Bard to present first full staging outside Russia of Taneyev’s opera Oresteia

The Furies, John Singer Sargeant, 1921 (Museum of Fine Arys, Boston)

The Furies, John Singer Sargeant, 1921 (Museum of Fine Arys, Boston)

Pity the poor accursed House of Atreus. Game of Thrones fans might think that the brave and honorable scions of House Stark get a bloody raw deal from the gods; but their tribulations pale beside the multiple generations of the mythical Greek family who get baked into pies, sacrificed to help becalmed ships head off to war and caught up in relentless cycles of murdering one close relative to avenge the killing of another. The tale of this gore-drenched, long-running family feud has provided ample grist for literary treatments over the centuries, including some of the most celebrated works of classical drama. Aeschylus’ Oresteia trilogy, consisting of Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides, chronicles the final outrages and ultimate lifting of the Atreides’ family curse.

These three iconic Greek tragedies, with their underlying moral touting the advantages of trial in a court of law over the righting of old wrongs via endless vendettas, in turn have exerted tremendous influence on Western culture. Sergey Taneyev, the 19th-century piano prodigy and composer sometimes called the “Russian Brahms” (and much-admired by Igor Stravinsky, the focus of the 2013 Bard Music Festival) was inspired to set the Oresteia to music.

His full-length operatic treatment of the Oresteia, completed in 1894, is widely regarded as Taneyev’s crowning achievement; but oddly, it has never been staged in its entirety outside Russia – until now. In the same adventurous spirit of dusting off unjustly neglected operas and returning them to the active repertoire that brought us Chabrier’s The King in Spite of Himself in 2012, Strauss’s Die Liebe der Danae in 2011, Schreker’s The Distant Sound in 2010 and Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots in 2009, Bard SummerScape is bringing Taneyev’s Oresteia to the stage of the Fisher Center’s Sosnoff Theater on the Bard College campus from July 26 to August 4.

The five performances of this original production will be directed by Thaddeus Strassberger and feature the festival’s resident American Symphony Orchestra under the baton of music director Leon Botstein. The opera’s strong and predominantly Russian cast will feature mezzo-soprano Liuba Sokolova as Clytemnestra, bass Maxim Kuzmin-Karavaev as Agamemnon, tenor Mikhail Vekua as Orestes, soprano Olga Tolkmit as Elektra, Andrey Borisenko as Aegisthus and Maria Liedtke as Cassandra. The setting design is inspired by late 19th-century St. Petersburg.

Performances of Sergey Taneyev’s Oresteia will begin at 7 p.m. on Fridays, July 26 and August 2 and at 3 p.m. on Sundays, July 28 and August 4 and Wednesday, July 31. Leon Botstein will give a free Opera Talk at 1 p.m. preceding the July 28 show. Tickets are priced at $30, $60, $70 and $90, and can be obtained by calling the Fisher Center box office at (845) 758-7900 or visiting www.fishercenter.bard.edu.

Sergey Taneyev’s Oresteia, Fridays, July 26/August 2, 7 p.m., Sundays, July 28/August 4, 3 p.m., Wednesday, July 31, 3 p.m., $90/$70/$60/$30, Sosnoff Theater, Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson; (845) 758-7900, www.fishercenter.bard.edu.

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