Bardavon Theater Presents Met Opera Treats

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One year ago I blogged about the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Parsifal, shown live in HD at the UPAC in Kingston (you can read that post here). Last week I attended the Encore HD performance of the Met’s new production of Massanet’s opera Werther, this time at the UPAC’s “sister theater” across the Hudson River, the historic Bardavon Theater in Poughkeepsie. “Encore” performances are the same as the “live” ones except that they’re not live but may be a day or a week  later; as with the live ones, in the Encore performances you get the same intermission features, including the interviews with the cast that actually took place during the intermissions.

Ed IMG_2202 sThis was my first time ever seeing Werther, which is loosely based on a novel by Goethe, and except for the tenor arias that I have on recordings by the great Nicolai Gedda I was unfamiliar with any of the music. I can’t say I particularly liked the opera — but I did enjoy the performance immensely. Vocally and visually the cast couldn’t have been more perfect. Both onstage and off, tenor Jonas Kaufmann looks the epitome of the handsome, dashing romantic hero, and the title role was as if made for him. Surprising, really, how demanding the role is, and it’s hard to imagine a tenor today who could navigate its challenges more successfully than Kaufmann.

French mezzo soprano Sophie Koch in the role of Charlotte gave a virtuoso performance as the young woman torn between being united with her true love, on the one hand, and, on the other, dutifully fulfilling her mother’s deathbed wish that she marry Albert, to whom she is now engaged. Lisette Oropesa was delightfully sweet as Charlotte’s younger sister Sophie, and David Bižić a steady, solid, if somewhat boring Albert (I’m referring to the character, not to Bižić’s performance) who nonetheless exhibited hints of a hard side when he thought himself crossed.

Veteran singer Jonathan Summers played the Bailiff, Charlotte’s widowed father. Here’s where the beauty of the close-up camera work of the HD rendition really shines: At one point a telling expression of misgiving flashed across his face when Charlotte’s upcoming marriage to Albert was mentioned. which I doubt could have been visible to the audience in the enormous opera house itself.

In the intermission interview Kaufmann spoke of the challenge of interpreting Werther in such a way that the audience doesn’t lose sympathy with him. He certainly did his best, but I think the production was working against him here, and by Act III you wanted to tell him, “Just take some Zoloft and get over it.”

This was my first time seeing a performance in the Bardavon Theater. The Bardavon has an amazing history. It started life as the Collingwood Opera House in 1869, and

If you want to grab a quick and tasty bite to eat before a matinee at the Bardavon, this historic diner is just down the street.

If you want to grab a quick and tasty bite to eat before a matinee at the Bardavon, this historic diner is just down the street.

during its heyday, which lasted into the 20th century, renowned artists such as John Philip Sousa, Edwin Booth, and Ignace Paderewski performed here. Converted in 1923 into a venue for vaudeville and silent movies, the theater eventually fell upon hard times and closed in 1975. It was actually slated for demolition, but a not-for-profit group was formed  that worked for revitalization, the theater was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the very next season the theater began its new life as the Bardavon.

Whatever kind of entertainment you enjoy, the Bardavon and the Kingston UPAC are guaranteed to have something for you. Why not check out their website and see for yourself?

View my fine art photographs of Historic New York, including one of Poughkeepsie’s Main Street, here.

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Tower of Victory Needs Restoration

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Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site in Newburgh is one of the most scenic Hudson Valley sites related to the Revolutionary War. Here, at the stone house owned by Jonathan and Tryntje Hasbrouck, General George Washington and his wife,  together with officers and servants, lived between April 1782 and August 1783 while he reached decisions that were crucial to the shaping of the new republic after the war ended. Among other things, he rejected the notion that he should be made king, and he created the Badge of Military Merit — the forerunner of the Purple Heart.

Today this State Historic Site is open to the public, furnished as it would have been in Washington’s time, and holds reenactments and other events on historic dates such as Washington’s birthday. Located in Newburgh’s Historic District, it commands a magnificent view of the Beacon Hills on the Dutchess County side of the Hudson River.

DSC0034 ed sAlso on the site is the imposing Tower of Victory, a monument commissioned by Robert Todd Lincoln 125 years ago specifically to commemorate the peace that followed the end of the American Revolution. Designed by the renowned architect John Hemingway Duncan, the Tower of Victory houses a bronze statue of General Washington sculpted by William Rudolf O’Donovan that shows the General looking across the Hudson River toward the Beacon Hills.

Time and weather have taken their toll on the Tower of Victory, and the Palisades Park Conservancy must raise $1.5 million in order to restore the stone structure, replace the roof, and eliminate water penetration. Fundraising projects are in place and have already had good results, but more is needed. To learn more and/or to donate, visit the PPC’s website.

If you would like to own a fine art photographic print of the Tower of Victory, I am donating 10% of the profits from the sale of the photograph at the top of this post  to the Restoration Fund. Click on the photo, or here, to view the photo in a larger size and to get to my website.  I hope you’ll consider supporting the efforts to keep this important American monument alive and well for the next 125 years. Thanks so much!