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Monday, June 27, 2016

Summer of ’87 Cultural Museum

From the Vault Dept.: Here’s another in a lengthy series of workaday pieces I churned out over the years, a preview of such arts events as I covered for the summer of 1987, written for the Schenectady Gazette. It’s a fairly cursory run-down, but it accompanied detailed listings in very tiny type. But this harkens back to a time when the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Saratoga residency featured new works and a composer-in-residence, when the NY City Opera also visited the area, and when the Latham Coliseum still existed – and Perry Como still existed, too.


EVEN AS VISIONS OF ICE CREAM CONES dance in your head, summer promises warmth and relaxation. And entertainment, heating up all the more the conflict between those who like to be disturbed by their entertainment and those who wish merely to be distracted.

William Bolcom
This summer, the area offers both, leaning, not surprisingly, towards the latter.

The area expands as the days grow longer, so that what in winter would be a trudge to Massachusetts becomes instead a delightful trip to Tanglewood. Places like Woodstock and Cooperstown and Dorset, VT., figure into our itineraries.

Not to shortchange the close-to-home activities: they’re fewer, but they’re exciting. The Saratoga Performing Arts Center is bringing in William Bolcom as composer-in-residence this summer, a man who made a name for himself as a ragtime pianist but began composing, according to one biographer, “at a disgustingly early age.”

Four of Bolcom’s works will be performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra during their August visit, including a suite titled “Ragomania.” Bolcom also provided the arrangement of a rarely-heard Cole Porter ballet, “Within the Quota,” which premiered in Paris in 1923 and will be performed at SPAC this summer.

Riccardo Muti returns to SPAC for the first time in several years to conduct three of the concerts; among the soloists are pianist Alexander Toradze (who gave a standing-ovation performance last summer), violinists Itzhak Perlman and Elmar Oliveira, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

It’s a week of Puccini for the New York City Opera, which alternates “La Boheme” and “Tosca” during the week of June 17; July is New York City Ballet month, including full-length performances of “Coppelia” as well as the Saratoga premiere of Peter Martins’ “Les Petits Riens.”

You wouldn’t expect to find much of the new during the Foundation for Baroque Music’s 25th summer of concerts up in Greenfield Center, but there is a world premiere (music by Brian Fennelly) scattered amongst the old, as well as a look at new construction of old instruments when the season opens July 9 at the Saratoga Springs City Center.

Another mixture of old and new is the trend known as “new vaudeville.” The Bond Street Theatre Coalition in Palenville, near Woodstock, begins a summer series of theatrical events with “An Evening of New Vaudeville” July 31; weekends thereafter feature dance, music, comedy, clowning – and boomerang hurling, during the Labor Day Australian Boomerang Meet.

Perry Como
What’s old seems to be forever new at the Coliseum; certainly it continues to be popular. Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons return, and there are scheduled appearances by the Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis and a “Classic 60's Superfest.” Country music fans will enjoy Willie Nelson, Ricky Scaggs, and Mickey Gilley, while such perennials as Perry Como, Wayne Newton, Tom Jones, and Jim Nabors will be on hand through September.

With its feet firmly in the 16th and early 17th centuries, Shakespeare in the Park returns to Washington Park’s Lakehouse to stir up the waters with “The Tempest.” Other Live at the Lakehouse events include productions of “Dames at Sea” and “Oklahoma!” And most Tuesdays through the summer will include dance or music performances.

There’s more of the Bard in Massachusetts, where Shakespeare & Co. has a double-header running outdoors all summer with evening performances of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and afternoons airings of “Measure for Measure.” And, as always, there will be theatrical versions of Edith Wharton stories at her former home, The Mount, in Lenox.

Other theatrical venues, heading east, begin with a dip into Columbia County for the Mac-Haydn Theatre in Chatham, a summer-long series of classic musicals that includes”Irene” and “My One and Only.” New Lebanon’s Theatre Barn opens next week with the Tom Lehrer revue “Tomfoolery” and will be the site of “Pippin” and “Evita.”  And there are musicals in Fort Salem, with “Annie,” “Guys and Dolls” and “Carousel” on the roster.

Crossing the state line, the Berkshire Public Theatre in Pittsfield, Mass., presents a play, “Cloud 9,” a musical, “Candide,” and an original musical, “Rock ‘n Roll Heaven.”

A musical version of “Portrait of Jennie” is on the schedule at Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, while the nearby Berkshire Opera Company has a double-bill of “Albert Herring” and Mozart’s “La Finta Giardiniera.”

As usual, the Williamstown Theatre Festival has slowly been squeezing out details of its season, which now includes “The Crucible,”“The Homecoming,” and “The Rover,” the last-named a 17th-century farce by Aphra Behn. Other offerings will be selected from the works of Coward, Ibsen, Chekhov and Williams.  The saga of The Greeks continues with “The Oedipus Legend,” and there will be a number of new works on the Other Stage, including a new play by John Guare.

The music at Tanglewood begins July 2 and includes guest appearances by a host of distinguished conductors, singers and instrumentalists. Soprano Elly Ameling opens the series with an all- Schubert recital; other visitors include Leonard Bernstein, to conduct the Boston Symphony in his own Symphony No. 1; Neville Marriner, with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields; pianist Alfred Brendel, playing Beethoven’s Concerto No. 1, and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis in an evening of jazz.

The Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music runs from July 30 to August 6, featuring the 1987 composer-in-residence George Perle. And, of course, there will be chamber music galore, Thursday evenings and during the Friday Prelude series.

Other Massachusetts chamber music festivals include the 69th season of concerts at South Mountain in Pittsfield, August through October, and the Aston Magna Festival Saturdays in July at St. James’ Church, Great Barrington.

Becket, Mass., was the home of the Denishawn Studio; dance continues during the Jacob’s Pillow summer series which this year has commissioned a work by Merce Cunningham to be premiered in July.

Closer to home, there are chamber music festivals at the Spencertown Academy, produced by noted music photographer and pianist Christian Steiner, and the 72nd season of Maverick Concerts in Woodstock. Also look for programs at Bard College in Annandale and throughout Columbia County during Newell Jenkins’ autumn Leaf Peeper Concerts.

A chamber music series in Vermont follows the Mostly Mozart tradition in easygoing, Classical-era programming, but the Vermont Mozart Festival moves throughout the state during July and August.

Theater in Vermont has summer homes in Dorset, where the Dorset Theatre Festival includes “A Thousand Clowns” and “My Three Angels,” and at Bennington’s Oldcastle Theatre, where the in-progress series will include “The Importance of Being Earnest” and, in October, a 1940s radio musical, “The Wake-Up Club.”

Out in Cooperstown, the Glimmerglass Opera has a new theater on the lake, so it kicks off the summer with a gala recital June 27 that includes Frederica von Stade and Alan Titus among many others; the regular season features Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin,” Britten’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Pirates of Penzance” by Gilbert and Sullivan.

True fans of that Victorian-era duo also have the opportunity to see “The Mikado” at the Lake George Opera Festival this summer, part of a season that includes “Rigoletto,” “The Elixir of Love” and the world premiere of Mark Houston’s “Hazel Kirke.”

– Schenectady Daily Gazette, 12 June 1987

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