Our Commitment to Community
The Glimmerglass Festival believes in the power of story as a cultural force and a means to create concrete change. We believe stories are strongest when they reflect diverse identities and life experiences.
We envision a world of opera and the arts in which all people see themselves and their stories reflected, and all have the ability to reach their full potential. We strive to be leaders in the realization of that vision.
The Glimmerglass Festival aims to create a world onstage, backstage and in the audience that celebrates and supports all people, so that we may move closer to realizing that world in our daily lives.
Because of this, we commit to the following:
- To create a company culture that prioritizes equity, diversity and inclusion.
- To create equitable access to Festival programming, as well as continually work to bring our productions to broader communities.
- To invest in dialogue about representation in all works we produce, re-imagining and recontextualizing stories as needed.
- To produce work by artists of diverse identities, and to continue commissioning new works that explore previously underrepresented stories.
- To collaborate with the local community to work toward making Central New York a safe and welcoming place for people of all backgrounds.
Glimmerglass has received generous, major support for the implementation of its Equity, Diversity and Inclusion initiatives from Denise R. Sobel, and an OPERA America Innovation Grant, which is supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.
Equity at The Glimmerglass Festival
In the summer of 2019, a group of artists and staff came together to construct a racial equity action plan that was presented to leadership and put into motion. The Festival board and staff are fully committed to embedding racial equity in our organizational culture, policies and practices.
Below, we share some concrete examples of what this has looked like at The Glimmerglass Festival and some of our actionable goals for the future. This is an ongoing process of assessment and learning, and we recognize that we will never be “done” with this work.
- In the Fall of 2019, The Glimmerglass Festival created a Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) Task Force made up of seasonal and year-round staff to further develop our equity action plan and begin to implement strategic goals.
- The Glimmerglass Festival was fortunate to receive grants from Denise R. Sobel (2019) and OPERA America (2020) to help advance EDI initiatives.
- In May of 2020, the Festival hired an advisor to lead our Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) Task Force. This person acts as a mentor and coordinator as we develop our ongoing social justice initiatives, with the final goal of adding a year-round EDI Director to our staff.
- In July of 2020, our plans were presented to the board of trustees. They included: enhancing board understanding through training, examining board policies and eliminating barriers to inclusion, as well as active recruiting of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) board members.
- In July of 2020 The Glimmerglass Festival engaged with World Trust, an organization for Social Justice and Equity Movement Building. Over the next nine months their team will assess the company’s structures and practices and facilitate company-wide training and dialogue. World Trust will help to refine strategies toward company EDI goals.
- In the 2020 season, EDI facilitators and educators Seena Hodges and Roberto Soto-Carrion provided both BIPOC affinity spaces and anti-racist workshops for our Young Artists and interns as a way to support dialogue around racism.
- As we continue to expand our current orientation efforts, we will create ongoing Anti-Racism/EDI trainings with qualified facilitators as part of the residency of seasonal staff, interns and artists.
RECRUITMENT AND HIRING
- Since 2018, to recruit seasonal interns, the Festival has partnered with the Roundabout Theatre’s Theatrical Workforce Development Program, which works to make the technical theater field more accessible and equitable.
- Specific additional recruitment strategies are being identified to diversify our full-time and seasonal staff, artists and interns, including production teams, directors and conductors.
PRODUCTIONS AND PROGRAMMING
- The Glimmerglass Festival partnered with Colgate University to lead pre- and post-show conversations around performances of Blue in 2019. We will continue incorporating new organizations, institutions and communities into programming connected to the onstage productions.
- We are continuing to foster and commission new work from diverse communities, and investing in dialogue about representation in all works we produce, re-imagining and recontextualizing stories as needed.
- We are working toward expanding our Youth Opera Program to communicate the company’s commitment to equity in all interactions with schools and all-state/regional chorales, and connect with children in previously overlooked communities.
- The Cooperstown Inclusion Consortium was formed in the summer of 2020 to ensure BIPOC are welcomed and included in the Central New York community. A representative from our EDI Task Force has joined the Consortium.
- Our Town Hall events and programmed conversations will continue to provide dialogue with our audiences, and we are strategizing new tactics for diversifying our ticket buyers.
- We are building new connections to communities underrepresented across our fields, and outside the traditional opera network.
EVALUATION AND TRANSPARENCY
- The X Lab of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University was hired to evaluate the Breaking Glass series in 2018. X Lab will now develop a two-year EDI evaluation of The Glimmerglass Festival to be shared with the field at its conclusion.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
Glimmerglass stands with the Black community and against racism. Our company has and continues to strive toward building a more inclusive opera industry under the leadership of Francesca Zambello who has expressed her commitment toward social justice and diversity since her appointment in 2010.
We acknowledge the Black community faces disproportionate racially-charged violence. We grieve the killing of Black citizens nationwide. We stand with the Black community in the fight against racism.
Thank you to our community for keeping us accountable as a company, and for continuing the conversation about allyship, representation, and inclusion in which the entire opera industry must engage. Please feel free to contact us directly to continue the conversation.
ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE
There are many ways to support the movement, through racial equity organizations, individual actions and education, and you can absolutely contribute to anti-racist work without financial cost or leaving your home. Glimmerglass staff members have compiled a list of actions and resources to use as we work toward a more just future.
Volunteer to get others registered to vote. DoSomething.org and National Voter Registration Day have tools to get you started, and organizations such as these are all working toward making sure all citizens have the opportunity to make their votes count, and their voices heard.
Contact your representatives and write your legislators. Demand criminal justice reform and investment in education and public health. The NCRA, NEA and ACLU offer a few tips for crafting a targeted and effective letter.
If you need or want to shop, Black Wallet, Shoppe Black and Support Black Owned can help you find a Black-owned business to buy from. Download the EatOkra app to find Black-owned restaurants in your area. If you’re in New York City or Los Angeles check out these databases of Black-owned restaurants. If you’re in Philadelphia, Detroit, or Atlanta, the Black and Mobile app will allow you to order delivery from Black-owned restaurants.
Think about banking with a community owned bank or credit union, as a way to divest your money from large national banks that finance policies and practices you object to. Open an account with a Black-owned bank. If you live in an area with more than one, you can compare them here.
There are many organizations that are committed to education and activism. Here are some that we would recommend:
LEARNING AND EDUCATION
ACTION AND SOLIDARITY
READING AND LISTENING
These magazines, articles and podcasts are an excellent way to increase your awareness.
Lastly, here is a list of some books to strengthen your understanding. You can buy them from these independent, Black-owned bookstores:
The Half Has Never Been Told, by Edward Baptist
So You want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Olua
The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
Me and White Supremacy, by Layla Saad
When Affirmative Action Was White, by Ira Katznelson
The People’s History of The United States, by Howard Zinn
Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James Loewen
Stamped From the Beginning, by Ibram X. Kendi
CONNECTING WITH COMMUNITY
COOPERSTOWN INCLUSION CONSORTIUM
The people of the Cooperstown, New York community are committed to supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and the national call to anti-racist action. The Cooperstown Inclusion Consortium was formed to ensure Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are welcomed and included in all respects, and that all individuals who move to the community for work or other reasons feel it is a safe and enjoyable place in which to live and thrive for years to come. The committee of writers, artists, educators, medical professionals and business people includes a representative from the Glimmerglass Festival EDI Task Force.
ATTICA CORRECTIONAL FACILITY PROGRAM
Since 2015, members of The Glimmerglass Festival have traveled to Attica Correctional Facility to offer performances. Our inaugural trip included Artistic Advisor Eric Owens, Melody Moore and Soloman Howard performing excerpts from Macbeth. The initiative has gone on to include mentorship of a theater group started by the men incarcerated at Attica, classes about opera and theater, and an annual performance of an abridged production in which renowned principal guest artists from the Festival are joined by a chorus of men who are incarcerated at the prison.
UTICA YOUTH INITIATIVE
In 2018, a consortium of six social service organizations that work with underserved teens in two nearby counties began an educational partnership with the Festival; this evolved in 2019 to encompass more than a dozen groups and has been expanded into two additional counties. As a result, 250 participants attended performances of Blue, a world premiere by Jeanine Tesori and Tazewell Thompson, and had the opportunity to meet the creators. The initiative was set to expand further in 2020.
The Glimmerglass Festival worked with the Kelberman Center, which offers programs and services for children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families, to provide sensory-friendly performances. The Festival worked with a Kelberman Center educator to create a theatrical experience that may be enjoyed by youths or adults with autism or other sensory sensitivities and provide a welcoming environment where talking, noise and movement throughout the theater are encouraged. A social story that offered an introduction to the campus and performance space was provided on The Glimmerglass Festival website, and families were encouraged to bring anything that may make their theater-going experience more comfortable.
MUSIC STUDENT REWARDS PROGRAM
Glimmerglass sponsors the Music Student Rewards Program, which annually awards two tickets to a Festival production to local and regional students who receive music awards from their high school. This program has been expanded to more than 100 high schools in the region. Glimmerglass’s youth and student ticket prices, paired with programs like the company’s Music Student Rewards Program, have been developed to expose young people to opera.
THE JUNGLE BOOK
The Jungle Book, by Kamala Sankaram and Kelley Rourke, is the fourth youth opera commissioned by The Glimmerglass Festival. The Jungle Book draws on both European and Indian classical music traditions, not only to create a sense of place within the opera, but also to offer young performers a greater sense of the world and the commonalities shared between cultures.
This opera was set to premiere during the 2020 Festival. In this Glimpse, you experience the premiere showing of one of the arias from this new opera, followed by educational information on Indian classical music and dance.
FROM THE DIARY OF SALLY HEMINGS
This dramatic song cycle by William Bolcom and Sandra Seaton imagines the experience of Sally Hemings, who was enslaved by Thomas Jefferson, through fictional diary entries. Sung in first person with piano, the piece tells Hemings’ story from age 9 until Jefferson’s death. Originally programmed for the 2020 Festival, a Glimpse was offered virtually instead.
RHIANNON GIDDENS & FRANCESCO TURRISI
Rhiannon Giddens has made it a mission of her career to excavate, perform and record the music of Black Americans, including folk songs, spirituals, hymns, classical and modern works. She and Francesco Turrisi were scheduled to perform a concert featuring works from their album there is No Other during the 2020 Festival, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recipient of the 2020 Award for “Best New Opera” by the Music Critics Association of America, the opera Blue made its world premiere at Glimmerglass in 2019. Festival Artistic & General Director Francesca Zambello commissioned librettist/director Tazewell Thompson and composer Jeanine Tesori to create the work, which presents a Black family navigating heartbreak and anger after their son is shot dead by a White police officer.
Glimmerglass partnered with WFMT Radio Network in Chicago to create a series of national forums and a five-episode podcast hosted by Paige Hernandez, with Tazewell Thompson, sparking discussions about how opera and the arts respond to present-day issues. Breaking Glass is inspired by Glimmerglass Festival repertory and its recent and upcoming productions that highlight social issues like race, resettlement and homeland. The national forums, touring in eight cities throughout the United States, explored the evolution of opera and the arts in a changing world.
As part of its 2017 season, The Glimmerglass Festival presented the world-premiere hip-hop opera Stomping Grounds, a show written entirely in verse blending hip-hop, spoken word and opera. The production traveled to 11 regional community venues throughout New York State and three in New York City, in performance workshops and discussions hosted by librettist, director and choreographer Paige Hernandez, an acclaimed performer, director, and playwright known for her effective fusion of theater, hip-hop, dance and education.
Written by Hernandez and composed by Victor Simonson, Stomping Grounds offered positive affirmation about cultural identity, diversity, and connection to home in an hour-long piece. The development of Stomping Grounds and related public programs was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
LOST IN THE STARS
Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars, based on Cry, the Beloved Country, the classic novel by Alan Paton, presents the story of South African priest Stephen Kumalo’s spiritual crisis during the time of social unrest that led to apartheid. To create its 2012 production, The Glimmerglass Festival embarked on a multifaceted cultural exchange. The co-production, directed by Tazewell Thompson, premiered at Cape Town Opera, where Thompson worked with South African designer Michael Mitchell and directed a cast of leading South African opera artists. When the production traveled to Cooperstown the following summer, a continent of South African performers joined the summer company, performing in Lost in the Stars and other mainstage productions, as well as in a special program of music from South Africa.
VOICES OF SOUTH AFRICA
South African artists presented Khosa, Zulu, Tswana and Afrikaans songs for several performances in the Pavilion, one of the Festival’s second stage spaces.
PREJEAN & MILLER
This Virtual Town Hall featured Sister Helen Prejean, the author of Dead Man Walking, and Teresa A. Miller, Senior Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Chief Diversity Officer for The State University of New York (SUNY) and criminal procedure specialist.
This Virtual Town Hall discussed how stories about our past can shape our future. Featuring historian Alexander Karn, documentary filmmaker and Holocaust survivor Tana Ross, and stage director Francesca Zambello.
Tana Ross survived the Theresienstadt concentration camp as a young girl, and in 1998 collaborated with filmmakers Sylvie Bringas and Orly Yadin to produce the animated short film Silence, which narrates her personal memories of survival and loss.
Alexander (Xan) Karn is an Associate Professor of History and Director of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at Colgate University. He is the author of Amendng the Past: Europe’s Holocaust Comissions and the Right to History, and the co-editor, with Elzar Barkin, of Taking Wrongs Seriously: Apologies and Reconciliations, which examines the role of apology in political discourse.
THE ROLE OF AN ARTS ORGANIZATION
In 2020, Glimmerglass began our revised summer programming with a Virtual Town Hall to discuss how the opera industry and arts organizations can work toward a more inclusive environment for Black artists, technicians and staff members. Artistic & General Director Francesca Zambello, Music Director Joseph Colaneri and Artistic Advisor Eric Owens listened and responded to questions and comments.
The Glimmerglass Festival is committed to listening, learning and expanding our support of the Black community. We thank all who attended, and hope you will continue to join us in conversation.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is the author of bestselling books The Beautiful Struggle, We Were Eight Years in Power and Between the World And Me, an exploration of America’s racial history that won the National Book Award in 2015. He is also the current author of the Marvel comics The Black Panther and Captain America. He came to the Alice Busch Opera Theater for an engaging discussion on social justice and race.
With the Emmy Award-winning Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale and the Netflix series Alias Grace both enjoying critical acclaim, author Margaret Atwood came to the Alice Busch Opera Theater for a wide-ranging discussion that covered both her work as an author, and her thoughts on feminism.
JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spoken at The Glimmerglass Festival seven times, sharing her passion for opera and her perspective on law in the arts. Frequently presented alongside members of the Glimmerglass Young Artists Program, singers enact selected scenes that deal with law and justice, followed by Justice Ginsburg’s insights.
Breaking Glass: Hyper-Linking Opera & Issues is a project comprised of a five-episode podcast series co-produced by the WFMT Radio Network in Chicago and eight national forums inspired by new work written specifically for the Festival. The Breaking Glass project offers the Glimmerglass audience insight into how music and art can respond to issues we face as a society and examines diversity and inclusion in America. Breaking Glass is a community conversation designed to provoke thoughtful discourse about these important topics.