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Glimmerglass Opera preview: Puccini, Rossini and more

Glimmerglass Opera preview: Puccini, Rossini and more

Glimmerglass Opera opens its 41st season Friday and the conductors can’t wait.
Glimmerglass Opera preview: Puccini, Rossini and more
A costume rendering from Rossini's "The Thieving Magpie," which opens July 16 at Glimmerglass Opera (courtesy Glimmerglass Opera).

COOPERSTOWN -- Glimmerglass Opera opens its 41st season Friday and the conductors can’t wait.

‘I’ve conducted ‘La Boheme’ more than 100 times and it was what I debuted at the Metropolitan Opera on,” said Joseph Colaneri, GO’s music director. “But this is the first time I’ve ever conducted Rossini’s ‘The Thieving Magpie.’ ”

Puccini’s “La Boheme opens Friday and the Rossini opera opens July 16.

Glimmerglass Opera

Puccini ‘La Boheme’: July 8, 17, 24, 26, 28, Aug. 1, 6, 9, 11, 13, 19, 22, 27

Sondheim ‘Sweeney Todd’: July 9, 18, 22, 30, Aug. 4, 6, 13, 15, 21, 23, 26

Rossini ‘The Thieving Magpie’: July 16, 25, 29, Aug. 7, 12, 16, 20, 25

Ward ‘The Crucible’: July 23, 31, Aug. 2, 5, 8, 14, 18, 20, 27

WHERE: Alice Busch Opera Theater, 7300 State Highway 80, Cooperstown

HOW MUCH: $115–$26; 12 and under $25–$10

MORE INFO: 607-547–2255; www.glimmerglass.org

While opera fans know Puccini’s beloved romantic yet tragic opera, and audiences will be familiar with the orchestral overture to Rossini’s opera, few have probably seen it.

“It’s a rarity,” Colaneri said. “I’ve never seen the opera before.”

As the conductor for both, he had to consider their differences. Puccini wrote “La Boheme” in 1896 with a libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica that was based on Henri Murger’s novel “Scenes de la Vie de Boheme” about artists and other friends in Paris’ Latin Quarter that he’d known. It was Puccini’s fourth opera and, like the three before, brought him sensational success.

Rossini was already a star at 25 in 1817 when he wrote “The Thieving Magpie” with a libretto by Giovanni Gherardini. It is a comic opera about a naughty but clever bird and a heroine in distress who needs rescue from a dastardly lecher. Though it’s a bit of a fairy tale, there will be many amazing birdy costumes and images.

“The soundscapes are very different,” Colaneri said. “The Puccini is a very sustained sound with lots of rubato and big coloristic renderings. But the Rossini is very close to Mozart. It’s very rhythmic with verve and effervescence.”

He’ll use a large orchestra for the Puccini, which requires triple winds, full brass, harp and full string sections, to create a luxuriant sound. The Rossini orchestra will be smaller with fewer brass to achieve a lighter, quicker sound, he said.

While Colaneri knows Puccini’s score well, he said, he still finds new things especially if he’s working with a new cast.

“There are so many puns and the way Puccini responds to them . . . I always get a new freshness, a tempo or phrasing,” Colaneri said. “I hear the singers –- and this is a splendid, talented cast –- and then provide a phrase shape that brings out their best.”

Studying Rossini’s score proved educational.

“I’d done Rossini operas before, but this opera was early days for him,” he said. “The score looks forward. His ideas show him as the innovator he was. It’s not a full comedy but an opera seria. There’s a dark side with moody colors. It’s fascinating. It’s phenomenally tuneful and rhythmically sparkling.”

conducting ‘crucible’

Nicole Paiement will conduct Robert Ward’s “The Crucible,” which opens July 23. Adapted from Arthur Miller’s play by Bernard Stambler, it premiered in 1961 and received the 1962 Pulitzer Prize in Music. Although it’s a dramatization of the 17th century witch trials, Miller saw it as history repeating itself during the 1950s Communist scare.

“This opera, which is a masterpiece, has a very American language and is through composed,” Paiement said. “The orchestra is very beautifully balanced with the voice to evoke mood and delineate the characters. This is my first time conducting this opera and my great challenge is to keep the playing and the conversation happen[ing] so the audience will understand the story.”

John DeMain, who is conducting Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd,” which opens July 9, was not available to chat.

The operas are a part of what the season offers. That includes song recitals, informative talks, backstage tours, dining with the artists, and a youth opera.

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