Glimmerglass: Summer Opera in Cooperstown

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The Alice Busch Opera Theater at the Glimmerglass Festival. Courtesy Glimmerglass.

Even with the presence of the open-air performance treasure house of Wolf Trap, and various summer offerings from Washington area theaters — the new musical “Dave” at Arena Stage, for instance — things have gotten a little quieter in Washington, at least on the music and theater front.

For a change of pace, there’s still time to take in this year’s Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, in upstate New York, which runs through Aug. 25. The village is at the southern tip of eight-mile long Otsego Lake, which author James Fenimore Cooper called “Glimmerglass.”

The Glimmerglass Festival, with Washington National Opera’s Francesca Zambello as director, has been presenting opera in this still bucolic setting since 1975. (Induction weekend at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is July 27 to 30, by the way. The 2018 class is Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Allan Trammel, Jack Morris, Chipper Jones and Jim Thome.)

Glimmerglass continues to grow and present a top-drawer combination of operas, often in conjunction with other companies, and a variety of other events (see below). “I believe the festival is a catalyst for great conversation,” Zambello said leading up to this year’s festival. “In 2017, we made a commitment to explore the themes of home and homeland and this will continue in this year’s festival with productions that spark discussions on relevant topics.”

In this year in which the music world is celebrating the centenary of Leonard Bernstein, it’s no surprise that key portions of the festival are connected with the multi-talented composer-conductor, who died in 1990. There are ongoing performances of “West Side Story,” the gang-war musical version of “Romeo and Juliet” that made its Broadway debut in 1958 with music by Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and astonishing, electric choreography by Jerome Robbins. You may have trouble finding tickets for “West Side Story,” directed by Zambello, which is reportedly sold out for most of its performances. An extra performance has been added on Aug. 16.

However, there’s no shortage of Bernstein at Glimmerglass, what with performances of “Trouble in Tahiti,” his one-act opera on the American dream and suburban angst, running Aug. 7 to 20. Plus, there’s a concert of Bernstein music and a “Showtalk” conversation with his daughter Jamie on Aug. 4.

Through Aug. 25, Zambello is also staging a fresh, Italian-language and very comedic version of Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” with Glimmerglass Music Director Joseph Colaneri conducting and former Glimmerglass Young Artist Joshua Hopkins starring as Figaro. Hopkins was in the recent WNO production of “Figaro” as Count Almaviva.

In a very different and more contemporary vein, through Aug. 23, Glimmerglass is presenting the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera “Silent Night” by Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell. The opera is based on the 2005 film “Joyeux Noël,” which concerned events on the Western front during World War I, when Scottish, French and German soldiers put down their weapons on Christmas Day and shared an impromptu and all-too-brief truce.

Then there’s “The Cunning Little Vixen” by Leoš Janáček, making its Glimmerglass debut in a new English language translation (from Czech) by Kelley Rourke. “Vixen,” running through Aug. 25, is a woodland fable concerning a forester, played by Eric Owens, who finds a fox cub and takes her home with him. Heidi Stober is the vixen.

“Odyssey,” with music by Ben Moore and a libretto by Kelley Rourke, a retelling of Homer’s epic with the Glimmerglass Youth Chorus and the Young Artists Program, runs from July 31 to Aug. 9.

Other “Showtalk” events include “The Economics of Art,” on Aug. 18, with New York Times and New Yorker writer James B. Stewart and performances by Young Artists, and an Aug. 25 conversation by Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson with Faith Gay on putting together a new opera.

Single-performance highlights of the season include: “Gospel Concert: Comin’ for to Carry Me Home,” featuring festival artists, on Aug. 12; a performance of music from the Jewish diaspora by Big Galut(e) on Aug. 14; and “Beyond Liberty,” an exploration of the theme of freedom by baritone Thomas Hampson via the American songbook on Aug. 19.

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