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2020 Capital Region Gives Back: Lawrence Edelson, Artistic and General Director, Opera Saratoga

With Opera Saratoga's 2020 season canceled, Edelson has pivoted to digital, launching a number of virtual programming initiatives.

Opera Saratoga's Lawrence Edelson. (Dori Fitzpatrick)

Last winter feels like an eternity ago, doesn’t it? When Saratoga Living unveiled our inaugural Saratoga Gives Back list and event in December 2019, we had the luxury of throwing a classy launch party, during which we were able to rub elbows with our honored guests, giving them the royal treatment in front of a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd. Thousands of dollars were raised for the honorees’ organizations, and all was merry and bright.

This year, our 10 newest honorees—five in Saratoga Living, five in Capital Region Living—are working under much more trying circumstances (i.e. the pandemic) in a year when their organizations are hurting a little bit more than usual. That, and we’ve traded rubbing elbows for 20-second handwashing.

So our newly minted Capital Region Gives Back event, which we’ll be hosting on December 10, will look a little different this year, due to COVID restrictions. But the endgame will be the same: raising money for great Spa City causes. (To get tickets to the event, click here.)

Join Saratoga Living as we honor our 2020 class of givers.

—the Editors

***

When COVID decimated Saratoga Springs’ renowned performing arts season this past summer, it was a crushing blow to the area’s economy and affected an enormous amount of people. But, the show must go on, and Lawrence Edelson, the passionate Opera Saratoga artistic and general director, was left to usher in the oh-so-classical opera to a techie new world.

“This is going to have a permanent impact on our field,” Edelson says. “Hopefully, what it’s going to do is catalyze and accelerate our thinking about technology in the arts. We have some catching up to do, because digital and virtual engagement are not our expertise; live performance is.”

As it turns out, Edelson was a quick study. In November, the opera launched America Sings, a monthly series live-streamed from Caffè Lena and featuring BIPOC performers, who have been historically under-represented in the classical arts.

In addition to the Herculean challenges involved with keeping an artistic company afloat (Edelson promises there will be a season in summer 2021!) through a pandemic, he has also worked tirelessly to preserve the opera’s vital educational programming. One addition that stands out is a new music therapy program, made possible by a partnership with Songs by Heart, that will soon use new software with low latency to allow the opera’s interactive music activities for Alzheimer’s patients to happen virtually. While Edelson looks forward to hopefully being in-person again by next spring (“There is incredible value in holding the hand of a patient”), he has high hopes for the newly rejiggered program this winter. “We’re going to be the only opera in the country that has a full-time music therapy program for Alzheimer’s patients,” Edelson says of the opera’s partnership with Songs by Heart. “This is very personal to me, because I’ve had a number of members of my family, including my father, who have had Alzheimer’s.”

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