Ventfort Hall “A Home for the Holidays” program during Christmas Week

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LENOX, Mass. - Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum in collaboration with Shakespeare & Company will revive their popular production of The Belle of Amherst as part of the museum’s “A Home for the Holidays” program during Christmas Week.

Performances are scheduled for 4:00 pm on Friday, December 26, Sunday, the 28th , and Wednesday, the 31st. The play is also scheduled at 7:30 pm on Saturday, December 27, Monday, the 29th, and Tuesday, the 30th.

Acclaimed Berkshire actress Anne Undeland will return in the title role of the one-woman play. She has appeared frequently at Ventfort Hall, including an adaptation of Edith Wharton’s short story Xingu, in which she performed six different roles. She also played the title role in Fanny Kemble’s Lenox Address,which was repeated during Christmas Week 2007. Normi Noel, who has directed with Shakespeare & Company, will again direct The Belle of Amherst.  She also directed Undeland in Xingu.

The Belle of Amherst is based on the life of the poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), who resided in Amherst, Massachusetts. First presented on Broadway in 1976, starring Julie Harris, the play was an instant success and has been performed frequently throughout the nation.

Considered one of America’s pre-eminent poets, Dickinson led a reclusive life infused with a creative energy that produced nearly 1,800 poems, none of which were published until after her death, and a life-long series of vibrant letters that reveal the heart of a shy, yet radiant, romantic woman.

In an introduction to his original script, playwright Luce writes “I decided that Emily alone should tell her story, sharing with the audience the inner drama of a poet’s consciousness in an intimate, one-to-one relationship”. “As it turn out,” he continues, “shy Miss Emily was writing for theater as surely as she breathed. In her every evocative phrase there is theatrical texture…The theater seems a thoroughly appropriate setting for Emily’s life and art, enabling actress and audience to “climb the Bars of Ecstasy” together.”

Noel suggests the idea that Dickinson’s acute sensuality as a writer aligns much more to a choice the artist made in withdrawing into a deep inner life in order to write, which runs counter to the image of the poet as pathologically shy.

Undeland has been performing in and around the Berkshires for the last 15 years. Performances include Metamorphoses at Riggs Theatre 27, Ten Minutes in the Berkshires and Marcus Is Walking, both at Mixed Company. A puppeteer with the Robbins-Zust Family Marionettes for many years, she has performed radio plays for the BBC, and has played various historical characters for area museums.

Tickets for The Belle of Amherst are $20 per person. Reservations are encouraged due to limited performance space. For further information and to purchase tickets, call 413-637-3206. Ventfort Hall is located at 104 Walker Street in Lenox.

An Official Project of Save America’s Treasures, Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum offers tours of the historic mansion, as well as lectures, concerts, teas, theater and other programs. This elegant Elizabethan-revival Berkshire “cottage,” listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is open to the public year-round and is available for private rental. Built in 1893 for George and Sarah Morgan (sister of the financier, J. P. Morgan), Ventfort Hall has undergone substantial restoration, which continues.
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Tanglewood, Sevenars, Taconic Music Highlight the Week

by Stephen DanknerGuest Column

Tanglewood enters its second week, and the highlights are many; indeed, every concert will be memorable.
Two examples: The Boston Symphony, led by maestro Andris Nelson, who will be joined by an outstanding assemblage of operatic superstars, performs Giuseppe Verdi's magisterial Requiem, and the Tanglewood Music Center Orchesta (TMCO) showcases Tchaikovsky's fatalistic Symphony No. 6 ("Pathétique"). Symphonies by Copland (no. 3) and Beethoven (no. 4) will also be heard on consecutive dates, along with an all-Bach solo violin recital by the electrifying virtuosa Hillary Hahn.

Don't miss out on the captivating Sevenars Chamber Music Festival, located in South Worthington, Mass. This week, in honor of Bastille Day, July 14), a rich musical palette with a French accent will be offered – the artists showcasing the elegant and sensuous music of Frédéric Chopin, Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Camille Saint-Saens, and César Franck.

Finally, Taconic Music's brilliantly programmed and presented third annual summer festival concludes with three concerts – the final two at the Riley Center for the Arts at Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester.

All three venues present magnificent music performed at superb venues in pristine, bucolic settings by marvelous performers. Read below for the details.

Tanglewood

• Wednesday, July 10, 8 p.m. in Ozawa Hall: Acclaimed violinist Hilary Hahn will perform a solo all-Bach program, including Sonata No. 2 in A minor and No. 3 in C, and the Partita No. 3 in E Major. These works constitute half of the composer's six lofty suites for solo violin, completed in 1720. They are considered among the most challenging and transcendent works for the violin, showcasing Bach’s unparalleled combination of technical mastery and expressive depth.

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