The Glimmerglass Festival
News Release


New Outdoor Stage to Host Performances

Three-Year Initiative for New Works Announced

World Premiere of The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson stars Denyce Graves

Cooperstown, New York (March 1, 2021) — The Glimmerglass Festival, the summer opera and musical theater festival in Cooperstown, New York, has announced plans for the summer of 2021 in the wake of its 2020 season cancelation due to COVID-19. 

The Festival, which typically performs in its intimate, 915-seat theater, will bring its performances outdoors to a new stage built on the Festival grounds.

“We have re-imagined the Glimmerglass experience for the 2021 season,” said Francesca Zambello, Festival Artistic & General Director. “While this move outdoors is primarily for the health and safety of our company members, audience members and community, it is in harmony with what people love about Glimmerglass — innovative art and performances in a beautiful location. We are extremely grateful to Andrew Martin-Weber for making this outdoor stage possible, and we look forward to bringing amazing performances to you from the Andrew J. Martin-Weber Lawn Stage.”

There’s an expression I find evocative, ‘water from the moon,’ meaning that which is unattainable, the impossible,” Martin-Weber said. “For me, this beautiful outdoor stage and the entire 2021 Festival is ‘water from the moon,’ and I am grateful to the Glimmerglass staff and all of our supporters for helping to make this a reality. It’s an impossible dream come true that I am part of this festival where we come together to build the future of opera.”

On a stage designed by Peter J. Davison inspired by Cooperstown’s surroundings, the Festival will offer 90-minute re-imagined performances of opera and musical theater starring guest artists Raehann Bryce-Davis, William Burden, Amanda Castro, Denyce Graves, Ian Koziara, Gregory Kunde, Isabel Leonard, Latonia Moore, Eric Owens, Michael Mayes and Alexandria Shiner, complemented by a 2021 roster of Young Artists, performers in the company’s apprentice program. Burden, Leonard and Owens also serve as the Festival’s 2021 Artists in Residence. In addition to their performances this summer, they serve as mentors to the 2021 Young Artists.

The 2021 season will run July 15 through August 17 and offers performances of new productions of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Verdi’s Il Trovatore, Offenbach’s Songbird (La Périchole), and the world premiere of The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson, a new work about the founder of the National Negro Opera Company. The season will also feature Gods and Mortals, an event featuring works of Wagner, and To the World, a concert of musical theater favorites. 

The 2021 season marks the beginning of Common Ground, a three-year initiative that will unveil six new pieces that tell stories of life in America.  

The initiative begins this summer with On Trac |<, a dance piece composed by Nicolas Lell Benavides and choreographed and performed by Amanda Castro, that looks at the intersection of human and machine in rural America. This summer, the Festival will also begin creating a film version of The Knock, a world-premiere one-act opera by Aleksandra Vrebalov and Deborah Brevoort which tells a moving story centered on a group of military wives awaiting news of their deployed husbands.

“These commissions will showcase the diversity of the American experience through a variety of creative voices and approaches to storytelling,” Zambello said.


The Andrew J. Martin-Weber Lawn Stage will be built on the south side of the Festival’s campus, and the Festival Lawn will be divided into distanced Festival Squares. The Squares may be shared by up to four people of the same party — guests are encouraged to bring low-profile chairs, blankets and more to enjoy their portion of the Festival Lawn. In addition to the Squares, the Festival will offer Glimmerglass Boxes, booths which provide cover and seating for up to six people of the same party. Festival Tables are also available for audience members in the same party.

Guided by evolving regulations from New York State and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Festival Health and Safety Committee continues to refine its Health and Safety Plan for the 2021 season. The plan will reflect guidance from public health authorities and Bassett Healthcare Network, as well as industry best practices. State and local approvals must be attained prior to rehearsals and performances commencing. More information will be released as details are confirmed. 

The 2021 Glimmerglass Festival is generously sponsored by the following Season Sponsors: Betsy and Ed Cohen, Chris and Bruce Crawford, Elizabeth M. and Jean-Marie R. Eveillard, Faith E. Gay and Francesca Zambello, Nellie and Robert Gipson, Jacqueline B. Mars and Andrew J. Martin-Weber. 

Tickets go on sale March 31. For more information, visit



 Mozart’s The Magic Flute, a whimsical tale of love and wisdom with an original libretto from Emanuel Schikaneder, is directed by NJ Agwuna and conducted by Music Director Joseph Colaneri with costume design by Christelle Matou.

The Magic Flute is a fairytale about finding your own way in the world,” Agwuna said. “This production will be explored through storytelling. We take a look at the classical ways of storytelling, through narration, imagination, and performative action. We are quite literally going from the page to the stage. 

This story is important to tell in 2021 because we are so inundated with information and opinions influencing our own thoughts and morales. It is time for all of us to seek out our own paths and figure out who we want to be in this world.”

In this new storybook English adaptation by Kelley Rourke, Eric Owens stars in an expanded role of Sarastro, guiding audiences through the story with wisdom and wit. 

Owens is well-known for his Wagner and Verdi interpretations and is connected to the company as Chair of the Artistic Advisory Board, and will serve a fourth term as Artist in Residence. In addition to working with Glimmerglass, Owens serves as Co-Director of the Vocal Studies Division and the Curtis Opera Theatre at the Curtis Institute of Music. The Magic Flute will be performed July 15 through August 17. 


Conflicting stories about the past are at the heart of Verdi’s Il Trovatore, an epic tale of love and revenge with a libretto by Salvadore Cammarano. Co-directed by Francesca Zambello and Eric Sean Fogel, conducted by Joseph Colaneri, and with costume design by Christelle Matou, this 90-minute adaptation foregrounds the plight of Azucena, a woman living on the fringes of society. Latonia Moore and Gregory Kunde star as Leonora and Manrico, the fated lovers, alongside Raehann Bryce-Davis as Azucena and Michael Mayes as Count di Luna. 

“Composers have often — out of necessity — made adaptations of their works,” Colaneri said. “In this spirit, we will present a glorious and intrepid season of special re-imaginings for special times, highlighting Verdi’s fascination with his first dramatic mezzo-soprano role, Azucena, as we present an adventurous Il Trovatore.”

Il Trovatore runs August 1 through August 14.


 The Glimmerglass Festival presents Songbird, a new adaptation of Offenbach’s La Périchole created by Eric Sean Fogel, James Lowe and Kelley Rourke, which moves the comedy’s action to New Orleans with new musical arrangement and orchestration by James Lowe in the style of 1920s jazz bands. The original libretto is by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy.

Isabel Leonard and William Burden star as a couple of hard-working musicians who have fallen on hard times. Conducted by James Lowe, co-directed by Francesca Zambello and Eric Sean Fogel, and with costume design by Christelle Matou, the 90-minute adaptation will be performed in English and French with translation by Kelley Rourke.

“If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that artists — in the face of politics, prohibitions, even pandemics — will always find a way,” Fogel said. “In the story of Piquillo and Songbird, we see an overnight sensation that has been years in the making, which feels pretty realistic to me. It’s a good reminder that the best is yet to come.”

Songbird will run July 30 through August 13. 


Gods and Mortals celebrates the work of Richard Wagner with selections from some of his most popular operas, including The Ring Cycle and Tannhäuser, as well as some of his lesser-known works like Die Feen (The Fairies).

“At a time when the world can feel strikingly small — confined to a bedroom and a laptop — Wagner’s grand works remind us of feeling larger-than-life,” Zambello said. “His fascination with mythology and the natural world will propel us as we take the Festival outdoors.”

The staged concert will star Eric Owens, Alexandria Shiner and Ian Koziara. Owens has starred in several productions of The Ring Cycle with opera companies across the country and is acclaimed for his performances in several Wagner roles. Shiner, a winner of the 2020 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, was set to perform the role of Ada in The Glimmerglass Festival’s 2020 production of Wagner’s Die Feen, and she was scheduled to make her Metropolitan Opera debut in 2021 as Berta in The Barber of Seville, a role she performed with the Glimmerglass Festival in 2019. Koziara, a former member of the Festival’s Young Artists Program and the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, made his Met debut in 2017 as Enrique in Thomas Adès’ The Exterminating Angel.

Gods and Mortals will be conducted by Joseph Colaneri and directed by Francesca Zambello; performances run August 3 through August 16.


To the World, a journey around the globe through popular musical theater hits, stars Isabel Leonard, William Burden, Alexandria Shiner, Michael Mayes and members of the Young Artists Program. Eric Sean Fogel directs and James Lowe conducts. To the World runs July 16 through August 8.


The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson is a new play with music, by Sandra Seaton, celebrating the founder of the historic and groundbreaking National Negro Opera Company and starring acclaimed mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves in the title role. The work includes selections from the repertory of the National Negro Opera Company, as well as original music by Carlos Simon to a text by playwright Sandra Seaton.

“Madame Dawson was an arts pioneer, a woman of many firsts, whose remarkable story had been all but forgotten until recently,” Graves said. “Mary Cardwell Dawson broke through incredible barriers to give voice to singers of color, creating opportunities that eventually brought them to major American opera house stages for the first time. It is an honor to champion her story — and that of the National Negro Opera Company she founded in 1941.” 

Graves will make her Festival debut in The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson. She is known internationally for her iconic portrayals of Carmen and Dalila, roles that have brought her accolades from around the world. In addition to singing classic repertoire at all the major opera houses, such as the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, and the Royal Opera House (Covent Garden), she has also premiered important works, from Margaret Garner to Doubt, and was in rehearsal for Champion with Michigan Opera Theatre when the pandemic shut down live performances in the United States. Graves recently founded The Denyce Graves Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to supporting singers and promoting equity and excellence in the vocal arts. The Foundation is currently raising funds to restore the original headquarters of the National Negro Opera Company to its former glory.

The National Negro Opera Company (NNOC) was significant for both helping break the color barrier on the operatic stage and as the first all-Black opera company run by a Black woman. 

“There had been all-Black opera companies in existence, but most of them were run by white men and a few by Black men,” Dr. Karen Bryan, professor of musicology at University of South Florida, said in an article from Opera News. “But the NNOC was the first to be founded and run by a Black woman.”

“[Dawson] paved the way for African-American musicians like me to have the opportunity to have a career in opera, which has been traditionally a space reserved for people who don’t look like me,” composer Simon said. “Telling her story in 2021 gives insight and hope to a younger generation.” 

The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson is directed by Kimille Howardwith music direction by Kevin Miller and costume design by Jessica Jahn. Performances run August 5 through August 13.


Common Ground is a three-year initiative that will unveil six new pieces that tell stories of life in America, made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

“Now, more than ever, we need to find common ground,” Zambello said. “I believe the arts can help us forge new connections and serve as a catalyst for dialogue. These new works will offer the stories of your neighbors, of family members and friends, and then also the stories you perhaps aren’t as familiar with, seeing a different side of this country we all share.” 

The works will showcase a wide variety of creative voices, diverse approaches to storytelling, and will offer insight into often untold American experiences. 

The 2021 season features two pieces: On Trac|<, a dance piece with a score by Nicolas Lell Benavides and choreography and performance by Amanda Castro, which looks at the intersection of human and machine in rural America, and The Knock, a world-premiere opera by Aleksandra Vrebalov and Deborah Brevoort

The Knock

The Knock is a one-act opera that tells the story of a group of military wives awaiting news of their deployed husbands. The libretto is based on years of interviews conducted by Brevoort with spouses of soldiers and takes the audience into the lives of America’s military spouses, a group not yet seen on the opera stage. 

“For those unacquainted with military jargon, ‘The Knock’ is the expression used by military wives for a death notification,” Brevoort said. “Military wives come from diverse communities, many of which are underprivileged; their husbands are serving in the military because of a lack of other opportunities. The ‘knocks’ are mostly delivered to them.”

Vrebalov’s close to 100 works range from concert music and opera to music for modern dance and film.

“The story is personal for me because I grew up in a family of WWII heroes,” Vrebalov said. “I grew up with a strong sense of pride from being from a family who gave their lives for their country. But at the same time, there was so much behind-the-scenes grief that marked the family. While writing The Knock, I wanted to share the public side of a hero’s sacrifice, but I also wanted to share the rawness of personal loss. 

On Trac|<

Benavides, a former Young Artist Composer with the Festival, has been praised for finding “…a way to sketch complete characters in swift sure lines…” (Anne Midgette, Washington Post). He has worked with Washington National Opera, West Edge Opera, Nashville Opera, Shreveport Opera, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble and more.

“[On Trac|<] has been unlike anything I’ve done in recent memory,” Benavides said. “The idea came about when I was a Young Artist Composer at the Glimmerglass Festival in 2019, and I was living out in Roseboom as part of my residency, and every day I would see tractors. It really got me thinking — what is the tractor doing for these people; is it convenience, is it a necessity? From the person who cultivates their local property to the person who makes their living from farming, tractors aren’t going away. They’re essential machines — tractors create life.”

Castro is a multidisciplinary artist with her storytelling rooted in rhythm and soul of tap, who has performed across the United States and abroad. She was most recently seen at Glimmerglass in 2018 as Anita in West Side Story, a role she also performed at Lyric Opera of Chicago. 

“Land was here before us and land will be here after us,” Castro added. “On Trac|< serves as an homage to the generations of people who have cultivated this land. I think it’s so important that we tell these stories through dance, a physical manifestation of history, because it allows audiences to view the stories of their neighbors.

“If we have learned anything in this season we are living, it’s that this is the season of unveiling and reclaiming. It is time to tell and teach the stories that we have not been taught, and it is our responsibility as artists to bring those stories forward.” 


calendar showing July and August with different performances represented on different days. Call (607) 547-2255




6 Thoughts on “Plans for Summer 2021 Announced”

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  1. Would like Two Tickets for the following:
    August 12 PM Il Trovatore
    August 13 Passion of Mary Caldwell
    August 14 Gods & Mortals
    August The Magic Flute

    Please contact me at your earliest convenience.
    Geoff Kalish
    914-519-7587 or 914-482-2539

  2. Will all seating areas on the grass be covered? Sitting in the rain or hot sun for 90 minutes will not be fun. Also, will folks with disabilities be able to walk safely on the.lawn?

  3. So happy this is happening. Are tickets now on sale? I don’t see how to purchase.
    Thank you.

  4. Would like to see a “seating chart” so I have an idea about sight lines. Definitely do not want to sit on the grass. Could I bring a small-size Adirondack (collapsible) rocker?

  5. I am about 3 hours away… near Hartford. I have attended the festival over the years by taking a bus tour group or by car with others. Why 11.00a.m. ? It must be the fact that time for cleaning is important! I will never be able to attend at that time! To drive home late from the 6:00P.M. performance is out of the question for this 80 year old opera lover. 1;00p.M. would seem to me to be a better time for the daytime events.

  6. Given that the times are 11 AM and 6 PM for 90-minute performances, is it expected that people will bring picnic meals to enjoy during the performances? Will such meals be available at your food concession?

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