Tag Archives: New York opera

Glimmerglass Festival offers greenery, melody—magic

Glimmerglass Festival

The 2014 Glimmerglass Festival Season kicks off on July 11 with my favorite opera Madame Butterfly

Tucked into the rolling hills of Central New York State, edged into the western tip of Lake Otsego, lies an opera experience—the Glimmerglass Festival—pairing artistry and aspiration, elegance and enterprise, greenery and gravitas.

Nathan Gunn as Sir Lancelot

Nathan Gunn sang Sir Lancelot in last season’s “Camelot”

Like swallows to Capistrano, happy patrons return to Glimmerglass season after season to enjoy professional opera, informative talks and lectures, and a growing roster of programs both educational and entertaining in relaxed, comfortable surroundings.

The Glimmerglass Festival has the humblest of origins. It began in 1975 as the Glimmerglass Opera Theater housed in a local high school auditorium. In the intervening years, it has amassed an impressive number of supporters and abundant resources—capital and artistic. Within one generation it transformed itself into a summertime destination where opera lovers can enjoy the most sophisticated of art forms in an atmosphere of pastoral beauty. In 1988, they added a Young Artists program providing performance experience and advanced training for dozens of emerging singers. That’s in addition to gainful employment for hundreds of professionals who make their living in the performing and classical arts.

Abby speaks with Cat Hennessy, a draper forThe Music Man | Photo: William M. Brown/The Glimmerglass Festival

Glimmerglass’s Abby Rodd speaks with Cat Hennessy, a draper for ‘The Music Man’ | Photo: William M. Brown/The Glimmerglass Festival

Glimmerglass is nestled into 26 acres of farmland. The grounds are dotted with a half dozen or more outbuildings including performance spaces, a scene shop, costume barn, wardrobe trailers, and an administrative pavilion. The physical layout of the campus all around you serves as a tangible reminder that it takes a village to produce opera, something we tend to forget whenever we filter our opera experience solely through selected principals’ performances, i.e., whether the tenor hits all his top C’s.

The costume shop wall at Glimmerglass--an organizer's dream

The costume shop wall at Glimmerglass–an organizer’s dream

The centerpiece of the Glimmerglass experience is the Alice Busch Opera Theater, towering stories over the landscape’s rolling hills, with barnlike lines and neutral colors complementing rather than clashing with the natural setting. Inside, however, is housed an acoustically engineered, state-of-the-art theater designed expressly for opera performance that rivals and (in some cases) betters big city venues. The 914-seat theater, which opened in 1987, is the first built specifically for opera performance since the Metropolitan Opera Theater in Lincoln Center was completed in 1966.

Despite the fact that the theater is one-quarter the size of the Met, you still might want to bring along opera glasses if you enjoy seeing close-ups of the performers. The audience seating is generously raked, providing great sightlines and ample legroom but ultimately more distance between the house and the stage. Also, the theater isn’t climate controlled. They use fans to cool things down and blankets to warm you up. It can get unseasonably cold and rainy in Central New York during any summer month, so you might want to bring a wrap or dress in layers.

Before performances and during intermission, festival concessions are available and include hearty salads and wraps (even vegan items), snacks, and ice cream, just outside the theater. Beverages include a range of wines and beers, including local brews and varietals worth sampling. New York State wines are often compared favorably to those grown in the German Rhine. Festival goers may enjoy picnicking on the grounds before evening shows and after matinees. And in the event you forgot your picnic basket, one local restaurant delivers. Whether you buy a meal there or bring it in, you can avail yourself of the plentiful spaces set aside for al fresco dining—from café tables to benches to picnic tables situated under a large canvas tent.

Last season's Gents Night Out at Meet Me at the Pavilion was a tremendous showcase--memorable and fun.

Last season’s Gents Night Out at Meet Me at the Pavilion was a tremendous showcase–memorable and fun.

If you are considering a trip to Glimmerglass, a name derived from James Fenimore Cooper’s description of Lake Otsego in Leatherstocking Tales, plan to spend several days in Central New York. You need at least three to four days to take in all the productions Glimmerglass offers in repertory (for exactly that purpose). Fleshing out this year’s mainstage schedule are a growing number of informative opera events and recitals including “Showtalks” on and around the festival grounds and a new “Meet Me at the Pavilion” series of special performances showcasing this year’s Artist in Residence Deborah Voigt as well as other guest artists. There’s also a world-class museum in nearby Cooperstown—the Baseball Hall of Fame (which includes the American history of cricket)—as well as boutiques, baseball-kitsch shopping, and café- and fine-dining in and around the museum.

If you favor lakeside lodging, hotels and motels line the shore of Lake Otsego, roughly nine miles long from tip to tip. Some lovely restaurants operate lakeside, too, affording scenic views of the lake while dining. Numerous B&B’s in the region are worth investigating. Many are an easy commute to the festival grounds while possessing more charm and actually costing less than more popular chain motels.

Cooperstown, New York, is a charming place to shop or even window shop

Cooperstown, New York, is a charming place to shop or even window shop

Walking shoes are a must for Cooperstown where’s there’s limited parking within city limits but good public trolley service. You may also be more comfortable wearing your Keds  to the opera, too, especially if you’ve trekked to the middle of a shady grove for your pre-performance picnic. Since there’s no dress code at Glimmerglass, people don everything from walking shorts and sandals to shifts and high-heels. However, if you get caught in a midsummer cloudburst, it’s a hike from the parking areas across the front lawn to the theater entrance, so you might want to pack a pair of boots. For those who can’t make such a trek (elderly or handicapped patrons), they offer golf cart shuttle services between the theater and the parking areas.

From the moment you pull into one of the gravel parking lots until the last note the orchestra sounds, literally hundreds of people have worked long and hard, months before you arrive, to deliver the entertainment experience at Glimmerglass. Since they’re all professionals or devoted volunteers, you’re not likely to see them sweat. Unless, of course, you take the free backstage tour. You’ll be amazed at the hours of artistry, the pluck, the pure perspiration that must be invested for every second on stage.


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opera is this erudite blogger’s obsession

Editor’s note:  This is the first in a month-long series of profiles about opera/classical bloggers.

Lucy, grad student

Meet Lucy. She’s a twenty-something grad student by day and opera-goer by night. Not a singer, not a music student, but increasingly obsessed with opera in NYC. For Lucy, blogging is an outlet for her unbridled enthusiasm for the classical arts (one in particular) and an impetus to self-education.

Her blog is called Opera Obsession.” However, don’t go to Opera Obsession expecting to get the 4-1-1 on Lucy. Not much personal information on her blog at all. You will, however, learn more than you ever dreamed possible about opera and classical music reading “Opera Obsession” (and the comments–the comments are packed full of insights, too.)

Opera Obsession: a vibrant, exquisitely wrought online resource of reviews and loads of other info for opera enthusiasts

Opera Obsession, which dates back to January of 2010, is an exquisitely wrought and meticulously written compendium of opera and classical reviews with a liberal dose of her insights and academic expertise thrown in.

Welcome to Operatoonity, Lucy!  And let me thank you publicly for being a devoted blogging colleague to so many of us who do what you do (“Operatoonity” included) by carefully reading and generously commenting on our posts.

O: How did you get your start?
L: I started blogging  for a number of reasons. For one thing, I’d had the prose organization of a recent academic essay excoriated, and thought that this might make a good sphere for practice. For another, my father had been suggesting for some time that I should write about my opera-going experiences in some other, more public format than the rambling e-mails I would send him, decorated with multiple exclamation points! Perhaps most selfishly, I wanted to give additional direction to my own opera obsession. Blogging was a good motivation to be more organized in how I researched opera, and good training in how to process it. One of my biggest hopes was that I’d be helped along in my process of self-education about opera through readers chiming in with additional information and shared or contrasting opinions.

O: What have been your biggest challenge and your biggest thrill thus far in your opera blogging?
L: Biggest challenge? I’d say “finding the time,” but, honestly, I couldn’t keep myself away from reading about and going to the opera if I tried! Biggest thill? The opportunity to have online discussions with other, often more experienced opera lovers; the longer the comment threads are, the better I’m pleased. And it’s always nice to be quoted by companies or singers.

O: Do you have a favorite post?
L: The answer to that is the same as to “What’s your favorite opera?” — I couldn’t possibly choose! It’s always most exciting, of course, to write about the really great nights, the ones that make your hair stand on end and remind you of all the reasons you love opera… and maybe show you a few new ones.

* * *

At present she’s featuring her timely study of Anne Boleyn as a romantic heroine (in advance of course of the Metropolitan Opera’s season opener Anna Bolena with Anna Netrebko) on “Opera Obsession.” Do drop by. You can also follow Lucy on Twitter, where she is equally ebullient as @singingscholar.


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