About 17 miles due west of Sharon Springs and 8 miles north of Cooperstown, at the northern end of Otsego Lake, a striking structure overlooks Otsego Lake. In this building – the Alice Busch Opera Theater – one can experience world-class opera and musical theater. This is the home of the internationally acclaimed Glimmerglass Festival, named after the lake called Glimmerglass in James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales. The 19th-century writer, who lived most of his life in Cooperstown, took inspiration from Otsego Lake for his fictional body of water.
The company, originally known as the Glimmerglass Opera, was created in 1975 by Cooperstown residents with a dream of bringing opera to the region. It held its first productions – Puccini’s La bohème – at the Cooperstown High School auditorium. The 900-seat Alice Busch Opera Theater opened in 1987 with Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Built on 43 acres of former farmland donated by Thomas Goodyear and his mother Jeanette Bissell Goodyear, it is the first new American opera house constructed since 1966.
The Glimmerglass Festival offers four productions each summer, performed in rotating repertory; more than 80 productions have been staged in the company’s history. In the course of the first 17 seasons, all productions were performed in English. Since 1992, they have mostly been presented in their original languages with English supertitles. The company has become known for commissioning new works to present along with the classics. The Glimmerglass Festival also offers special performances, concerts, and lectures at various venues in the area.
In 1988, the company initiated the Young Artists Program. Those fortunate enough to be selected for their budding talent receive instruction in various aspects of opera and musical theater, including singing, acting, diction, auditioning, production, and managing a career. Many of the Young Artists are housed in Cherry Valley, 10 miles to the east of the theater. In fact, while strolling down Main Street in Cherry Valley in June, July, or August, one might very well hear beautiful singing – a Young Artist practicing.
Francesca Zambello has been the Artistic and General Director since September 2010. Having worked in opera in cities around the world, she is also an artistic advisor to the Washington National Opera and the San Francisco Opera. Under her tenure, the name Glimmerglass Festival was adopted and the decision was made to mount one of the four annual productions in American musical theater.
The Glimmerglass Festival’s 2012 productions include Verdi’s Aida; the French baroque opera Armide; Lost in the Stars, based on the novel Cry, the Beloved Country; and the classic American musical The Music Man, performed as intended with a full orchestra.
The Glimmerglass Festival is a great draw to the greater Sharon Springs area. It not only has helped the local economy, but also has added a magical element to the region’s cultural fabric.
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Chris Campbell has made his permanent home in Cherry Valley, NY. The Campbell family dates back to 1739 in this town, situated about eight miles from Sharon Springs. Some family members were captured by Tories and Iroquois allies in the Cherry Valley Massacre of 1778 during the American Revolution and taken to Canada, released two years later in Albany as part of a prisoner exchange. Chris is a rare book and map collector and has had a lifelong interest in history, especially relating to upstate New York and colonial land patents. He was the founder and first chairman of the Cherry Valley Planning Board and has worked as a surveyor and realtor as well as a researcher for the Otsego County map department. His hobbies include Ham radio.
Carl Waldman, also living in Cherry Valley, is a former archivist for the New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown. He is he author of a number of reference books published by Facts On File, including Atlas of the North American Indian and Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes, both originally published in the 1980s and both in their third editions. He is the co-author of Encyclopedia of Exploration (2005) and Encyclopedia of European Peoples (2006). Carl has also done screenwriting about Native Americans, including an episode of Miami Vice entitled “Indian Wars” and the Legend of Two-Path, a drama about the Native American side of Raleigh’s Lost Colony, shown at Festival Park on Roanoke Island in North Carolina. His hobbies include music and he works with young people in the Performance and Production Workshops at the Cherry Valley Old School.