“Bard's annual opera has become an indispensable part of the summer operatic landscape because the choice of works is invariably inspired and their productions distinctively creative.” – Musical America
Bard SummerScape presents the first fully-staged New York production of Richard Strauss’s unjustly neglected opera Die Liebe der Danae (The Love of Danae, 1940), opening Friday, July 29 at the celebrated Richard B. Fisher Center at Bard College (five performances through August 7). The production stars soprano Meagan Miller, a grand finals winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and will be directed by dynamic young opera and theater director Kevin Newbury; both are making their SummerScape debuts. Set designs are by the renowned Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly. 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; Botstein gives a free Opera Talk before the July 31 performance.
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,” the subject of the 21st annual Bard Music Festival in August, is no exception. 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 their 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.