Saturday, August 11, 2007

One more Orpheus

Although all the mainstage productions have opened, Glimmerglass still has one more new work to present--a concert version of Haydn's L'Anima del Filosofo. The opera was never performed during Haydn's life and is still rarely presented.

Glimmerglass' presentation features former member of Young American Artists Program Sarah Coburn. Coburn has gone on to sing at the Metropolitan Opera among other great American opera houses. Tenor Norman Shankle regularly graces the stage of European opera houses and has previously sung the role of Orfeo in L'Anima del Filosofo at the Eisenstadt International Haydn Festival. Members of the Young American Artists Program and local chorus form the ensemble chorus, which has a strong presence throughout the work. The conducting work is split between Monteverdi conductor Antony Walker and Glass conductor Anne Manson.

Because the concert must fit into the busy production schedule, it rehearsed on the Offenbach set, but will be performed on the Monteverdi set and the Gluck set.

This is the first year that Glimmerglass has presented a concert in addition to the four mainstage productions. The work made its Glimmerglass premiere on Sunday. There will be one more performance on August 19 that is already sold out. Plans are already in the works for another Shakespeare-themed concert next season. Repertoire will include music from Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Young Artists In Recital

Starting July 26, the 29 members of the Young American Artists Program began presenting recitals at venues in and around Cooperstown. The recitals offer community members, ticket holders, opera staff, and fellow program members the opportunity to hear these emerging singers in a solo setting.

The program includes many of the nation's best and brightest upcoming young singers. Members of the Young American Artists Program from years past have gone on to sing at the Metropolitan Opera and other great American opera houses, as well as internationally.

The artists have been preparing their 45-minute recital program in addition to opera rehearsals and performances. Soprano Katrina Thurman (left) has had to cover (understudy) five roles, in addition to being in the ensemble for three of the shows and having a small solo in the Monteverdi. She presented her recital Friday, the day before the Monteverdi opened.

The singers often choose to theme their recitals. For example, soprano Ellen Wieser performed a recital consisting entirely of songs by British composers like Britten and Quilter. Thurman themed her recital around a poem she had written, using it to form a story arc. Soprano Donna Smith also created a story out of her program, using a variety of composers to chronicle a tale of love lost and re-gained.

For a list of upcoming recitals, please scroll to the bottom of the page.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Classic Opera Stories

Possibly the most commonly asked question for artists is "where do you get your ideas?" For most opera composers, the story is already written for them--they simply provide the music. Composers often draw the stories of their operas from the popular culture of the time. Popular legends, myths, books, plays, poems all became subjects of opera. Although most opera stories are set once, maybe a few times, and then retired, a few sources pop up over and over again over the course of music history.

  • Greek myths served as the basis for most operas of the Baroque and Classical Eras, and continued to be mildly popular in the Romantic and Modern Eras. A popular source was Ovid's Metamorphoses, the basis for operas like Cavalli's La Calisto, Handel's Acis and Galatea, Handel's Semele, several operas by Lully, Mozart's first opera Apollo et Hyacinthus, Donizetti's first opera Il Pigmalione, Strauss' Daphne, and many operas about Orpheus.
  • Ludovico Ariosto wrote the epic poem Orlando Furioso, which served as the inspiration for Tasso's work Jerusalem Delivered and the basis for a slew of operas named Armide, set by Lully, Salieri, Gluck, Haydn, Rossini and others. The epic story La liberazione di Ruggiero dall'isola d'Alcina, also based on Ariosto's work was the inspiration for Francesca Caccini, Luigi Rossi, Handel, Vivaldi, Lully, Rameau, and Haydn, among others.
  • William Shakespeare became popular in the opera world about 200 years after his death, during the Romantic Era. Many of his plays enjoy one or more opera settings. The Merry Wives of Windsor about the lusty knight Falstaff was set by Salieri, Nicolai, Verdi, Holst, and Vaughn Williams. The ever-popular Romeo and Juliet was set by Gounod, Delius, Bernstein, Bellini, and Vaccai. Glimmerglass Opera is basing its 2008 season around tales told by the prolific bard, including Handel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi (based on the story that inspired Romeo and Juliet), Wagner's Das Liebesverbot (based on Measure for Measure), and Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate (based on The Taming of the Shrew.)
  • Goethe's Faust--Originally a folk legend, the story of the man who sold his soul to the devil was made into a play by Christopher Marlowe (c. 1600) and Goethe (1832). The Goethe play was the basis for several operas by composers like Gounod, Berlioz, and Boito. Texts by Goethe were also extremely popular for lieder composers.
Images courtesy of NYPL Digital Gallery.