COOPERSTOWN — Glimmerglass Opera: You’ve thought of going, but opera isn’t really your thing. I mean, don’t they sing in some foreign language? What else is there to do out there? It is a drive and I’m not into baseball even if there is that Hall of Fame place. A venue just for opera? Do they do anything else?
The answer to any of these questions is that Glimmerglass Opera is more than just an opera festival that officially opens Saturday, July 7. Getting there can also be a day trip filled with surprises.
The festival is all encompassing. There are four main productions: Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” with Jerome Robbins’ original choreography opens the season with twelve performances; Leos Janacek’s “The Cunning Little Vixen” based on a Czech woodland fable stars Metropolitan Opera bass Eric Owens, who is also artistic advisor to the festival; Giaochino Rossini’s comic masterpiece “The Barber of Seville” has such a famous overture that it inspired Walt Disney to create his “Rabbit of Seville” for his “Looney Tunes”; and Kevin Puts’ 2012 Pultizer Prize-winning opera “Silent Night” about the Christmas Day truce in 1914 when soldiers of both armies came out of their trenches to smoke, exchange gifts and share brandy.
Except for two of the shows, which will be sung in English, the other two are not. But English supertitles projected over the stage make all the action clear. A full orchestra supports from the pit. If you choose the Rossini, be sure and check out the Fenimore Art Museum. The surrealist artist Eugene Berman’s set and costume designs for the 1953 Metropolitan Opera production are on exhibit(fenimoreartmuseum.org).
All these operas happen in the 914-seat Alice Busch Opera Theatre built in 1987 near the shores of gorgeous Otsego Lake. Prior to show time, if people don’t want to listen to the pre-concert talks held one hour before, they can stroll down paths that lead to the lake. Or grab something to eat at the new concession area/gift shop. On certain days, there are also backstage tours.
What else is offered? Eric Owens gives a recital July 22 of war-time songs in a tribute to veterans; and Hollywood comedian/actor Bill Murray will sing on July 24 some favorite songs and read texts accompanied by a violinist, cellist and pianist. A one-act children’s opera “Odyssey” based on Homer’s epic tale opens in the first of four performances (July 31, Aug. 3, 6, 9).
In August there’s a gospel concert with festival artists Aug. 12; Big Galut(e) and his quintet dazzle on Aug. 14 with Klezmer dances, Yiddish tunes, and tangos; author Margarget Atwood (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) offers a wide-ranging talk Aug. 17; internationally-known baritone Thomas Hampson explores the American experience Aug. 19 in the first stop of “Song of America: Our Story” on what will be a 50-state tour. Bernstein’s one-act opera “Trouble in Tahiti” opens with three performances Aug. 7, 12, 20.
Art, antiques, fine dining
But the day is more than just the performances. Depending on whether you’ve chosen a matinee or an evening performance will determine how much time you have. A favorite route is to go through Canajoharie to visit the lovely Arkell Museum where “Portraits and Landscapes” are currently on exhibit (arkellmuseum.org). Six miles away is Fort Plain. It may take more than an hour to roam through Fort Plain Antiques & Salvage, which is housed on two levels in an old factory (fortplainantiques.com). A couple of blocks away take note of The Table, a restaurant open for dinner and owned by a culinary school- trained chef who makes classic recipes with great creativity (thetableatfortplain.com).
While in cooperstown ...
Continue on Route 80 through bucolic hamlets, cross Rt. 20 to go a couple of miles south to the opera house, which is eight miles north of the village. Keep driving south with spectacular views of Otsego Lake and perhaps visit the Fenimore or the Farmer’s Museum (farmersmuseum.org) located across the road. Traffic and parking is complicated in Cooperstown, especially on parade day when baseball greats are being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Be prepared for huge crowds.
A stroll down Main Street reveals lots of baseball-themed stores, ice cream parlors and several restaurants. Some favorites are Stagecoach Coffee on Pioneer Street; Alex’s Bistro and Schneider’s Bakery, both on Main Street. Other great eateries are Blue Mingo Grill between Cooperstown and the opera house; or two in Cherry Valley: Cantina de Salsa on Main Street and the Rose & Kettle diagonally across the way.
Bernstein’s “West Side Story”: July 7, 16, 19, 21, 24, 26, 29, Aug. 4, 11, 14, 16, 17, 20, 24 (many shows are already sold out)
Janacek “The Cunning Little Vixen”: July 8, 21, 30, Aug. 5, 7, 10, 16, 18, 25
Rossini “The Barber of Seville”: July 14, 20, 23, 28, 31, Aug. 3, 9, 11, 13, 19, 25
Puts “Silent Night”: July 15, 22, Aug. 2, 4, 6, 12, 18, 21, 23
HOW MUCH: $126-$26; fesitval circle $135-$149; senior discounts available
MORE INFO: 607-547-2255; www.glimmerglass.org