Intimate, expressive music brought to life by a stellar cast in the perfect venue…This month, Rob looks closer at our upcoming production of La Calisto! Ready to experience the music now? Listen to Rob’s playlist and make plans now to see this enchanting, playful, and unforgettable production!

Spectacle and GLAMOR

Alyson and I at our DC event | Photo by Rick Miller

I was recently in DC for an event with Glimmerglass favorite Alyson Cambridge. I made use of the trip to catch my predecessor Francesca’s spectacular staging of Turandot at Washington National Opera, with a new completion by video game composer Christopher Tin and librettist Susan Soon He Stanton. It was a thrilling evening with an enthusiastic, sold-out crowd. Francesca provided all the spectacle and glamor that one usually associates with this final work of Puccini while giving the somewhat clunky story a fresh new twist.

Marveling again at the extravagance and scale of Turandot, I couldn’t help but feel as I always do during Puccini’s unfinished masterpiece—that the individual characters and their emotions get somewhat swallowed up and dwarfed by the sheer weight of the musical material and the forces involved. Those heartbreaking, deeply personal moments for Liù are still the most memorable in the show.

Here’s Glimmerglass star alum and past Artist-in-Residence Christine Goerke doing amazing work to make Princess Turandot a real person amid Zeffirelli’s magnificent explosion of glitter and pageant. Glorious, but moments like this still steal both the show and the audience’s hearts (give it up for the magnificent Oklahoman soprano Leona Mitchell).

Intimacy and Expression

Opera thrived on spectacle as well in the seventeenth century. Although, nowadays, it is hard to recreate the effect that their heady mix of complex stage machinery, elaborate painted drops and scenery, and outlandish costumes and wigs would have had on the audience of the day. What we can do is aim for high fashion, whimsy, and a magical, other-worldly setting that makes sense for our time.

What sets this early repertoire apart, written just fifty years into the history of the artform, is how intimate it can be. The founding principles set forth by the inventors of the form are still present, just applied with more freedom and playfulness—the goal was to use music to enhance and intensify text, mimicking and exaggerating natural speech. If it’s done well, sometimes you barely even realize people are actually singing, and yet, it’s so much more than plain old recitative—the style is full of moments of deep expression and text painting. While this looks exactly like recitative on the page—just a few bass notes and the vocal line—listen to how much emotion Cavalli pulls out of Calisto’s lament at her mistress’s rejection.

And that’s just the recitative! When this style blossoms into arias and duets, it is capable of some of the most intimate, personal, and magical music ever composed—and sometimes, it only needs a big guitar (an oversized lute called a theorbo) to make it work. Just listen to another Glimmerglass megastar, familiar to all of you as our Artist-in-Residence from last season, in one of the great operatic duets from the period, “Pur ti miro” from the end of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea (huge congratulations to Anthony on his appointment as the next General Director and President of Opera Philadelphia!).

There are many moments like this in La Calisto, especially between the shepherd Endymion (sung by returning Young Artist Kyle Tingzon, who was such a stand-out as Goffredo in last season’s Rinaldo) and the hunter goddess Diana (debuting guest artist Taylor Raven) – but I’ll leave those surprises for the stage.

Headshot of Taylor Raven
Taylor Raven | 2024 Guest Artist

Headshot of Kyle Tingzon
Kyle Tingzon | 2024 Young Artist

What I can say is that I cannot wait to hear these two gorgeous voices blend together in delicious harmony.

A Perfect Match

Glimmerglass is the perfect venue to present a piece like La Calisto. With not a bad seat in the house and ideal acoustics to maximize the intimacy and the extraordinary expressiveness of this music, I hope you find a whole new musical world to enjoy when you visit. We have assembled a perfect cast for this funny, silly, naughty, sublime, exquisite romp, and I’m so excited to hear them bring their roles to life along with the instrumental parts I’ve written for the production. In the title role, the beautiful nymph who inflames Jove’s passions is returning Young Artist Emilie Kealani, who sang such a feisty Musetta last season.

Headshot of Emilie Kealani
Emilie Kealani | 2024 Young Artist

Let me leave you with a plug for the wonderful Cooperstown Summer Music Festival.  After you’ve settled your tickets for Glimmerglass this season, see if you can also catch one of their fabulous performances. How often does Cooperstown get to see a legendary pianist like Richard Goode perform? (Tuesday evening, July 30, in the Otesaga Ballroom)

I’ll leave you with Kyle and Emilie at the end of last season performing live with the Cooperstown Summer Music Festival in some Bach. How lucky we are to have them back on our stage this season!

You can read and hear more about Emilie and Kyle on our social channels! Both talented performers were featured artists for our celebration of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!

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