Francesca's Newsletter

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lennygoran
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Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:28 pm
Location: new york city

Francesca's Newsletter

Post by lennygoran » Wed Mar 11, 2020 9:21 am

Always enjoy reading her newsletter-her talk of Church Ave and George's are the area I grew up in! Len

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Greetings from a place of pride

I usually begin my Traveling iPads with a pin on the map, explaining where I am and why I am there. This time, I must start from “a place” of pride. Earlier this month, Alexandria Shiner—who, as a Glimmerglass Young Artist (YAP) in 2018 was a standout as Berta in The Barber of Seville and who returns as the lead in Die Feen this summer — was a winner of the 2020 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. After Glimmerglass, Ali joined the Washington National Opera Young Artists Program, where she recently took on the heart-wrenching role of Magda Sorel in The Consul. She brought the house down at the Met competition’s Grand Finals with her rendition of Magda’s “To this we’ve come,” about the difficulties of getting a visa to escape political persecution. We are also extremely proud that three other former YAPs and one incoming Young Artist made it as far as the prestigious semi-finals: Courtney Johnson (2015), Joseph Leppek (2017 and 2018), Brent Michael Smith (2017), and Key’mon Murrah (2020 countertenor). Kudos to all…and to Allen Perriello, head of our Young Artists Program and the many artists, directors and coaches in our roster who generously mentor these emerging talents.
Ali Shiner at the Met after winning the National Council Auditions. Hooray!

Porgy and Bess and MLK. A couple of weeks ago, I spent a few days in Atlanta to work on our production of Porgy and Bess, which opened at the Atlanta Opera for a week run on March 7. While there, I took a bit of time to explore parts of the city that I had never been to. I walked from the downtown business district to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. The site was established in 1980 to preserve the places where Rev. King “was born, lived, worked, worshipped, and is buried.” It was re-designated as a National Historical Park and Preservation District through a bipartisan bill signed by President Trump on January 8, 2018.

Rev. King was born here in a second-floor bedroom on January 15, 1929. The site’s
brochure says: “Young ‘M.K’ lived in this home with his parents, maternal grandparents,
sister, brother, uncle and great aunt for his first twelve years.” As I toured the house, I could
imagine the young Martin Luther King and siblings running through the house.
The entire historic site includes the elegant Ebenezer Baptist Church, with its tin roof and stained glass, honoring past church members. This was the church where Martin Luther King began his preaching before going to Alabama. In addition to the birthplace and church, the district includes The King Center, which houses exhibits and a beautiful reflecting pool that surrounds the tombs of Dr. and Mrs. King; Fire Station No. 6, a Romanesque structure built in 1894 (closed in 1991) that became one of the city’s first racially integrated firehouses; and the Historical Residential Area comprised of modest homes from the late 1800s and early 1900s, which have been restored for exhibits and offices. It was wonderful exploring this city and being with our friends at Atlanta Opera for Porgy and Bess, which starred several Glimmerglass favorites, including Musa Ngqungwana and Talise Trevigne, our Porgy and Bess in Cooperstown, and as Clara, Jacqueline Echols, former YAP who was hilarious as Giulietta in King for a Day in 2013, Echo in Ariadne in Naxos in 2014, and then returned as Pamina in The Magic Flute in 2015. A great part of my job is reuniting with talented friends as we travel from show to show across the country…and the world.
Blue streak. Still writing from my “place of pride,” I had to hold back tears when I returned to Washington to discover these imposing bus ads for Blue, which Washington National Opera is mounting at the Kennedy Center March 15-28. In January I shared the news that this opera, that we commissioned and premiered last summer, was cited in The New York Times as one of the best classical music events of the year. Now, I am honored to mount it in Washington, where, in advance of the performances, we have been holding a series of community events to engage in conversations about the difficult issues raised in the piece. You can learn more about these community engagement events from the WNO website, but I wanted to tell you about one of those public experiences. It was held in the historic, African-American neighborhood in DC, Anacostia, organized by the Kennedy Center education department with the assistance of Busboys and Poets (visit busboysandpoets.com), “a community where racial and cultural connections are consciously uplifted.” Director and librettist, Tazewell Thompson spoke, followed by musical excerpts from The Father and The Mother, Kenneth Kellogg and Briana Hunter. We had a panel moderated by Ronald Hampton, retired Executive Director of the National Black Police Association, and which included the artists, Peter Newsham (Chief of Police for the D.C. Metropolitan Police Dept.) and Monica Hopkins (the local Executive Director of the ACLU). It couldn't have been a more meaningful example of how the arts bring people together. We’ve been making a Kennedy Center "Digital Stage" video that focuses on Kenneth Kellogg in his role as a father and native Washingtonian. Before the panel program, the KC Multi-Media team spent the day with Kenneth, who rode around his old neighborhood together with Frank Riley, the retired Alexandria officer who Tazewell drew upon as a model for The Father when he was writing Blue. Bringing this opera into the American repertoire has inspired so many responses and meaningful conversations, first in Cooperstown and now here in Washington. This speaks volumes about what I refer to as “artistic citizenship.”

So what do three opera parents do on a Friday morning at 8 a.m.? We get together and read lines, of course! This is Isabel, first thing the morning after singing Schéhérazade with the NY Philharmonic; Bill in the midst of auditions for Mannes and Juilliard; and me (with the camera) across the table in my NYC kitchen — all three of us after dropping our kids off bright and early at school. Hence, we met at the most unglamorous hour of 8 a.m. with coffee in hand to do a read-through of The Sound of Music and talk about character portrayal. As the most pedestrian member of the three, I remain awed that these superstars are just folks, with real-people lives, like you and me.

What the world needs now. Oxytocin, perhaps? Or maybe puppy love? Oxytocin is the hormone responsible for feelings of love and connection released by the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland, a pea-sized structure at the base of the brain. It is activated when your dog gives you those adorable, “love me” looks, and apparently scientists have discovered that if you enjoy the moment for 22 seconds or more, you get a boost of oxytocin. I thought about the love between humans and animals when I attended a recent performance of New York City Ballet’s Swan Lake. For those of you unfamiliar with the piece, the scenario, initially in two acts, was fashioned from Russian and German folk tales and tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer's curse. Of course, she is in love with Prince Siegfried, and he is smitten with her. His mother wants him to marry, but he cannot tell his mother he loves a bird. This ballet has had so many interpretations that it makes operatic re-thinking seem mild. This story of human and supernatural love — whether it is the Dutchman and Senta, or a mortal and a beast like Beauty and the Beast — are the very essence of fairy tales, folk legends, and many operas, as you will see this summer in Die Feen, about the love between a fairy and a mortal. Although I have been thinking about my approach to directing this work for a long time, it is when we begin rehearsals in June when we really start “peeling back the layers of the artichoke” to reveal the true emotions.

In early February, in the midst of a massive snow storm, we had a read-through of this year’s commissioned youth opera, The Jungle Book, by Kamala Sankaram and Kelley Rourke. Kamala sang ALL of the parts, which was amazing to hear and see, while assistant conductor Dimitri Glivinskiy accompanied her on piano. Kelley and Aurelia Andrews, the conductor and children’s chorus master, performed scored hand-clapping in one section, and in another section, Kamala played a harmonium. Ankle bells worn by children in the show will also add authenticity and depth to the music. (There was so much snow outside, I nearly expected to hear sleigh bells!) Because Kamala was coming to Cooperstown for the read-through, we decided to schedule the youth auditions for Jungle Book, as well as for the children’s roles in Die Feen and The Sound of Music that weekend — a total of 27 roles for kids aged 6-16. It was personally heartening to have more than 150 young people show up, despite the weather, which was so severe, it nearly sidelined the whole weekend. When I instituted a formalized youth chorus 10 years ago, and added the youth opera three years later, it was difficult getting children to audition. I knew if kids started getting involved, it would catch on and be very successful. But in those early days I was cornering moms in the grocery store, begging them to have their children try out. To have had 150-plus children show up this weekend was thrilling. I wish I could cast them all.
Good eats at the end of the line. Our son Jackson loves going to the end of the subway lines. We had never taken the G train, so we hopped on at Court Square in Long Island City, Queens and took it all the way to Church Avenue in Brooklyn. It is the ONLY subway line with no Manhattan service — branded by its green “G.” We walked through the old Italian neighborhood, with its large gracious houses. One of the virtues of NYC is the blending of people from all over the world and the opportunity to sample cuisine from different cultures. Many Indians have made this neighborhood home, so as you walk down the street, you can find restaurants serving gorgeously aromatic curries next to the comforting fragrance of tomatoes and garlic. Jackson loves diners where he can sample pancakes and omelettes stuffed with American cheese. Looking around for just such a spot, we discovered George’s on Coney Island Avenue, approximately two miles from the G train exit, where he gave the pancakes and omelette very high marks. (I love the wall decorations behind him in this photo.)

Spaghetti pie
Jackson also loves my spaghetti pie. When I make him a dinner of fresh marinara, turkey meatballs and pasta, I set aside some of the plain pasta for a spaghetti pie breakfast the next morning. Any breakfast leftovers store well and can be wrapped for lunch!

Ingredients
3/4 lb cooked spaghetti or linguine (or any amount to fill the bottom of the frying pan you chose—I prefer a large pan)
8 ounces any cheese (I prefer scamorza, but can be mozzarella, emmental, or anything cut into cubes)
6 slices bacon
5 eggs
dash milk or cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan
chopped parsley
salt and pepper (optional)

Cut up the bacon into bits and sauté with some olive oil. Remove from the stove. In a separate bowl whisk together eggs with a little milk or cream, and then mix in all other ingredients. Re-oil the pan that you cooked the bacon in. Put the pasta in the frying pan and pour this mixture over it. Oil the bottom of another pan (or a plate or something heavy) and press down on the pancake. Fry for about 3 minutes, then turn it over and fry the other side. Flip out onto a plate and serve. Season, if desired, with salt and/or pepper.

BTW the staff is celebrating "Pi Day" on Friday the Thirteenth, with everyone bringing in a pie. The official "holiday" is March 14. Here at Glimmerglass we are very food motivated, and my Spaghetti Pie is a great entry.

Please stay healthy and take precautions. Everyone is concerned about COVID-19. At Glimmerglass, we are proceeding with our work, but we are taking every precaution to protect our environment and the staff. Throughout our offices we’ve posted the COVID-19 safety instructions from the Department of Health and Human Services, and distributed and hung containers of hand sanitizer. We are enforcing sick days, even for people who just have the sniffles, and encouraging healthy habits. With this said, we remain hopeful that the virus will be contained and are charging forward with our summer preparations for what promises to be a joyous, invigorating and inspirational experience. If you have not done so already, and if you are able to help us “get there” with a gift to our annual fund, we would be inordinately grateful. As I always tout, gifts of all sizes have a real impact. Thank you for being part of the Glimmerglass family.
With gratitude,
Francesca Zambello
The Glimmerglass Festival
Artistic & General Director

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