Fisher Center at Bard College to present Mendelssohn’s Elijah

The Bard College Conservatory of Music presents Felix Mendelssohn’s acclaimed oratorio Elijah, Op. 70, on Friday, February 17 and Saturday, February 18 at 8 p.m. in the Fisher Center’s Sosnoff Theater. The full-scale production features the “marvelously pure-toned and eloquent” (Boston Globe) baritone Sanford Sylvan as Elijah, with Leon Botstein, music director and conductor. James Bagwell, chorus master, will give pre-concert talks at 7 p.m. Ticket prices are by suggested donation: $20 orchestra seating; $15 parterre/first balcony; minimum donation $5. The concert is free to the Bard community with ID. All ticket sales benefit the Conservatory’s scholarship fund. For ticket information, contact the Fisher Center box office at or call 845-758-7900.

Elijah will be performed by members of the American Symphony Orchestra and the Bard Conservatory Orchestra, accompanying over 100 singers from the Graduate Vocal Arts Program, Bard College Chamber Singers, and Cappella Festiva Chamber Choir. Soloists from the Graduate Vocal Arts Program include Hannah Goldshlack and Jacquelyn Stucker, sopranos; Abigail Levis, mezzo-soprano; and Hyunhak Kim and Barrett Radziun, tenors.

Composed in the spirit of the Baroque masters, Elijah displays Mendelssohn’s mastery of craft and formal rigor, combining his preoccupation with religious expression with his keen interest in early music. “Mendelssohn’s sacred music builds on Baroque models, and he was intent on continuing the Handelian tradition of the sacred oratorio,” comments Peter Laki, Bard College Visiting Associate Professor of Music. “Drama, however, was a primary interest of Mendelssohn’s, and he had been longing to write an opera for years. Thus, Elijah, in addition to representing Mendelssohn-the-Protestant and Mendelssohn-the-heir-of-Handel, also had to serve as a vehicle for Mendelssohn, the would-be-opera-composer.” His second large-scale oratorio, following St. Paul, Mendelssohn turned the biblical narrative of Elijah into a quasi-opera. The libretto is a collage assembled from various books of the Bible, concentrating on the most dramatic episodes of Elijah’s life.

For tickets or additional infornaton about this program, contact the Fisher Center Box Office at 845-758-7900, send an e-mail to, or go to

About the Artists

Baritone Sanford Sylvan’s portrayals of Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro and Don Alfonso in Cosi fan tutte have been seen internationally, including on PBS’s Great Performances. He sang the role of Leporello in Don Giovanni for his Glyndebourne Festival debut and with New York City Opera, where he has since become a regular performer in such operas as The Magic Flute, Ariodante, The Rape of Lucretia, and Handel’s Semele. Mr. Sylvan was in the U.S. premiere of The Lighthouse by Peter Maxwell Davies, the world premiere of Philip Glass’s The Juniper Tree, and sang Sir Michael Tippett’s The Ice Break at the BBC Proms. He portrays Klinghoffer in the film of John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer. Sylvan has performed with the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, London Symphony, and BBC Symphony, among others. Recent highlights include Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron with the Boston Symphony, the world premiere of Christopher Rouse’s Requiem, and Adams’s The Wound Dresser. Sylvan’s recordings appear on the Nonesuch, Decca, Harmonia Mundi, Musicmasters, Bridge, Koch, Virgin Classics, New World, and CRI labels. His recordings include the Grammy nominees Nixon in China, L’Horizon Chimérique, Beloved That Pilgrimage, The Wound Dresser, The Death of Klinghoffer, and Wilde. Recent recordings include American Muse and Jonah. He can be seen on DVD on productions including Nixon in China, Klinghoffer, Cosi fan tutte, and Le nozze di Figaro. Sylvan is on the vocal faculty of McGill University in Montreal.

Leon Botstein has been music director and principal conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra since 1992, and is conductor laureate of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, where he served as music director from 2003 to 2011. He is also the founder and artistic codirector of the SummerScape Festival and the Bard Music Festival, now in its 23rd year. He has been president of Bard College in New York since 1975.

Mr. Botstein maintains an active schedule as a guest conductor throughout the world. Recent engagements include the Russian National Philharmonic and the Melos-Ethos Contemporary Music Festival in the Slovak Republic. Upcoming engagements include the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Hawaii Symphony, and Taipei Symphony, among others. He may also be heard on numerous recordings, including operas by Strauss, Dukas, and Chausson, as well as works of Shostakovich, Dohnányi, Liszt, Bruckner, Bartók, Hartmann, Reger, Glière, Szymanowski, Brahms, Copland, Sessions, Perle, and Rands. Many live recordings with the American Symphony Orchestra are now available for download on the Internet.

He is editor of The Musical Quarterly and the author of numerous articles and books. This year he gave the prestigious Tanner Lectures in Berkeley, California. For his contributions to music, he has received the award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Harvard University’s Centennial Award, as well as the Cross of Honor, First Class, from the government of Austria. He is a 2009 recipient of the Carnegie Foundation’s Academic Leadership Award, and was recently inducted into the American Philosophical Society.

James Bagwell maintains an active schedule throughout the United States as a conductor of choral, operatic, and orchestral music. In 2009 he was appointed music director of The Collegiate Chorale and led the ensemble in concerts at Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall during the 2009–10 season. He is principal guest conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra in New York, and since 2003 has been director of choruses for the Bard Music Festival, conducting and preparing choral works during the summer festival at Bard College. He has also prepared The Concert Chorale of New York for performances with the American Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Mostly Mozart Festival (broadcast nationally in 2006 on Live from Lincoln Center), all in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. Bagwell has trained choruses for a number of major American and international orchestras, including the San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, NHK Symphony (Japan), St. Petersburg Symphony, Budapest Festival Orchestra, and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, among others, and has worked with noted conductors such as Lorin Maazel, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Michael Tilson Thomas, Leon Botstein, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Robert Shaw. He holds degrees from Birmingham-Southern College, Florida State University, and Indiana University. He has taught since 2000 at Bard College, where he is the chair of the undergraduate Music Program and codirector of the Graduate Program in Conducting.

Building on its distinguished history in the arts and education, Bard College launched The Bard College Conservatory of Music, which welcomed its first class in August 2005. This innovative five-year program of study is guided by the principle that musicians should be broadly educated in the liberal arts and sciences to achieve their greatest potential. All students complete two degrees, a bachelor of music and a bachelor of arts in a field other than music. The Conservatory also includes the Preparatory Division for young people up to the age of 18. The Graduate Vocal Arts Program is a two-year master of music degree conceived by soprano Dawn Upshaw. The course work is designed to support a broad-based approach to a singing career that extends from standard repertory to new music. Alongside weekly voice lessons and diction and repertory courses is training in acting, as well as core seminars that introduce and tie together the historical/cultural perspective, analytical tools, and performance skills that distinguish vocal and operatic performance at the highest level. The Orchestral and Choral Conducting Program is a new two-year graduate curriculum that culminates in the master of music degree. The program is designed and directed by Harold Farberman, founder and director of the Conductors Institute at Bard; James Bagwell, director of Bard’s undergraduate Music Program and music director of The Collegiate Chorale and The Concert Chorale of New York; and Leon Botstein, president of Bard College and music director of the American Symphony Orchestra.

The Cappella Festiva Chamber Choir celebrated its 35th anniversary in May 2010 with a weekend of events that included a concert of music by Mozart and Haydn with orchestra, and a symposium that celebrated the choir’s distinguished past conductors: Jameson Marvin, Luis Garcia-Renart, and James Bagwell. Christine R. Howlett has been artistic director of Cappella Festiva since 2006. With the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, the choir has performed Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Mozart’s Requiem Mass, and Mendelssohn’s incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In November 2011, the choir performed two concerts of music sacred and profane, by Bruckner, Britten, Vaughan Williams, and others, in Millbrook and Poughkeepsie. Cappella Festiva also supports the Summer Choral Festival and the Cappella Festiva Treble Choir for treble singers ages 10 to 16, codirected by Christine R. Howlett and Susan Bialek.

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