lunes, 18 de julio de 2011

2011 Bard SummerScape Festival Enriches Exploration of “Sibelius and His World” with NY’s First Fully-Staged Production of Richard Strauss’s Opera Die Liebe der Danae (July 29 – Aug 7)

Photo: Bard Summerscape: The Richard B. Fischer Center for the Performing Arts/ Danae and the shower of gold (detail) Red figure bell krater from Boeotia, ca 430 BCE. Photo: Herve Lewandowski. Reunion des Musees Nationaux / Art Resource, N.Y.
  Reviving an important but rarely performed opera is one of the ways the Bard SummerScape festival paints a nuanced portrait of the past, and this year’s exploration of “Sibelius and His World” is no exception. This year, Bard presents the first fully-staged New York production of Die Liebe der Danae (The Love of Danae, 1940), by Sibelius’s contemporary Richard Strauss. The production, starring soprano Meagan Miller, will be directed by dynamic young opera and theater director Kevin Newbury, both making SummerScape debuts. The opera’s five performances (July 29 & 31; August 3, 5, & 7) feature the festival’s resident American Symphony Orchestra and music director Leon Botstein, whose 2001 Telarc recording of the work won high praise.

Sibelius (1865-1957) and Richard Strauss (1864-1949) were close contemporaries, whose life and work show noteworthy parallels. In selecting Die Liebe der Danae as its operatic centerpiece, Bard aims to investigate those similarities. Like Sibelius, Strauss excelled at painting nature in sound and the two manifested greater command of orchestral color than any other composers of the 20th century. Both flirted briefly with atonality in the wake of Schoenberg’s first expressionist experiments, Strauss with Salome and Elektra and Sibelius with his Fourth Symphony and Luonnotar. Both composers, moreover, abandoned it soon afterwards, Strauss re-embracing a more tonal musical language with Der Rosenkavalier and Sibelius with The Oceanides and the Fifth Symphony. In addition, both composers turned to the distant past, and in particular to myth, to deal with issues of the day. For Sibelius, the Kalevala provided the basis of his exploration of national identity and nationhood. And Strauss turned to the Greeks to explore love, human nature, and money.

Both supported each other’s work: it was Strauss who conducted the Berlin Philharmonic in the world premiere of Sibelius’s seminal violin concerto in 1905, while, for his part, the great Finn studied Strauss’s music in Germany, where he reported finding Salome’s instrumentation “masterly.” If the two, while each achieving a distinctive and original voice, may be said to have resisted musical modernity, this conservatism extended also to politics: both Strauss and Sibelius, facing different pressures in their respective corners of Europe, made compromising concessions to the Nazis. When Finland allied herself with Germany against the Soviets, Sibelius – championed as a Nordic “Aryan” – became a favorite composer of the Third Reich, and his works received numerous performances. While harboring private doubts about the Nazis’ racial laws and policies, he took no public stand against them, and was assiduous in collecting German royalties.

Strauss, based in Berlin, tried to cooperate with the Nazi regime while maintaining a non-political stance, in order to promote his career and advocate for Jewish friends and relations, who included his daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Although he has often been denounced as a Nazi stooge, in fact Strauss’s role was more complicated; it is telling that he privately considered Goebbels’s “Jew-baiting as a disgrace to German honor,” while the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, in his turn, looked forward to having “no further need of this decadent neurotic.”
This year’s opera presentation is Die Liebe der Danae (The Love of Danae, 1940), Strauss’s penultimate opera. Although the composer lived to see the work in dress rehearsal, its intended premiere was postponed by Goebbels’s declaration of “total war,” and the opera was first fully staged posthumously, in 1952. To this day, Danae has been only rarely performed, owing both to its considerable vocal demands and to the taint of its origins in Nazi Germany. Nevertheless, connoisseurs of Strauss tend to have a special regard for the work. According to his biographer Michael Kennedy: “Die Liebe der Danae does not deserve its neglect. Its third act alone lifts it into the category of first-rank Strauss.”

The libretto, written by Joseph Gregor from a scenario by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, combines the legend of King Midas and the myth of Jupiter’s “golden rain” visitation on Princess Danae into a modern fable on the love of money and the power of love. Set in the doomed bankrupt nation Eos, it represents a wry comment on Germany’s own hyperinflation crisis in the last years of the Weimar Republic. As Botstein comments, the premiere suffered from bad timing, for Gregor’s is “a very ironic libretto … filled with a kind of contemporaneity which didn’t fit in the early ’50s.” Botstein adds: “Danae is actually one of Strauss’s masterpieces… his sort of swan song to the operatic form.”

The new production – the first to be fully staged in New York – will showcase soprano Meagan Miller, German baritone Carsten Wittmoser as Jupiter, and as Midas, Canadian tenor Roger Honeywell, soprano Camille Zamora. Set design is courtesy of renowned Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly. The opera’s five performances (July 29 & 31; August 3, 5, & 7) will be sung in the original German with English supertitles, and conducted by music director Leon Botstein.

Opera at SummerScape 2011
Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
Die Liebe der Danae (The Love of Danae, 1940)
Libretto: Joseph Gregor
American Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Leon Botstein, music director
Directed by Kevin Newbury
Set design by Rafael Viñoly and Mimi Lien
Danae: Meagan Miller
Jupiter: Carsten Wittmoser
Merkur: Jud Perry
Pollux: Dennis Petersen
Xanthe: Sarah Jane McMahon
Midas: Roger Honeywell
Semele: Aurora Perry
Europa: Camille Zamora
Alkmene: Jamie Van Eyck
Leda: Rebecca Ringle
Sosnoff Theater
July 29 and August 5 at 7 pm
July 31, and August 3 and 7 at 3 pm
Tickets: $30, $60, $70, $90

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