Glimmerglass Festival

A few weeks back I made the beautiful trek up to Glimmerglass Festival to see a couple of the productions (unfortunately not able to see all the offerings). Experiencing opera of this quality in an intimate theater surrounded by such natural beauty is a rare treat. I had last been there in 2008, when I directed the US premiere of DAS LIEBESVERBOT (an interesting piece, visit the portfolio page to view photos) and I really miss this wonderful company and hope to return soon.

The first night I saw Cesca Zambello’s clean, focused production of DER FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER. I make it a habit to avoid reading the program before performances because I like the experience of not knowing the names of the performers in advance. Many times, I recognize them from previous outings but occasionally I am both stunned by a performer and have no idea who they are. This was the case with the Senta. She was extraordinary and I could not for the life of me place her. The voice projected like a laser beam wrapped in velvet. The soft singing was floaty and gorgeous. Her acting was totally committed and energized in just the right way. I thought “Glimmerglass has made a stunning discovery. Who IS this wunder-soprano?” Turned out to be Melody Moore, with whom I had worked briefly at CCM a few years back–but I did not recognize her in the slightest. For me, she was the ideal Senta and I know she will be highly sought after for lyric Wagnerian roles very, very soon–or what’s this world coming to? Fantastic. This is not to diminish the excellence of the rest of the cast, but Melody truly stood out.

The following day another nice surprise, the final dress of UN GIORNO DI REGNO, Verdi’s first comedy. Sparkling music not-stop, but also lovely bel canto segments. It was the kind of production which made me wonder why this piece is not done a little more often. Certainly the plot is very thin and the various turns of events seem clichéd and contrived but equally true is that this piece stands up very well in comparison to many an occasionally-performed Donizetti opera. The two women in the cast, Jacqueline Echols and Ginger Costa-Jackson, a mezzo-soprano who sounded to me like a soprano, were absolutely stellar. Jackie is a recent grad from the CCM Artist Diploma program but this was her first role which demanded comic spark and verve–and she showed a very different side of herself, which I hope she continues to explore. Ginger lit up the stage and dominated every scene in which she appeared, singing beautifully even when being asked to perform some very physically demanding action. Andy Wilkowski was his usual excellent self, both very funny and humane. Beautifully conducted by Joe Colaneri, GF’s new Music Director–buoyant with teeth and grit.

The production by Christian Räth was bright and zany and really helped keep this thin piece alive in a great way. The farcical style started to wear thin after a while and I started to wonder if there was any possibility to deliver some depth in order to more fully appreciate the farce–but I am not sure if the piece would support that. Also, it was beautifully lit by Robert Wierzel, one of my favorite lighting designers.

Finally, got a look at CAMELOT and enjoyed the lovely production. Especially strong was the Guenevere Andriana Chuchman, she was riveting, humane and spunky in just the right measure as was Nathan Gunn as Lancelot. David Pittsinger brought an unusual level of vocal heft to Arthur, which was actually a little disconcerting at first but rewarding in many moments.

I love Glimmerglass in so many ways: casual yet serious, the intimate theater which has enough scope to embrace the power of opera and the real sense of artists as a family. A superb place for opera and under Cesca Zambello’s leadership it is flourishing.

How have your experiences at Glimmerglass been?

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