Friday, January 26, 2007

 
Every August for the last fourteen years I've spent a delightful weekend in Cooperstown, NY at the Glimmerglass Opera Festival. For two months each summer Glimmerglass, housed in a delightful and informal 900 seat opera theater with side walls that slide open and closed like Japanese shoji screens, becomes one of the country's leading opera houses. Four productions, rehearsed like plays over several weeks by internationally known directors and designers, are performed in rotating repertory, supported by an excellent young artists program and first rank conductors. Casts include both well-known singers and those on the verge of big careers. Glimmerglass is set in the heart of James Fennimore Cooper country on the shores of Otsego Lake, surrounded by vast tracts of rolling farm country. It's a very beautiful place to visit.

For nine of those fourteen years, I've gone on my annual pilgrimage with J, good friend and opera-going buddy, single gay man hoping eventually to find the man of his dreams. And he did. He moved away to be with him, far enough away that he's not going to Glimmerglass with me anymore. I went alone last summer, which was OK but not as much fun as having someone to go with, talk about the performances and singers with, and explore the countryside and antique barns with. Fritz is a great theater and classical concert man but NOT an opera man, most particularly not a four or five operas in three days man. So I was wondering if anyone among my readers might like to go out to Glimmerglass with me this summer.

Here are the particulars: I have tickets for the 17th, 18th and 19th of August. My route out to Cooperstown is west via the Massachusetts Turnpike, up the Northway to Albany, west via the New York State Throughway (briefly), then west on Route 20, a really lovely road, into the Cooperstown area. If you don't have a car, I could pick you up if you live close to that route. I've already reserved accommodations at my usual place in a comfortable room above the carriage barn of a farmhouse with twin beds, a kitchenette, excellent and generous breakfasts. Before making any commitments, interested parties should call the Festival box office (607) 547-2255 to see if tickets are available for the dates in question.

The artistic direction of Glimmerglass recently changed hands and an interesting experiment in programming is planned for this summer--every work in the repertory is based on the myth of the legendary Greek musician Orpheus. It's all Orpheus all the time, although the individual works span three centuries and are radically different in style one from another. August 17th is the earliest of them all, Monteverdi's "L'Orfeo" from the early seventeenth century, followed on Saturday afternoon the 18th by the newest, Philip Glass's "Orphee" in a double bill with Jean Cocteau's surrealist movie of the same name that inspired it. That night comes Jacques Offenbach's sparkling and irreverent Second Empire send-up of all the others, "Orpheus in the Underworld" which includes the classic can-can. Sunday the 19th in the late morning there's a concert performance of Haydn's "L'Anima del Filosofo; Orfeo ed Euridice" followed at 3pm by Gluck's famous classical era "Orphee et Eurydice," probably the best-known of all. I'm seeing everything, because I'm THAT kind of opera fanatic, but you could see as few or as many as you like.

We had another meeting up at Fritz's this morning, this time with the excavator who's going to do the grading and gravelling of the road we cut up to the house site. He turned out to be a delightful and very well informed man. Fritz had told me he was kind of hot and I must say I agree--but when he began an explanation of the relative water table levels in the area from 1983 to the present based on drought/recovery cycles and how that affects the size of gravel he has to use for the underlayment of any new road, I realized that he's not just a hunky guy but an artisan. For a while I'm going to have to be doing the up and back at odd times for meetings like this. I left Boston at 6:15 this morning, was back at MIT at 11:30. After the meeting on the road, I also introduced myself to the town's Building Inspector and gave him the preliminary plans for the house. The actual construction drawings will come back from the structural engineer's review in about a month, at which time I get to apply for a building permit. If by then we've been able to find a general contractor who's got the chops to build a house of this kind, we'll be able to start before too late in the spring.

Comments:
The Glimmerglass setting sounds fantastic! Unfortunately, my limited opera tastes tends to be in the more "Romantic" era (R Strauss and Wagner, as despicable as he was). But it sounds like a place that would be kinda fun regardless of which time period/composer is your favorite.

I KNOW Glass is different than he once was, but would Orphee be different than Einstein's "dah, dah, dah, dah (repeat infinite) dah"?

I'm just trying to gauge the balance between potentially meeting a hot opera loving dude and possibly having one's head explode =)
 
Here's where I probably lose all of the points from my gay card. Cooperstown, NY? I'd really love to see the baseball hall of fame.
 
Atari--Glass's Orphee is a LITTLE more advanced in technique than his earlier, super-minimalist scores--although I'm almost adicted to "Akhenaten" these days--but it's recognizeably Philop Glass. It lasts a little over an hour.

The Monteverdi grows out of the Italian Renaissance madrigal tradition and is quite beautiful and serene. Gluck's opera is late French baroque, very melodic and sometimes quite dramatic. The Haydn will be a new score for me--it's very rarely done.

The Offenbach is one of his finest, typically full of spakling melodies, lots of dance rhythms, and act one ends with the explosive can-can in which Jupiter takes part disguised as a house fly. How can you NOT like that?

It would be a lot of fun if you did come along but only you can decide whether it's all too much. I just want you to know you'd be very welcome. I read over on another blog that you've listened to Wagner's RING, so I know you've got the stamina!

Doug--I went to the Hall of Fame one of my years out there and had a very good time. It's very well done and they even have a blow up of one of Jim Rice's underwear ads to gladden the heart of Americas gay baseball lovers. That man had one FINE body.
 
ack... I thought I posted a response, but it didn't show up. Anyway, thanks, that clears things up. I'll think about it. =)
 
I'm afraid that I'm with Fritz...I love classical and all, and even love opera, but not so much of it. Can I just go and watch cute boys or something? My first opera was one year ago....The Magic Flute in Prague. Amazing...really amazing. We're off on our cruise tonight...see today's post. Until we return, stay safe and warm.
 
Well if you don't get a better* offer, I would love to go. I have never been and its been on my list of years. Now that I am living out of the city I am shortly buying a used car (fingers crossed). And I have a sister who lives in Great Barrington - she is one of the theater faculty at Bard College - so i could stash the car there.

*I know you know what I mean ;o

best
sogal
 
Will,

I would go for the Monteverdi alone, enjoy the Gluck and Hayden, and make it through the Glass and Offenbach.

But I've promised my partner that we would spend any spare time we have in August at our place on the Italian Riviera. We'll bring the iPod along, and I'll think of you while looking at the Mediterranean, eating pesto, and listing to the Monteverdi.
 
oooh
i am mad-jealous!
I have longed to hear the glimmeglass opera!
I recall seeing Orpheus in the Underworld and laughing my head off - it was done in outrageous satyr like props and costumes, including Orpheus in the Underwear.
 
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