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May 10, 2013

Talking Opera evokes enthusiasm for the season

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Cooperstown Crier

---- — When something is unfamiliar or complicated, the more apt someone is to steer away from it. That is exactly what the members of the Glimmerglass Opera Guild do not want people to do when they think about going to see an opera performance. 

Opera kind of has a bad reputation, according to Abby Kreh Gibson of the Guild’s Education and Outreach Program. 

“You say opera, and most people have an attack of the vapors, you know and go blah,” she said. “Most do this even if they have never been. It is as a pre-unfair judgment if you ask me,” she added. 

For Gibson, opera is like oxygen. It has been a big part of her life for so many years as she can recall going to her first one at the age of 10. However, for most, that is not the case. 

Education is key, she explained. Once people know what to expect, or hear about the history behind what goes into it all, they usually become more interested and enthusiastic, Gibson said.

Susan Newman, communication chairwoman of the Gould, said there is so much that goes into putting on a performance that does not meet the eye. Having an understanding of how things are done can create a deeper appreciation, she said. 

The Guild's Education Committee has planned varied ways to look at the upcoming Glimmerglass Festival season. For example, this will mark the 12th year of the Talking Opera Series, an overture of the season.

According to Mary Brodzinsky, the education committee chairwoman, the series is not just synapses or summaries of the upcoming season lineup, but include other elements of the opera experience such as production and costume.  

“Our programs are so varied and are not the same old thing each year,” she said. 

According to Gibson, Talking Opera began with one or two programs attended by a dozen people or so. Now, the programs attract anywhere between 75 to 85 people, she said. 

All presenters volunteer their time and talks are free. Five programs have been planned this year at various venues beginning at 7 p.m. The lineup is as follows:

• Friday, May 10 at the Christ Church Parish Hall in Cooperstown - Francesca Zambello, artistic and general director of the Glimmerglass Festival, will discuss this summer’s festival from her perspective. She is directing both “The Flying Dutchman” and “The Little Match Girl Passion.”

• Monday, May 13 at the Christ Church Parish Hall in Cooperstown - Discussion of Lerner and Loewe’s “Camelot” with members of the State University College at Oneonta Theater and Music Department. 

• Monday, May 20 at the Christ Church Parish Hall in Cooperstown - Discussion of Verdi’s “King for a Day” with conductor Joseph Colaneri.

• Monday, June 3 at the Fenimore Art Museum - Discussion of Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman.”

•Monday, June 10 at Star Theater on Main Street in Cherry Valley - Discussion of the double bill, Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater” and David Lang’s “The Little Match Girl Passion.” 

Gibson said opera is the most complex of all art forms because it combines creative art as well as performing arts and theater. However, she said it is just another way to view real world happenings.

“It is just like with literature, what makes something great is the stories that are told,” she said. “Operas are about real emotions and real things. And let’s face it; music expresses things we sometimes cannot get out in words.”

Opera can enrich those young and old and be used as an educational device, according to members of the Guild.

“The company itself does a good job trying to promote children coming. I think that is so important,” Brodzinsky said. “I think a lot of those who enjoy it started young and it is really important that young people are given the opportunity to come and listen because it really does maybe develop a lifelong enthusiasm.”

Gibson suggests perhaps starting with something a little lighter such as the musical “Camelot.”

This is a good show for a family to come, bring a picnic and ease into the opera scene, she said.

Guild members added that it is an excellent show to see because it promotes the Festival’s Young Artists Program, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. A special matinee is scheduled for Aug. 23. Tickets are greatly reduced to $25 for adults and $10 for those 18 and younger accompanied by an adult. Tickets for Gould members are further reduced to $20 and members may bring one guest at the reduced price. 

Following the performance, the Guild will sponsor a “Meet the Artists” reception at the pavilion. Tickets for the reception are $10 for non-members and $5 for members. Members can bring one guest at the reduced price.

“The whole idea is to enhance the experience,” Gibson said. “I think we take great pride in the fact that whether you know nothing about opera or whether you are totally steeped in it like I am, that these programs will be meaningful to you no matter where you are coming from.”

The Guild has purchased recordings of this season’s Glimmerglass Festival productions. According to Guild members, the CDs have been carefully chosen to reflect what the company thinks are the best of the current recordings. The Guild board voted to donate the CDs to the permanent collection of the village library in Cooperstown. They will also be available through the interlibrary loan system.  

The Guild has also been working with an ad hoc committee for more than a year designing its own website, which can be viewed at www.glimmerglassoperaguild.org. 

The Glimmerglass Festival season will begin on July 6 and run through Aug. 24. This will mark Zambello’s third season with the not-for-profit corporation. She initiated the company’s Artist in Residence program and began to incorporate an American musical into each season.

Collaborations with area organizations have also expanded. The Glimmerglass Festival, Fenimore Art Museum and Hyde Hall are joining forces for “The Festival of American Romantics” inspired by Romantic composers, painters and writers.

The Fenimore Art Museum will offer a loan exhibition highlighting the Romantic landscape. The show is themed around the Hudson River School painters with works by Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Cole and Frederic Church, among others. Also on exhibit will be a 30-painting loan exhibit featuring the works of the Wyeth family including Andrew, Jamie, N.C. and his two daughters Henriette and Carolyn.  

The ideals and ideas of the Romantic underscore the 2013 season repertory, according to Brittney Lesavoy, Glimmerglass Festival director of public relations. 

Literary works of the American romantics will be explored in the historic home of Hyde Hall during the Festival’s 2013 season. Authors such as James Fenimore Cooper, Emily Dickinson, Henry Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman will be presented in readings by writers and actors. 

For more information on the Glimmerglass Festival and performance dates and times, call the Box Office at 547-2255 or visit www.glimmerglass.org.