Opera Saratoga seeks dreamers — especially if their dreams are impossible.
The company’s season, which opens June 24, should give it plenty to work with because the inspiration behind all the productions comes from Miguel de Cervantes’ “Don Quixote.”
“The season was inspired by the pandemic,” said artistic and general director Lawrence Edelson. “I think we’ve all needed to channel some of the famous knight-errant’s idealism and extreme optimism … in the face of unprecedented challenges.”
Many composers have based works on the Cervantes novel, pieces Edelson knew of but had never considered putting together. He decided to present scenes from some of those works as the first offering, which will be at Pitney Meadows Community Farm.
“There were so many pieces unknown to audiences and have great variety of approaches to the story with different languages and style,” he said.
“Eighteen of our young artists will do these.”
The scenes come from Boismortier’s “Don Quichotte chez la Duchesse”; Mendelssohn’s “Die Hochzeit des Camacho”; Donizetti’s “Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo”; Kienzl’s “Don Quixote”; Chapi’s “La Venta de Don Quijote”; Massenet’s “Don Quichotte”; and de Falla’s “El retablo de maese Pedro.”
Laurie Rogers is the musical director from the piano.
But what to choose for a main production?
“We needed a musical that had an extreme optimism,” Edelson said. “I considered opera and theater lovers who had not been to the theater, and how to bring this community together to enjoy the power of live performance in an uplifting way.”
He looked no further than “The Man of La Mancha.” Slated for July 8–10, it will be performed at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s amphitheater.
“It needs extraordinary singers. It has the most beautiful music written for stage. It takes advantage of the resources of the Opera Saratoga company,” Edelson said.
The musical is also the first one that then-Lake George Opera Company staged in 1981. It has not been performed since then.
The show will also allow the company to try out technology not previously used. Because there will be no sets, Edelson asked Barry Steele to both light the show and use videography that involves projecting images onto the stage. The images will be both in color and detailed.
“The images will provide an environment that will nudge the audience into the narrative,” Steele said.
While Steele has worked his magic in 55 countries, he said, this will be a unique effort.
“It will not be space as we think of it,” he said. “It’s more a surreal space. A mix and blend of what’s real or not. I’ll use surrealism to show how dreams can go array or make good in the world.”
The 16-piece orchestra will also be onstage, but toward the back. Singers will be downstage, and the images will surround it all.
“It will be sleuthing in the air,” Steele said with a laugh.
The show is also groundbreaking for the two leads, bass Zachary James and soprano Kelly Glyptis.
“It’s my first live production in a year and seven months,” James said. “I’ve done some TV work and video/audio, but nothing else.”
James has had extensive stage experience. He was Amenhotep III/Narrator in the 2019 Philip Glass opera “Akhnaten” at the Metropolitan Opera — a role he’ll return to in the Met’s 2022 season. But “Man of La Mancha” is new to him. He said the show feels “similar in scope” to the Glass opera.
“It’s a dream role and I’ll be onstage most of the show,” he said. “But it’s a Shakespearean kind of show because there are so many words. I need to be familiar with the entirety of the story from all the characters and know what its message is. I like that the show is artistically driven and that it will be emotionally overwhelming. It’s a challenge, and I’m scared I’ll be rusty because it’s been so long off a stage. It’s a big responsibility as it’s a big role. It’s great that the show will be led by Laura Bergquist, a great Broadway conductor.”
Glyptis, too, is new to the show.
“I’ve never done the role of Aldonza, but I am familiar with it,” she said.
When she was 10, she heard a voice teacher sing “The Impossible Dream” at a concert.
“I thought how incredible it was. I was so in awe of the song and singing. I felt I wanted to be a part of a dream,” she said.
Because few theaters do the show these days, she said, she quickly agreed to the role when Edelson asked.
“As the role of a prisoner, I have no lines but I get to sing ‘The Impossible Dream,’ she said. “Then I leave the stage for 10 pages and come back, and sing some fabulous song.”
Edelson will direct and choreograph. Glenn Avery Breed does costume design.
The final offering on July 14-16 and July 18 at the Columbia Pavilion in Spa State Park is George Philip Telemann’s last comic opera, “Don Quichotte at Camacho’s Wedding.”
“It’s a great thing to do,” Edelson. “It’s a pastoral, and we’ll use the park’s setting [not sets].”
The company’s young artists will perform to chamber orchestra.
There are also two other events: A June 19 concert streamed from Caffe Lena that celebrates the end of slavery; and the July 17 gala “A Knight at the Opera” at The Lodge at Saratoga Casino Hotel.
Patrons much present proof of vaccination and social distancing protocols will be observed.
Quixotic Opera Concert
WHERE: Pitney Meadows
WHEN: 7 p.m. June 24-25
HOW MUCH: Sold out
‘Man of La Mancha’
WHERE: SPAC amphitheater
WHEN: 8 p.m. July 8, 9, 10
HOW MUCH: $250-$60;
‘Don Quichotte at
WHERE: Columbia Pavilion-
Saratoga Spa State Park
WHEN: 11 a.m., 6 and 8 p.m., July 14-15
11 a.m., 6 p.m. July 16; and
11 a.m., 1 p.m. July 18
HOW MUCH: $100 for two-
MORE INFO: 518 584 6018;
More from The Daily Gazette: