Lucking into one of the first few nice days of a late spring, I attended the annual Glimmerglass Festival kickoff, hosted at Midwood, the secluded Germantown home of philanthropist Joan K. Davidson. This beautiful Sunday afternoon offered the enticements of the summer opera fare in Cooperstown along with hors d’oeuvres and wine. Francesca Zambello, the transformational Artistic & General Director of the Glimmerglass Festival, invited several young artists, veteran performers, and composers to further the cause.
Of chief interest this season will be Anne Bogart’s production of Verdi’s Macbeth which will star Eric Owens. The bass-baritone has made regular appearances at the festival since 2012. His portrayal of Stephan Kumalo in Weill’s Lost in the Stars was profoundly moving, as was his appearance as Amonasro in Verdi’s Aida the same groundbreaking season. Since then Mr. Owens has been an Artist in Residence and since 2014 has served as the Chairman of the festival’s Artistic Advisory Board.
The “Upstate New York” trope which was successfully woven in the bilingual 2014 production of Strauss’s Ariadne, will be reused in this season’s Magic Flute (an English adaptation by the masterful translator Kelley Rourke). Ms. Rourke is also the librettist for a children’s twenty-minute reduction of Homer’s Odyssey with music by composer Ben Moore. Baritone Sean Michael Plumb and mezzo-soprano Cynthia Cook treated us with a performance of the final duet of Papageno and Papagena. Mr. Plumb who has a rich sonorous baritone coupled with a outgoing presence, will be featured in a parallel Young Artists performance of the opera on August 14.
I was able to speak with Glimmerglass’s Music Director Joseph Colaneri who conducted the exquisite 2014 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. He will be conducting this year’s Macbeth and his unbridled enthusiasm for this Verdi-Shakespeare supernatural drama convinced me that it will be one Macbeth not to be missed. From Act II, mezzo-soprano Cynthia Cook delivered a deeply hued rendition of La luce langue. Ms. Cook is a resident young artist and seconds for Melody Moore’s Lady Macbeth.
Leonard Bernstein’s operetta Candide will be featured in a collaborative production with the Opéra National de Bordeaux and Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse. Members of the Young Artist Program will perform Bernstein’s one-act Trouble in Tahiti three times from July 28th to August 11th.
Each year since 2011 when Ms. Zambello took the reins of the festival, Glimmerglass has stood alongside any opera festival in the world. Not only has the repertoire become more innovative and challenging in the last four years, the musicianship has become second to none.
One word of caution: with the National Baseball Hall of Fame nearby, accommodations on the weekends can be scarce. More midweek events and lectures are being scheduled, but the main stage repertory tends to span long weekends putting a burden on those seeking to avoid day trips. Some of the great summer opera festivals in Europe are similarly plagued. So, for Glimmerglass, such matters grow along with its popularity.