Innovation, or practicality
Last week, Francesca Zambello announced her 2011 program for Glimmerglass, the opera festival in Cooperstown, New York, where she becomes artistic director as of September of this year. With her arrival, she’s changing the name to the Glimmerglass Festival, adding a classic Broadway show to the program (how often do you get to hear a Broadway show without amplification? Answer: almost never), and including a number of different events -- lectures, symposia, etc -- to make it a festival rather than an opera-only event.
Noteworthy for Washington audiences is that Glimmerglass will give the professional premiere of an opera that had its first outing in DC. “Later the Same Evening,” by John Musto and Mark Campbell, opened at the Maryland Opera Studio in 2007; it was done a year later at the Manhatten School of Music, but has not yet been done by a non-student cast.
(read more after the jump)
“I always thought [Musto] knows really well how to write for the voice,” Zambello said in an e-mail message. The opera, a co-commission with the National Gallery in conjunction with its Edward Hopper show, is based on paintings by that artist; “I was engaged,” Zambello added, “by its connection to the visual arts as opposed to being based on a novel or film.”
The piece will be paired up on a double bill with “A Blizzard in Marblehead Neck,” a brand-new work by Jeanine Tesori and Tony Kushner that is also, Zambello says, about an American artist.
The larger question is what the shift from opera-only means for Glimmerglass, or the field. The bottom line: ticket sales. Glimmerglass is set in breathtakingly beautiful landscape, but it's somewhat remote, and the festival has struggled in recent years to attract enough opera-lovers to keep it afloat. It's all very well to stay true to opera, but it doesn't help much if nobody comes. Furthermore, an unamplified Broadway show is a genuine curiosity and a signal service to the field: Broadway singing has been destroyed by amplification, and it will be nice to hear a piece (2011's offering is "Annie Get Your Gun") as it was meant to be heard. That is, if it's possible to find anyone who can really sing it.
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