Since taking over as artistic and general director of Opera Saratoga in 2014 Lawrence Edelson has sought to bring opera directly to the people. He’s staged performances in the middle of the woods with snow on the ground, at museums like The Hyde Collection and at bars like Parish Public House in Albany and The Parting Glass in Saratoga. Edelson has assumed control of an opera company formed in 1962 that has grown to become part of the fabric of the local community but also of the international opera community as it serves as a training ground for emerging young talent.
“Hundreds of people who have never been to an Opera Saratoga performance before joined us for these events, creating new opportunities for us to introduce local audiences to opera and classical vocal music,’ Edelson told The Alt.
Edelson hopes that those events planted seeds that will sprout this spring as people touched by those unorthodox performances will come to Saratoga for their traditional productions.
Opera Saratoga’s season begins May 27 with a series of free concerts staged across the region. The official opera season starts on July 1 and runs to July 16.
The traditional opera offering will be Verdi’s Falstaff, a work that Opera Saratoga hasn’t produced in 25 years. “Falstaff was Verdi’s final opera, and is one of the great comic works in the repertoire. When I found out that bass baritone Craig Colclough – one of the greatest interpreters of the title role – was available to join us in Saratoga Springs this summer, I knew we had to create a new production. The music is absolutely brilliant, and it is truly a comic masterpiece,” said Edelson.
Broadway fans will likely take interest in Opera Saratoga’s production of The Cradle Will Rock by Marc Blitzstein. The show was initially so controversial when it premiered in 1937 that the government looked to close it before it got started.
“The show was originally shut down on its opening night by the government in an act of censorship because the pro-union plot was feared to be too radical,” said Edelson. “The Works Progress Administration (the federal agency that oversaw the Federal Theatre) abruptly canceled the production and sent armed guards to keep any costumes or sets from being removed from the theater. Actors’ Equity also barred cast members from performing the show onstage. Undeterred, Blitzstein, John Houseman (the original producer), and Orson Welles (the original director) found another theater and moved a battered upright piano and the cast uptown, along with hundreds of onlookers, so that Blitzstein could sing through his piece for the audience. As Blitzstein launched into the introduction from the piano, Olive Stanton (Moll) stood up in her seat and sang the opening number from the audience. The rest of the cast followed suit, and one of the greatest stories of Broadway history was born!”
As far as popular works go, the company’s production of Grétry’s Beauty’ and the Beast may have the widest appeal. “Grétry was one of Mozart’s favorite composers, and this piece is one of the earliest adaptations of the classic fairy tale,” said Edelson. “I have invited James Ortiz, whose recent critically acclaimed production of The Woodsman was a sensation off-Broadway this past season, to direct. James is a master of larger-than-life puppetry. His work has been compared to the great Jim Henson, and he has created something truly magical for us with this production, which incorporates dance, puppetry and music into a whimsical fairy tale for audiences of all ages. This is an ideal production for family audiences – a great way to introduce children to Opera Saratoga.”
Opera Saratoga projects subtitles for all non-english works. They also offer lecture series and other educational opportunities.
Along with their staples, Opera Saratoga is presenting a series of free and ticketed performances that include: Wand’ring Minstrels – A Gilbert & Sullivan Cabaret; Marc Blitzstein – A Life in Song (which is a free concert at Proctors); and Broadway in the 1930s.
“There are so many ways to enjoy Opera Saratoga this summer – we look forward to welcoming audiences from around the region and around the country!” Edelson said.