The Soldier’s Tale (1918) is a unique work that does not easily fit any conventional genre: it is, in its original form, a staged piece but it has no singers (only narrators and actors), so it cannot an opera, yet it is not exactly a “play” in the conventional sense either. It was performed with dancers, but it is certainly no ballet. And instead of an orchestra, Stravinsky used only seven players, representing the string, woodwind and brass families with two members each: one being a high-pitched, the other a low-pitched instrument. The ensemble of violin, double bass, clarinet, bassoon, cornet and trombone is rounded out by a highly virtuosic percussion part. (In his magisterial book on Stravinsky's Russian period, Richard Taruskin notes the similarity of this assemblage of instruments to Russian-Jewish klezmer bands of the late 19th century.)
Such economy of means was a matter of absolute necessity when the work was written. During World War I, no large productions could be mounted, even in neutral Switzerland where Stravinsky was living at the time. Soldiers Tale is the classic case of making a virtue out of necessity. As Stravinsky noted: "The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one's self of the chains that shackle the spirit."
In Switzerland, Stravinsky met the novelist and poet Charles Ferdinand Ramuz (1878-1947), and shared with him his favorite collection of Russian folktales, edited by Alexander Afanasyev (1826-71). One of the stories from this collection, “The Runaway Soldier and the Devil,” was freely adapted for the project. What made the story particularly attractive for musical treatment was the fact that this soldier played the fiddle, which he gave to the Devil in exchange for a magic book.
This pact with the Devil vaguely alludes the Faust legend—a humorous reference since we are lightyears away from the serious philosophical approach that had been associated with Faust ever since Goethe's monumental dramatic poem. Nor is the Devil a larger-than-life Mephistopheles who “always wills the evil and always produces the good”: he is, instead, a rather clumsy fellow, matching wits with a hero who is almost his equal. And although he happens to win in this particular instance (which is unusual for a fairytale), there are enough humorous and grotesque episodes to lighten up the grimness of the story.
After the Soldier has made his fateful trade with the Devil, he suddenly becomes wealthy, only to lose his fortune again. He recovers his violin after getting the Devil drunk in a card game, then cures a sick Princess with his playing, but loses the last round as the Devil takes hold of him just as he is about to reach his home village.
The majority of the movements in the score are either marches or dances, and it is fascinating to watch the games Stravinsky plays with those forms, constantly inserting irregular measures to upset their typical rhythmic patterns. The lighter, carefree music of the opening “Soldier's March” contrasts with the pompous “Royal March” in the middle of the work and with the fierce “Triumphal March of the Devil” at the end. In between we have such gems as “The Soldier's Violin” which starts with the soldier warming up his fingers and develops into an elaborate virtuoso piece—or the “Pastorale,” a slow interlude played between two scenes of the show.
In the “Little Concert” themes from all of the work's movements are combined to form a brilliant whole. There are two “chorales” marking solemn moments as Stravinsky reharmonizes an imaginary Bach chorale in his own style (the first phrase actually sounds very much like “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”). Through carefully chosen dissonances, Stravinsky created a chorale style that is as solemn and festive as Bach's yet belongs entirely to the 20th century.
Among the dances, the “Three Dances: Tango, Waltz, Ragtime” are played by the soldier to cure the princess. In all three, fragments of dances popular at the time are transformed into pure Stravinsky. The first one includes a short melodic figure that came to Stravinsky in a dream about a Gypsy woman playing the fiddle for her baby. In relating this experience, Stravinsky pointed out that the Gypsy woman was “using the full length of the bow”—something that Stravinsky specifically requested of his violinist at this point in the score.
Between the Tango and the Waltz, the soldier's finger exercise from earlier returns for a moment. After the exquisite “Ragtime,” it is the Devil’s turn to dance: his number is wild and furious but also extremely comical. The Devil's final victory, then, is marked by a spectacular percussion solo that concludes the piece.
Visiting Associate Professor,
When Colin proposed the idea of working on Soldier’s Tale I immediately asked him if I could direct it. I first heard the piece during my undergraduate studies and I’ve been fascinated by its unique blend of storytelling ever since. Being a theatrical work “to be read, played, and danced,” Soldier’s Tale seemed the ideal first directing project.
I love the collaborative nature of theater - combining text, music, movement, and visuals to tell a story. Based on a Russian folk tale, Soldier’s Tale is simply that, the telling of a story.
How can we tell this story in the simplest way possible? I started by stripping back the piece. What is essential to this story and what can we add on from there? This led me to a theatre term coined by Peter Brook, rough theatre. "Rough theater is the theatre of the people. It is vivid, noisy, lively, flexible, and involves a very creative process. It contains a more simplistic storyline for an easier understanding for the audience." (Isaiah Tarwater)
Vivid, noisy, lively, and flexible are all ways that I experience Stravinsky's music. This idea of "rough theater" was a perfect fit. How can we read this story? Play this story? Dance this story? By ridding paraphernalia from the script, we were able to ask simple questions and find a profound truth in this work.
Director and Devil
Sadie Spivey has been recognized for her diverse performance abilities as a vocal artist and as an actor. Whether it is creating new work or giving a unique voice to established repertoire, Sadie believes that stories help us feel seen and heard, fulfilling our innate desire to connect. Sadie began the 2022 season singing the Vixen in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen with the Bard Graduate Vocal Arts Program, where she is currently pursuing her graduate studies.
A graduate of Penn State, Sadie received a BM in voice performance as well as a BFA in acting. At Penn State, she appeared in more than a dozen productions, splitting her time equally between the theatrical and the operatic stage. Sadie was named an Encouragement Award Winner of the 2020 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. That same year, she received an Emerging Artist Award from the International Lotte Lenya Competition, a competition recognizing singer/actors who are dramatically and musically convincing in repertoire ranging from contemporary Broadway scores to opera and operetta. This summer, Sadie returns to The Ohio Light Opera to sing Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance and Luisa in The Fantasticks.
This performance of Soldier’s Tale marks Sadie’s directorial debut. For more information, see www.sadiespivey.com.
Choreographer and Princess
Isabella Spagnuolo is a senior Classical Studies major at Bard College. An experienced dancer and performer, she has studied with Eric Ragan at the Long Island City School of Ballet since 2008.
In this production, Isabella serves as the principal choreographer and will dance the part of the Princess. She is delighted to be working with this wonderful cast!
Ukrainian-American soprano Teryn Kuzma is a versatile performer and musician of classical, contemporary, musical theater, and folk repertoire. She is so thrilled to be going back to her dancing and acting roots as the “Soldier” alongside her dear friends!
This summer, she will be featured in the Toronto Summer Music Festival as an “Art of Song” Fellow, and she will perform in the chorus of Don Giovanni with Berkshire Opera Festival. She also joins the artists roster at the Lincoln Crossroads Music Festival with members of her family in July.
Recent performance credits include the title role of “Vixen” in Leoš Janáček’s opera, The Cunning Little Vixen, and singing Op. 22, Seven Songs for Soprano and Cimbalom in the Bard György Kurtág Festival. Teryn also organized and performed in “Bard Musicians in Support of Ukraine”, a benefit concert which raised over $4,000 in aid for the Help Us Help Charity. Over the past five years, Teryn has performed as a featured artist with The Ohio Light Opera, Hartford Opera Theater, and the Ukrainian Art Song Project in Toronto.
In addition to her emerging singing career, Teryn is also an accomplished instrumentalist on the unique 55-stringed bandura. She is devoted to maintaining the art of the bandura and Ukrainian music by bringing together the unique beauty of bandura and her voice in her solo recitals and special performances.
Teryn holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Connecticut and is currently pursuing her Masters in the Bard Graduate Vocal Arts Program (VAP), studying with esteemed faculty members Lucy Fitz Gibbon, Kayo Iwama, and Stephanie Blythe. For more information and upcoming events, visit www.terynkuzma.com.
Katherine Lerner Lee
Brooklyn-based soprano, Katherine Lerner Lee, is currently pursuing her Master’s of Music at Bard Conservatory. There, she was recently seen as Gold-Spurs in Janacék’s The Cunning Little Vixen and was named the 2021 Concerto Competition Winner. A diverse artist, Katherine is at home in operatic, concert and contemporary repertoire. In 2019, she made her Carnegie Hall debut on the Perelman Stage as the soprano soloist in Stravinsky’s Les Noces with Oberlin College Choir and has been heard at the Brooklyn Art Museum and the Cleveland Art Museum, performing works by Louis Andriessen, Michael Gordon and Harrison Birtwistle. Operatic credits include Pamina (Die Zauberflöte -Mozart), Flora (The Turn of the Screw - Britten), Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro - Mozart), and Clori in (L’egisto - Cavalli). Upcoming appearances
include the world premiere of JL Marlor’s movement opera, The Final Veil, at the Cell in Manhattan. More at katherinelernerlee.com.
Colin Roshak is a conductor, clarinetist, educator, and avid home cook. He is a member of the Graduate Conducting Program at Bard College and is a student of James Bagwell, Richard Hawkins and Tim Weiss.
From 2018 to 2021, Colin spent his summers teaching in Sitka, Tlingit Aaní in southeast Alaska. He likes to start the day with a smoothie and his mind often drifts to the Chugach mountains. In the summer of 2022, Colin will return to the 49th state as an artist in residence with the Alaska State Parks Service. While living in an off-grid cabin, he’ll spend his days writing, recording, and designing an education curriculum that incorporates elements of natural sound and being outside.
Following his time in Juneau, Colin will travel to San Antonio and Chicago, to work as the inaugural conducting fellow with the Classical Music Institute and as an assistant conductor with Chicago Summer Opera in productions of Handel's Serse and Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea.
Colin has strong opinions about salt and pepper, highly recommends Maggie Nelsons’ The Argonauts, and encourages everyone to drink more water.
Yi-Ting (Joy) Kuo, born and raised in Taiwan, is now enjoying her time at Bard College because she is having a fun time playing with great musicians everyday as a violinist.
Outside of music, she likes to play basketball, badminton, ride a bike, hike in the mountains, and enjoy nature. Recently, she discovered fun in cooking, and she will continue to explore more of it. She likes Winnie the Pooh.
Juan Esteban Martinez
Dominican clarinetist Juan Esteban Martínez recently obtained his Master’s Degree from the Yale School of Music under the instruction of David Shifrin. Prior to attending Yale, Juan received a bachelor’s degree from the Peabody Conservatory of Music where he studied with Anthony McGill. While at Peabody, Juan won second prize in the Yale Gordon Concerto Competition and received the Sidney Jensen Memorial Award for outstanding clarinet performance for three consecutive years.
In 2015, Juan was the winner of the Texas Music Festival Concerto Competition, where he performed the Jean Françaix Clarinet Concerto with the festival orchestra, conducted by Mei-Ann Chen. Juan has appeared as a soloist numerous times with the National Symphony Orchestra of the Dominican Republic, performing works of Carl Nielsen, Jean Françaix and Bienvenido Bustamante. He made his debut at the age of 15 performing Rossini’s Introduction, Theme and Variations in a traditional concert that
was live-streamed on national television.
As an orchestral musician, he has been participated in the New York String Orchestra Seminar for two years in a row giving sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall. He also has appeared with Classical Tahoe Orchestra, Symphony in C in New Jersey, Princeton Symphony, Westminster Opera Theater, Yale Philharmonia, the National Repertory Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Americas. Juan currently performs with The
Orchestra Now of Bard College.
A native of Huntsville, Alabama, David Kidd began playing the trombone in 7th grade. He attended the University of Alabama, graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in trombone performance, studying under Dr. Jonathan Whitaker. His studies then took him to Boston, where he earned a Master’s degree from the New England Conservatory, studying with Boston Symphony principal Toby Oft. While in Boston, he has performed with the Boston Pops, and his trombone quartet won the American Trombone Workshop’s national quartet competition two years in a row.
He currently resides in the Hudson Valley, NY, as a member of The Orchestra Now, and is the second trombonist of the Glens Falls Symphony. When not playing trombone, David enjoys bike riding, cooking with his smoker, and college football.
Ben Halle is a high school student who frequently plays jazz and classical music in a variety of different ensembles.
Taiwanese bassoonist Han-Yi Huang is currently a member of The Orchestra Now. Prior to attending Bard college, he earned a bachelor and a master degree from the New England Conservatory, where he studied with Richard Ranti and Marc Goldberg.
Outside of music, he enjoys spending time at the gym, reading novels and watching films.
Juan Diego Mora
Percussionist Juan Diego Mora is a second-year student from Tachira, Venezuela, who was the principal of the percussion section of the Regional Orchestra of Táchira. He was a student in the El Sistema program for 11 years before arriving at Bard, to begin his studies in January 2021. He’s currently double majoring in computer science and music, and has a strong interest in composition, conducting, and exploring more instruments outside the percussion section such as piano, cuatro (Venezuelan folk instrument), guitar, and bass. Juan is also a member of the Avila Ensemble where he performs Venezuelan folk music around the Hudson Valley.
Ulysse Derrien is a French trumpet player born in Paris in 2003. He studied under Clément Saunier at the Paris Conservatory for 6 years. Ulysse won the 1st prize both at the Isle sur la Sorgue trumpet competition and the Hericourt trumpet competition.
Ulysse took lessons with very great and famous trumpet players such as Håkan Hardenberger, David Guerrier, Jeroen Berwaerts, Miroslav Petkov, Giuliano Sommerhalder, Stephen Burns and Jean-Pierre Odasso.
Currently in his first year at the Bard Conservatory of Music, Ulysse studies trumpet with Edward Carroll and Carl Albach.
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