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Designing Oresteia 


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“A haven for important operas … elegantly antic … with abundant charms.” — New York Times

Reviving important but rarely performed operas is one of the ways that the Bard SummerScape festival has established itself as “a hotbed of intellectual and aesthetic adventure” (New York Times). This year’s exploration of “Stravinsky and His World” is no exception. To enrich its immersion in Russia’s profound and far-reaching impact on 20th-century culture, Bard presents Oresteia by Stravinsky’s compatriot Sergey Taneyev, marking the first time this towering work will have been staged in its entirety outside Russia. Boasting a strong and predominantly Russian cast, Bard’s new and original production comes courtesy of visionary director Thaddeus Strassberger, winner of the European Opera Directing Prize (2005) and creator of SummerScape’s previous hit treatments of Les Huguenots, The Distant Sound, and The King in Spite of Himself. Oresteia’s five performances (July 26, 28 and 31; August 2 and 4) will feature the festival’s resident American Symphony Orchestra with music director Leon Botstein.

For the new production of Sergey Taneyev’s opera Oresteia, Strassberger had his design team take inspiration from late 19th-century St. Petersburg. He explains his vision in an illuminating note:

“Taneyev’s Oresteia sets the action – as did Aeschylus – in the distant past while foreshadowing the turbulent future of his own time. The 1890s in Russia was a time on the cusp of a revolution – just as the House of Atreus in ancient Greece forever seems either on the brink of collapse or the verge of the dawning of a new era. … The aesthetic synthesis of classical, neoclassical, and late 19th-century Russian styles metaphorically depicts the pathway to a new way to order the world – justice beyond retribution, clear-eyed thought triumphing over blind vengeance.”

Working closely with set designer Madeleine Boyd, winner of the Independent Opera’s 2009 Design Fellowship, Strassberger took inspirations from St. Petersburg’s Stieglitz Palace during a visit to Russia this past fall. Watch as Strassberger talks about Oresteia’s scenic design and their visit to the Stieglitz Palace. Click here for video.

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