“À bientôt” to last season’s “Glim Glam Fam”!
Modern dance Monteverdi mash-ups, Merchant and Roth Costanzo rocking out to twelfth-century chants, medieval chivalry in a pediatric hospital, Jamie Bernstein on Candide, campy cabarets, punk Shakespearians, Bohemians by the lake! It was quite the summer—with the occasional power outage, rainstorm, or malfunctioning curtain proving no barrier to the action on stage.
We came together this past summer to share laughter, drama, dancing, tears, and meals. All over campus and in hotels and homes around the area, people engaged in lively discussions about art and artists, compared past productions and experiences, voiced opinions on directorial choices and favorite costumes, and extolled the discovery of new music. As the season wrapped up, the “Glim Glam Fam” said its tearful farewells and posted long reels of happy photos to their social media to remember the joy they had found and created together.
We learned things as well, important truths we can easily lose sight of in our daily lives: the all-powerful force of love in our lives, the destructive power of anger and hate, the realm of the imagination as a refuge from illness and suffering, the inherent beauty of life despite the many hardships and setbacks we all face; we learned that we must work to create our own happiness, that our relationships are more valuable than all the world’s riches, that our attitudes to and interpretation of the past must evolve over time, that despite those changing attitudes, some truths remain universal to all peoples and all ages.
The Power to Bring Us Together
A few weeks later, it all seems like a beautiful dream—as we continue to emerge from a global pandemic, making sense of our world is still difficult. Russia and Ukraine remain locked in an ugly stalemate, the effects of climate change become more frightening daily, our political system seems perpetually in turmoil, terrible mass shootings seem to be a daily occurrence, and the most recent eruption of the Israel-Gaza conflict has rocked the world with devastating consequences on both sides. We even live in a world where Kurt Vonnegut Jr., John Steinbeck, and Toni Morrison’s writings can be banned and Michelangelo’s “David” deemed pornographic.
I recently attended the new production of Dead Man Walking with which the Met opened its season. The production was sponsored in part by one of our long-standing Glimmerglass trustees, Ted Snowdon and his husband Duffy Violante, in memory of his friend and the opera’s late librettist, the great playwright Terence McNally. During my visit to New York, I was glad to spend a couple of hours with Ted at his UWS apartment. A great gift to American theater, he has supported countless productions over the past decades, both at Glimmerglass and at many other theaters.
Although he also gives generously to social and political causes, Ted felt his support of Dead Man Walking was the strongest statement he could make about the inherent ugliness of revenge and retribution and the redemptive power of forgiveness and truth. A recent email chain among our trustees proved how deeply this piece affects those who witness it, in some cases, changing their opinion about the death penalty over time.
I also recently attended a milestone birthday celebration for a close friend, traveling for the occasion to the small town in Michigan where he grew up. Gathered together from around the country were friends and family from throughout his life. We congregated in the town’s beautifully restored Croswell Opera House, to this day a vibrant active theater, surprising him on stage from behind a curtain. For practical reasons, this took precedence for me over a college reunion back in England, but that weekend I also enjoyed seeing pictures of old college friends who had chosen to form an impromptu choir to sing a service in my old college chapel. Soon after, I performed again for many familiar faces from my past at my first place of work, a beautiful Connecticut church where I gave an emotional farewell concert some two decades ago. Click here to watch the concert! All of these important gatherings have music and theater in common – hardly surprising given my chosen path in life, but nonetheless all examples of art’s power to bring us together.
As Important As the Air We Breathe
Art is social glue. Theater is time travel, empathy exercise, and community therapy. The human voice paints souls in sound. Stories connect, bind, and celebrate us in all our diversity, across all our differences and backgrounds. The Glimmerglass experience, so vivid and indelible in its unlikely but idyllic rural setting, lasts a lifetime—it stays with you far longer than the short-lived buzz of the latest Netflix binge or Instagram post, because it is centered around human interaction and meaningful contact.
Next season we zone in on identity. I want us to think about the roles we play – on stage, in our daily lives, in our relationships, in public, and in private. With social media, AI, and Photoshop at our disposal, we are capable of reinventing ourselves with every post—but have we actually lost some of ourselves in the process?
We all tend to focus on the immediate and the short-term when things get tough, and things are undoubtedly hard for many as society continues to grapple with the long-term effects of the pandemic; inflation, the housing crisis, economic uncertainty, healthcare—these things affect all of us, including the arts. Despite these challenges, we must remember that art is anything but dispensable: it is as important for our wellbeing as the air we breathe. We must not lose it from our lives, for they would be vastly poorer for it. It defines us, it gives us our sense of identity, and ultimately, it will save us.
And right now, art needs our help and support. Across the country we see theaters, orchestras, opera houses, and dance companies suspending seasons, slashing staff, shutting doors. At Glimmerglass, we have made the decision to slightly shorten our upcoming season while audience levels recover post-pandemic. As our fiftieth anniversary approaches in 2025, we must ensure that Glimmerglass is on sure footing for its next half century, and we can do this only with your help. As we continue striving to bring you the best of opera, musical theater, and talent from around the country, think about what you can do for Glimmerglass in return. Together, we will celebrate another fifty glorious years of memorable, monumental, moving productions and give voice to another generation of talent. Thank you for helping us get there!