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Opera Saratoga

The courtyard of a girls’ school in the 17th century is the original locale of the first production of the amazing dance opera, Dido and Aeneas. That being said, there is no better space for Opera Saratoga to premier their version of the show this summer than their own lovely outdoor park setting.

Lake George Opera, now Opera Saratoga, has been playing to audi- ences since July 5, 1962, and the company has performed 90 different fully staged works by 52 different composers. It is seeing a rebirth in its intimate theater in the gorgeous state park, with new artistic and general director Larry Edelson.

“I first came to Opera Saratoga as a guest stage director in 2013. I had never been to Saratoga Springs before, and I was amazed by the incred- ible arts community here as well as the natural beauty of the area,” Larry explained. “When I was here as a director, I remember thinking to myself that it would be really exciting if Opera Saratoga could integrate more with the unique natural and historic sites in the region and could play a more integrated role in the community. We have a very intimate, under-500-seat theater, and in this park we are producing a very diverse repertoire with sing- ers from leading opera companies around the globe. Quite frankly, there is nowhere else in the county where audiences can hear world-class opera in such a beautiful and intimate setting as Opera Saratoga.”

Peter Speliopoulos is lending his creative genius as costumer to the first opera, and his repertoire encompasses a storied legend. He has been a fashion designer more than 30 years and currently is creative director of Donna Karan New York. Karole Armitage is the choreographer and director for the show that will bring the classical poem to life. Karole is one of the most brilliant choreographers working today. She has created pieces for bal- let and opera companies internationally, Broadway productions, Cirque du Soleil and music videos for Madonna and Michael Jackson.

“I met Karole socially in Paris in 1998, and we began our collaboration in Athens for the 2000 premiere of Aristophanes’ The Birds. I adore working in the performing arts, dance and opera,” Peter extolled. “The purity, the devotion to art that each individual has to the craft, the piece, the result. I find beauty in the individual. I love fashion, which of course has commercial applications. Fashion informs my choices, because it speaks to the now! But costumes also speak to the forever. It is a privilege that is rare to expe- rience. I attempt to create costumes that have certain timelessness, even if informed by history, and reflect an abstract time and place. They are by no means authentic, but they possess some classical feelings of antiquity. Moreover, there is a general ritualistic feeling, a primitivism that I hope feels modern, raw, yet graceful and elegant. Touches of the ancient world, the melding of cultures, and Africa, especially with regard to the dancers. I really want to keep it simple, and that should be strength.”

Larry is truly making opera more accessible to the area by expanding their programs in the community leading up to the Summer Festival, so that more people have access to opera year-round. The Summer Festival is the culmination of these annual activities and an incredible celebration that in- cludes three new productions and ten concerts throughout June and July. “I feel it is very important that we are a part of the pulse of Saratoga Springs throughout the year. Many of the other arts programs that are presented here in the summer are not based here, but we are!” Larry smiled. “As a Saratoga- based organization, we have an obligation to provide our communities with exciting programs that enrich and inspire beyond the Summer Festival. To do this, we have expanded our annual Opera-to-Go winter tour of in-school opera performances and we recently launched a new program, Saratoga Sings!, which provides free monthly concerts at unexpected locations from Albany to the North Country.”

The upcoming shows will wow audiences. Dido and Aeneas is an op- era that incorporates dance throughout. The Long Walk is the first world premiere to be presented by Opera Saratoga in 27 years. The opera is written by composer Jeremy Howard Beck and one of the most important women librettists working today, Stephanie Fleischmann, who is also a member of the playwriting faculty at Skidmore College. Rossini’s version of Cinderella doesn’t have a glass slipper. It was considered too risqué by the censors to show a naked foot on stage in the early 19th century, so La Cenerentola librettist Jacopo Ferretti devised another way for the Prince to identify Cinderella once she leaves the ball. “But you’ll have to come to the opera to find out how!” Larry noted.

Larry emphasized for HERLIFE readers how many opportunities there are for women in opera, both on stage and behind the scenes. In addi- tion to singers, many members of the production teams involved in this year’s productions are among the leading women working in opera today. The head electrician and props master are both women, and the scenic designer for La Cenerentola and The Long Walk is Mimi Lien, an incredibly exciting young designer out of New York City who makes her Saratoga debut with Opera Saratoga this summer.

The costume designer for The Long Walk is Nancy Leary, who joins the company from Boston to make her company debut this summer. Conduc- tor for Dido and Aeneas is Nicole Paiement, one of the foremost women conductors working today.

“I hope the audience will discover many nuances and feel transcend- ed,” Peter revealed.