former president of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, takes place on July 16 at Montgomery Place.
Current COVID-19 protocols for SummerScape 2022 include checking of IDs showing that attendees have been vaccinated and had at least one booster. Mask-wearing will be mandatory inside the Fisher Center and Olin Hall and recommended in other event venues. For details, updates and to order tickets (prices start at $25), visit http://fishercenter.bard.edu or call the box office at (845) 758-7900.