As Festival re-opens, economic impact grows

Karli CadelLuretta Bybee, left, and Greer Grimsley sing during The Glimmerglass Festival’s 2016 performance of ‘Sweeney Todd.’

For the Cooperstown area, baseball isn’t the only game in town.

Now in its 43rd season, the Glimmerglass Festival in Springfield Center is continuing to bring jobs and visitors to the area through its world-renowned operas and classics of American musical theater.

Founded in 1975, the Festival has continued to grow every year since. Not only does the Glimmerglass Festival bring incredible artistic and musical performances to the area, but it also brings jobs and revenue to central New York.

“Every year we welcome about 30,000 to 35,000 people to the Festival,” said Francesca Zambello, artistic and general director of the Glimmerglass Festival.

These patrons not only support the opera, but other businesses in the area, she said. Local restaurants and lodging accommodations also benefit from these visitors.

Alex Webster, owner and chef at Alex’s Bistro, said he has witnessed the effects of the Glimmerglass Festival firsthand.

“The opera tends to bring in a slightly more diverse and culturally sophisticated group of people who appreciate the ethnic food that we serve,” Webster said. “Many of the people who work at the opera, like directors and lighting technicians, have also been very good customers, and we look forward to welcoming them back every year.”

Opera-goers also visit the towns surrounding Cooperstown, and many stay at the American Hotel in Sharon Springs.

“Opera patrons tend to stay for three or four days so that they can see all of the operas, and we often have returnees,” general manager Austin Jetton said.

The Glimmerglass Festival also shares “unique and quality cultural programs with our library patrons” through their community conversations and children’s programs, according to Friends of the Village Library president Antoinette Kuzminski.

The Glimmerglass Festival employs about 30 people year round, but its payroll increases to 350 people in the summer, according to industry figures. There are a broad spectrum of jobs available, from commissary to singing to designing scenery. According to public tax records available from Guidestar.org, there has been a steady increase in expenses spent on payrolls, salaries and employee benefits, with a 22.29 percent increase from 2012 to 2013 and a 4.37 percent increase from 2013 to 2014.

The Glimmerglass Festival also has many summer jobs available for the youth in the area. Kai Wasson and Surya Daniel, juniors at Cooperstown Central School, work in concessions at the opera. Daniel is a returning employee who worked at the Glimmerglass Festival last summer, and she said that although she works in the concessions and customer service departments, there are also jobs available for teenagers in the kitchen and in parking.

“I’ve only just started, but I can already see how the opera brings together everyone from every age and background,” Wasson said.

The idea of bringing people together is also playing an integral role in this season’s lineup of shows, as the theme of the productions is “Home and Homeland.” The four main-stage productions, “Oklahoma!,” “Porgy and Bess,” “Xerxes,” and “The Siege of Calais,” all discuss the idea of a sense of place and belonging.

The Festival opens Friday with an opening-night dinner at 6 p.m., followed by “Porgy and Bess” at 7:30 p.m. “Oklahoma” opens at 8 p.m. on Saturday. For tickets and more information, go to https://glimmerglass.org/.

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