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Best of the Season

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Bethel Woods is savvy enough to step outside its tie-dyed musical comfort zone, with a powerfully varied summer schedule. Among the offerings: Tony Bennett, Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, disco artifact Donna Summer, John Pizzarelli Quartet, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Jonas Brothers, The New York Philharmonic, Maroon 5 and Counting Crows, The Brazilian Guitar Quartet, and The Klezmatics. The summer’s standout curiosity is June 14’s True Colors concert, headlined by Cyndi Lauper and the B-52s. Joining them is the immensely talented Regina Spektor, primal screamer Rosie O’Donnell, and Queer Eye’s Carson Kressley
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For those with restless minds, summer time signals no break from education. Summerscape and the Bard Musical Festival offers a feast for voracious learners. Classical works are staged and then amplified, dissected, and discussed in attendant seminars and lectures. Fiercely intellectual, Bard’s Summerscape offers entertainment and Cliff Notes for those who must know a work inside-out.

Consider the opening salvo of the series: Sergey Prokofiev’s 1935 ballet “Romeo and Juliet” will be performed by the protean Mark Morris Dance Group. The program, subtitled “On Motifs of Shakespeare,” will examine the classic work as reenvisioned by an artist laboring in Stalinist Russia. This production, performed as the late composer originally intended but never before seen onstage, will have its world premier at Bard College on July 4 and performances will run through July 9.

Summerscape centers its programs on an august composer and explores both his masterworks and little-known pieces. Legends previously canonized by Summerscape include Dmitri Shostakovich and Franz Liszt. So it is again with “Prokofiev and His World.” Not only will the man’s work be illuminated, but his full measure will be gained through an understanding of his contemporaries. Bard president Leon Botstein will conduct the American Symphony Orchestra, as well as esteemed international musicians, in works by Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and others.

Peter Dinklage, who intrigued in the title role of 2003’s misfit fairy tale The Station Agent—and who has been mostly wasted in Hollywood pabulum since—takes center stage in a Bard production of Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya,” directed by Erica Schmidt. A restaging of the 1931 George and Ira Gershwin musical “Of Thee I Sing” may be as unsettling as it is entertaining; this gleeful evisceration of early 20th-century presidential campaigns proves how little we’ve advanced in staging this glorified horse race.

Bard’s film festival, which runs concurrently with its theater works, again offers shrewd full-screen selections of works often not available even on Turner Classic Movies. Satirical films by Frenchman Jean Renoir and American Mitchell Leisen each cast a jaded eye on the institutions of their time: war, social class, and morality. Entries include Renoir’s classic farce-cum-tragedy Rules of the Game from 1939 and the lesser-known Leisen comedies, equal laughs and arsenic, including Midnight (1939) and Remember the Night (1940). To better understand the sheer breadth of Prokofiev’s genius, the film series includes two works by director Sergei Eisenstein to which he contributed scores: Alexander Nevsky (1938) and Ivan the Terrible, Parts I and II (1944–46). After being strafed by this high-minded onslaught of ballet, drama, and film, repair to the Spiegeltent adjacent to Bard’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the strain of spirited but friendly argument that comes from several beers. (845) 758-7900; www.summerscape.bard.edu

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