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June 19, 2014

Opera design to be a tribute to upstate New York

By Bera Dunau
Cooperstown Crier

---- — The design for this year’s Glimmerglass Festival production of "Ariadne in Naxos" takes its inspiration not from modern Paris, postwar Tokyo or ancient Rome, but from a source far closer to home: present day upstate New York.

“It’s really a valentine for the Glimmerglass Crowd,” said Erik Teague, the costume designer for “Ariadne in Naxos.”

Teague and “Ariadne in Naxos,” set designer Troy Hourie will be presenting a free program on the show’s design today, “Ariadne in Naxos: Unplugged,” at Woodside Hall.

“It’ll be a very informal chat with the audience,” said Hourie.

Ariadne in Naxos is an opera by Richard Strauss that tells the story of two opera companies, one comedic and one dramatic, who are forced to work together after a patron schedules both of their shows at the same time. While the original production was set in Vienna at the estate of a duke, the new production is set on a farm in upstate New York. This production will run in repertory from July 19 to Aug. 23.

Teague and Hourie credit the idea for setting the production in upstate New York with Glimmerglass Festival Artistic and General Director Francesca Zambello. However, both Teague and Hourie talked about how the concept evolved based off their input, and their interactions with each other.

“Every time we meet we sort of come up with new ideas,” said Hourie.

“Collaboration is really the name of the game here,” said Teague.

In the new production, all the action takes place in an upstate New York Barn. The barn has a big map of upstate New York painted on its doors, which open up to reveal the rest of the set, which includes features like animal stalls being used as dressing rooms for the performers.

The troupes themselves have also been updated, with the dramatic troupe being portrayed as posh prima donnas in designer clothes, and the comedic troupe being portrayed as rag-tag punks.

“We found that in updating this story we had a perfect opportunity to show some culture clash and some class clash,” said Teague. “The hilarity comes in when they’re thrust together.”

Kelley Rourke, the dramaturge at the Glimmerglass Festival, has also updated the libretto to reflect the change in setting.

Another aspect of the show’s design that is notable is that the stage transforms between the first and second act, as the second act consists of the opera the performers are preparing to perform in the first.

“The whole place is transformed in act two into a more magical place,” said Hourie. “It’s actually the thing that makes it the most exciting.”

Hourie has been working on the show since February 2013, while Teague has been working on it since August of last year.

Teague, who has worked in the costuming field for about 10 years and is based in Washington D.C., has a long-running relationship with the Glimmerglass Festival. He first came to Glimmerglass in 2009 and worked as a costume shop buyer.

“My first season in Glimmerglass I fell in love with the place,” said Teague.

Teague returned to Glimmerglass in 2011 and 2012 to serve as the festival’s craft shop manager, and was the costume designer for last year’s production of The Flying Dutchman.

Hourie, who is based out of Toronto and has been a set designer for about 16 years, said that it has been a longtime goal of his to work at the Glimmerglass Festival.

“It’s been a highlight of my career already,” said Hourie.

Hourie also works as an installation artist, and he said that he tends to design for only two shows a year. Both he and Teague, however, expressed a desire to work with the Glimmerglass Festival again in the future.

Both men also praised the work Zambello does with young artists.

“Francesca has been amazing in trying to help the next generation of artists,” said Hourie.

Hourie and Teague expressed enthusiasm about today’s program at Woodside Hall.

“We’re going to try to create an excitement that we’re embracing the local community,” said Hourie. “I love to see how my work resonates with an audience.”

Neither Teague nor Hourie have done an educational program like this with the Glimmerglass Festival before.

“I’m really excited about it,” said Teague.

Hourie also said that he expects members and patrons of Syracuse Stage, whom he has worked with in the past, will come to watch the program.

The program will be at Woodside Hall today at 6:30 p.m. Although the program is free, reservations are requested, but not necessary. They can be made by calling 373-7817. More information about “Ariadne in Naxos” and the Glimmerglass Festival’s other productions this season can be found at