JANÁCEK'S 'OSUD' ('FATE') AT BARD SUMMER FESTIVAL
Osud (Fate), Janacek's fourth opera, did not reach the stage until 1958, by which time the composer had been dead for 30 years, and it waited for its North American premiere until July 25, 2003, at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College in the village of Annandale-on-Hudson in New York. This splendid, if awkward, work got the treatment it deserved as the centrepiece of Bard's "Janacek and His World" summer music festival, held in a brand-new theatre--a gleaming Frank Gehry building, swooning like a drunken armadillo in a bucolic corner of Bard's campus. The set design was by Gehry as well--his first, and he probably shouldn't quit his day job, hut the stage was at least always pretty to look at, though the multi-level floor was clearly a challenge to the cast.
After a slightly shaky start, conductor Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra gave an energetic reading, clearly in love with Janacek's rhythms, and the chorus generally acted and sang with authority and conviction. The cast was uniformly fine, though Michael Hendrick must be singled out for both expressive singing and simple stamina in the daunting lead role of the composer Zivny. Osud will always be a bit of a clumsy opera, but with treatment like this, it more than works--it carries you away.