Great Britain has its summer Glyndebourne Festival. United States has its Glimmerglass Festival. America’s Glyndebourne? Precisely: numerous opera performances— just without a whole lot of other things they have over there.

What you can have Stateside are Lake Otsego and the gorgeous, bucolic surroundings of the Leatherstocking District of Upstate New York in Cooperstown. The second-most-important attraction, nearby, is the Baseball Hall of Fame. These appealing environs are an idyllic setting forthis summer’s onstage bittersweet romance, a musical thriller, a historic chiller, and a semi serious comedy from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Eclectic repertory

The Festival opens July 8th with a chestnut revered the world over, Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème, a story of young love (and loss) in Paris, updated to the Belle Époque, staged by Artistic and General Director Francesca Zambello. Here is the lineup of operas and their opening dates:

  • La bohème (Giacomo Puccini, 1896) opens July 8: Rodolfo the poet meets and instantly falls in love with Mimì the seamstress. His friend Marcello the painter and Marcello’s tempestuous partner, Musetta, provide dramatic contrast and poignant support in the less-obstreperous couple’s time of need.
  • Sweeney Todd, or The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Stephen Sondheim, 1979) opens July 9: Sweeney is no Figaro, of The Barber of Seville. You could say he is “hungry” for revenge. Find out why.
  • La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie, Gioachino Rossini, 1817) opens July 16: Ninetta, a respectable girl, gets herself accused of being sticky-fingered in a time and place when thieves are subject to capital punishment. Say what? It’s true. So she really needs help. Will someone please help her?
  • The Crucible (Robert Ward, 1961) opens July 23: The Salem witch trials come to life, complete with all the attendant hysteria. Yet in the 1960s, Robert Ward’s opera, based on Arthur Miller’s play, was really about McCarthyism and the Second Red Scare of 1950-1956. Chilling to see how history repeats itself.

Why you should head to Cooperstown

First, great opera abounds in top-notch, inventive productions mounted by the world’s wizards in savvy stagecraft.

Though the performances offer stage time in minor roles to promising singers from Glimmerglass’ Young Artists program, this is by no means an amateur event. Quite the contrary. World-famous stars appear in the major roles, and three seasoned conductors will preside.

Rosters packed with recognizable names

Among the headlining artists are: mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, who’s making quite a splash at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera and elsewhere; tenor Jay Hunter Morris; and bass-baritones Greer Grimsley and David Pittsinger, who happen to be married to mezzo-sopranos Luretta Bybee and Patricia Schuman, respectively, also appearing.

Among the maestri leading from the conductor’s podium are John DeMain and Joseph Colaneri.

Frumpy versus posh

Glimmerglass Festival’s similarities with the highbrow Glyndebourne Festival include the chance to picnic on the grounds.Management not only encourages this but also offers picnic lunches prepared by a local establishment and delivered fresh, daily, two hours before each performance, for preordered sales.

The grounds of both festivals are gorgeous. Both institutions present hefty performance seasons: Glyndebourne, 76 performances of six operas; Glimmerglass, 42 performances of four operas.

Whereas many Glyndebourne attendees arrive chauffeur-driven, dressed to the nines and with butlers in tow, the Glimmerglass crowd dresses more, let’s say, “comfortably.” But there’s no reason why you shouldn’t put on your best formal wear, bedeck yourself with glittering jewels and bring along your footmen and lackeys to enhance your experience in Upstate New York.

The Glimmerglass Festival
, 7300 State Hwy 80, Cooperstown, NY 13326
 (See their website for further information.)

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