My favorite ‘work perk’ is getting to travel for as much theater as I can fit into my schedule, using a variety of thin excuses like seeing Glimmerglass’s productions as they appear around the country, meeting with supporters and administrators at other companies, and tracking important artists and new works. This last month took me to New York City for the Met’s Dead Man Walking, Malcolm X, and Un ballo in maschera, Heartbeat Opera’s Drag Gala (cheekily named The Golden Cock), and the new Sondheim musical Here We Are at The Shed (Hudson Yards’ amazing new arts center). A side trip to DC allowed for Glimmerglass’s production of Romeo and Juliet and the world premiere of Grounded at Washington National Opera. En route up and down the Hudson, I managed to squeeze in R.B. Schlather’s impressive mounting of Handel’s Rodelinda at Hudson Hall, starring Glimmerglass favorite Keely Futterer.

Not every moment I saw landed with total success, but the level of execution was universally of the highest caliber and for not one moment was I bored or anxious to be elsewhere—more than can be said for a typical Netflix scroll these days.

How lucky we are to live in this time, when with just a couple of hours’ drive we can enjoy such a range of style, period, and performance practice. Never before in history has this openness of interpretation been possible, or an audience’s expectations and tastes so broad and eclectic. These productions ranged from traditionally theatrical, through the minimalist and symbolist, to the cutting edge of technological wizardry and innovation. Not every moment I saw landed with total success, but the level of execution was universally of the highest caliber and for not one moment was I bored or anxious to be elsewhere—more than can be said for a typical Netflix scroll these days. Such great work is being done by our colleagues and sister companies around the country, both large and small.

Yet many elements of the Glimmerglass experience continued to stand out to me during these wonderful performances—the ideal intimacy and acoustics of the Alice Busch Opera Theater, where the drama is so visceral and the voices so powerful; the idyllic, timeless beauty of our campus; the fascinating interplay between our productions, often built around a common theme, like 2024’s “Identity & Illusion.” But most inimitable to me is that elusive but palpable spark that springs from the magic of summer stock—when talented people congregate in beautiful surroundings to live, breathe, and make art together for weeks at a time without the usual distractions of everyday life. We grow together into a surrogate family for those weeks, with opera choruses developing into true ensembles full of individuality and personality, and a level of commitment and detail becoming possible that surpasses what can be achieved in a week-long performance run. This is the magic of our “Glim Glam Fam.” Speaking of the magic of Glimmerglass, if you haven’t yet reserved your 2024 ticket package, now is the time. Single tickets for the 2024 season go on sale January 22!

The Glim Glam Fam

We just announced the Glimmerglass Guest Artist line-up for our 2024 season, a mammoth jigsaw puzzle made of awkwardly shaped spreadsheets, budgets, auditions, itineraries, and endless discussion. The finished puzzle, painstakingly assembled at every corner of the country, will grow together over the summer into our 2024 “Glim Glam Fam.” It’s a tricky one—there is no picture on the box for reference, no straight edges to get you started, and no way of knowing if the pieces are in the right place until months later.

Eric Sean Fogel hard at work during a Candide rehearsal last summer | Photo by Evan Zimmerman

I can attest to the endless love and care poured into this process, led in large part by our Director of Artistic Administration Lauren Bailey, Director of the Young Artists Program, Andrea Grant, and Head of Stage Movement and Choreography, Eric Sean Fogel. It is a deeply collaborative effort pairing long experience and honed artistic instincts with countless hours of listening and research.

While the glittering final roster you will see in our program this summer inevitably represents countless small concessions and painful passed-over opportunities, every difficult decision along the way is taken with the best interests of the artists in question in mind, a golden principle that also guides the selection of our Young Artists and Apprentices.

A Painstaking Process

Some 1300 singers applied for our Young Artists Program this year, with around 200 more auditioning as dancers, conductors, pianists, and directors. A little more than 50 will spend the summer with us. That’s a lower acceptance rate than Harvard and Yale, and we should remember that most of these applicants already have Master’s degrees in vocal performance. These are seriously tough odds, and they get steeper every year. No wonder our choruses sound so amazing (although we also have our brilliant chorus master, Kathy Kozak, to thank for that)!

(Left to Right) Andrea Grant and Lauren Bailey during our Young Artists audition tour.

The process by which these candidates are selected is painstaking. Hundreds of hours go into reviewing work samples and materials sent in online, whittling down those 1300 to around 400 that we will hear either live or in a second virtual audition. Our panel then travels to Ithaca, Syracuse, New York City, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Houston to hear these applicants. To me, this annual ritual is a sacred part of the industry. We are not only looking to fill this year’s roster, but actively tracking the progress of artists over multiple years, taking notes we will refer to at every subsequent hearing. I often have notes from more than ten separate hearings on a single artist in my database, gathered over years, giving me a much broader view of a candidate’s artistry and development. The audition experience, essential yet inherently awkward and artificial, is also a skill to be honed, and every hearing is a chance for the singer to refine their auditioning skills.

At the end of this process, some 70-80 singers will remain under consideration. Referring to a complex grid of possible ‘tracks’ for the roles and covers the season requires, we engage in a delicate dance with other summer programs around the country, making offers and counteroffers to candidates, reworking assignments, considering alternatives. Eventually the grid is filled, contracts are signed, and season announcements can be made! While we’ve already announced our Guest Artists (and a select number of Young Artists), I cannot wait to share our complete 2024 Young Artists roster with you in January!

A Crucial Part

Spare a thought for all this effort when you attend this summer—for the endless passion and dedication everyone on our stage has put into honing their craft in order to be successful in audition, for the mammoth administrative labor our staff puts into assembling this annual snapshot of the finest American talent, and for the hours of play and rehearsal that go into all our productions. And remember most of all that you are a crucial part of this family, through your attendance, participation, appreciation, and support. And while you’re at it, why not consider an extra year-end gift towards our amazing Young Artists and Apprenticeship Programs?

Wishing you a joyful holiday season full of good cheer, good friends, and lots of great theater!
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