NYTimes Glimmerglass Review

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lennygoran
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NYTimes Glimmerglass Review

Post by lennygoran » Wed Aug 01, 2018 7:30 pm

We skipped Glimmerglass this year-something we haven't done for a long time-anyway here's what the NYTimes reviewer has to say. Regards, Len


Crossing Cultures, and Genres, at the Glimmerglass Festival


By Joel Rozen

Aug. 1, 2018

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — It’s a year of big birthdays at the Glimmerglass Festival, the annual series of operas performed here at the photogenic Ostego Lake.

Like virtually everywhere else, the festival, which runs through Aug. 25, is celebrating the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth — though it is one of the few to do so with a production of his classic musical “West Side Story.” And, a century after the end of World War I, Glimmerglass is staging a new take on Kevin Puts’s 2011 opera “Silent Night,” about a Christmas Eve cease-fire in the Belgian trenches.

Despite their obvious differences — there wouldn’t seem to be much common DNA between Bernstein’s boisterous boricuas and Mr. Puts’s Scottish squaddies — Glimmerglass’s two productions share, to varying degrees of success, a similar aim: memorializing cross-cultural encounters in history through the diverse idioms of music, while indicting the violence that often springs from such encounters.

Now considered a staple of the musical theater canon, Bernstein’s mambo-infused fable about transgressive romance across rival gangs set the template for “triple threat” shows that required virtuoso singing, dancing and acting from all of its performers. Its 1957 premiere on Broadway famously married the talents of Bernstein with those of Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins. They were an ambitious foursome whose nervy vision of adolescence was every bit as high culture as it was keen on bebop accents.

But, 60 years later, little of that gleeful sense of innovation remains. At least in the United States, a seeming need to retain the aesthetic of the Robbins original — the cirque-turned-symphonic “Dance at the Gym,” with its bungled roulette, and ye olde conspiratorial finger-snapping — continues to steer most revivals.

Francesca Zambello, Glimmerglass’s general director, similarly approaches revival with a light touch. The spry cast, led by Joseph Leppek, as Tony, and Vanessa Becerra, as Maria, gamely navigate Bernstein’s tri-tonal score. Amanda Castro’s flinty Anita turns in a suitably atomic “America,” with its zestful feud over which island — Puerto Rico or Manhattan — is best.

Yet this production does little to disrupt the iconic choreography by Robbins, whose centennial has also been feted in the last year. (Heretics seeking such reform will have to hold tight for the experimental Broadway reboot by Ivo van Hove or Steven Spielberg’s Hollywood remake.) And aside from the vaguely 1990s-flavored sets and costumes by Peter J. Davison and Jessica Jahn, the scenery has retained all of its fire escapes. This is a “West Side Story” that honors Bernstein with a mostly facsimile production, one that he and his associates would have recognized as their own.


Like the love story at the center of “West Side Story,” “Silent Night” also tells of a star-crossed sabbatical from fighting. Here, the opera’s adversaries are the Central Powers and the Allies — French, German and Scottish soldiers who agreed to a truce on Christmas Eve 1914.

Mark Campbell’s libretto, based on the 2005 film “Joyeux Noël,” is multilingual to accommodate the different nationalities onstage. So, too, in a sense, is Mr. Puts’s Pulitzer Prize-winning score, which conjures styles and characteristics of a number of historical eras and genres. Most memorable to me were the interventions of the ensemble: patriotic anthems at first, later surrendering to letter-writing fugues and a gossamer chorale about sleep.

Tomer Zvulun’s brilliant staging for Glimmerglass, elegantly conducted by Nicole Paiement, also features vivid sets by Erhard Rom that divided the action on three floors and suggested the dividing forces of memory. The stage, littered in some battlefield scenes with headstones, is often framed by smoky projections to make action look as if it’s taking place in an antique postcard — an effective device, especially during ephemeral scenes like the ones at the Kronprinz’s chalet.

Mr. Puts’s opera is about chronicling the intimate relationships we don’t often hear about in sweeping narratives of wartime history. We see this in the mannered duets with the German opera singer Nikolaus Sprink (sung by Arnold Livingston Geis, in fine voice) and his wife, Anna Sorensen (Mary Evelyn Hangley): There is a discrepancy between what they are performing onstage and their tense exchanges later in life, once Sprink is conscripted. There are also the tender moments shared by the staunch French Lt. Audebert (Michael Miller, in a spellbinding performance) and his aide-de-camp Ponchel (an irresistible Conor McDonald).

Still, the names of fallen soldiers, projected on a scrim, appear at the beginning and end of the opera, a Maya Lin-style reminder of wartime’s leveling effects. These heroes are no mere mythical figures, though. “Silent Night” effectively questions whether such men, so eager to lay down their guns and play soccer with the enemy, had ever wanted to sacrifice themselves for country in the first place.


But Glimmerglass isn’t all about celebrating centennials. Other productions include Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” also directed by Ms. Zambello, and Janacek’s rarely performed folk opera “The Cunning Little Vixen,” with a steampunk spin by E. Loren Meeker.

“Vixen,” with its allegorical pitting of woodland animals against their human oppressors, serves a charming, bestial foil to Mr. Puts’s vision of conflict. At the center of the plot, a wily lady fox (played by the appealing soprano Joanna Latini) is captured by the old Forester (Eric Owens, Glimmerglass’s artist in residence) — but ultimately escapes, only to be felled by a poacher (Wm. Clay Thompson).

Touches of untamed brass notwithstanding, the conductor Joseph Colaneri brought great tenderness to Janacek’s tuneful score, teasing out the composer’s flourishes of Moravian folk music. The costume designer Erik Teague’s burlesque inventions — hens in gauze capelets, foxes sporting bustiers — imbued the forest with visual comedy.

In addition to the laughs, Glimmerglass’s production doesn’t stint on nostalgia. With “Vixen,” Janacek crafted a palindromic story, which begins and ends with creatures blithely convening in the woods. The last scene, in which the Forester realizes he’s lived to see a whole new generation of animals, features a melody so meaningful to Janacek, he hoped it would be played at his funeral.

Not a bad time to revive the melody: This August is that funeral’s 90th anniversary.



https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/01/arts ... story.html

jbuck919
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Re: NYTimes Glimmerglass Review

Post by jbuck919 » Thu Aug 02, 2018 1:45 am

Yeah it's Otsego, not Ostego (not Len's fault of course).

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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lennygoran
Posts: 14121
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:28 pm
Location: new york city

Re: NYTimes Glimmerglass Review

Post by lennygoran » Thu Aug 02, 2018 5:14 am

jbuck919 wrote:
Thu Aug 02, 2018 1:45 am
Yeah it's Otsego, not Ostego (not Len's fault of course).
John we love walking, driving and eating along that lake! Regards, Len

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