History

BarnThe Glimmerglass Opera Orchestra was founded in 1975 by Music Director Charles Schneider with a group of musicians mainly culled from the Catskill Symphony. Beginning humbly, the rehearsals and performances of Glimmerglass Opera were held in the Cooperstown High School auditorium, which did not have an orchestra pit, so a curtained railing was constructed to partially block the players from the audience's view of the stage. The seating capacity was small--only about 1200 people in total attended the four performances of La Boheme, the single opera production presented that inaugural season.
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In June 1987, the Alice Busch Opera Theater publicly opened. The season started very early that first summer at the opera house--around the second week of June-- and went past Labor Day. Many things were not ready yet in the house, and the orchestra rehearsed in a dilapidated old building in Springfield Center called the Pied Piper, which was later condemned. There were three shows that summer: Tschaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance, and Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, as well as a gala that preceded the first production (and included such stars such as Frederica Von Stade and Kitty Carlisle Hart). It was all very exciting: Stewart Robertson auditioned to be Music Director that summer on the Britten; Paul Nadler (from the Met) conducted the Tchaikovsky. No one cared that the pit was too small, with no seating platforms, and that it was cold; we currently have space heaters, but there weren't any in 1987. Charles Schneider was the company's Music Director for 11 years; his close working relationship with the orchestra, chorus and solo singers helped to foster long-term commitments from many of the original members to the opera company. The orchestra's tubist, Charles England, for instance, not only played in the orchestra when his instrument needed, but was a member of the chorus in the 1981 production of Manon Lescaut. This passionate commitment enabled the young company to grow and expand. By the end of Schneider's tenure, the Alice Busch Opera Theater had been built and the company had relocated to its current campus.

BarnSets were still being built until the day of the performances, and sometimes they malfunctioned. There were lots of little loose ends amiss, but it did not matter--there was magic in the air. The audiences were capacity and everyone was thrilled with the opera house and the setting. There was tremendous camaraderie and a sense of shared mission. Everyone wanted the Opera to succeed, and felt its potential.

Following this season, Stewart Robertson was appointed Music Director, a position he held until 2006. Under his leadership, the Young American Artists program was introduced, new operas were commissioned, the orchestra made its first commercial recordings (of Richard Rodney Bennett's The Mines of Sulfur and Stephen Hartke's The Greater Good) and its first television appearance (on Thirteen/WNET's Great Performances, telecasting Glimmerglass' world premiere production of the triptych Central Park). The Young American Artists program has grown to become one of the most prestigious fellowship programs in the country, and over the years the orchestra has accompanied many new stars in the making.

In 2006, Robertson announced his retirement, ending his long association with Glimmerglass. Two years of another Music Director search followed, and the 2009 season marked a new chapter for the Orchestra, under the leadership of new Music Director David Angus. At the end of the 2011 season Maestro Angus left Glimmerglass to focus on his new appointment as Music Director of the Boston Lyric Opera. In 2014, Joseph Colaneri was appointed Glimmerglass Festival Music Director. Maestro Colaneri has brought a new enthusiasm and energy and we look forward to a long collaboration.

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