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Opera Saratoga Kicks Off 60th Anniversary Season With ‘Don Quixote’–Inspired Performances

The Saratoga opera company will be hosting performances in live, socially distanced settings.

Opera Saratoga will be kicking off its 60th anniversary season with a number of performances inspired by Don Quixote, as seen at left in this 19th-century Swedish painting.

It’s time to dust off those opera glasses, Saratoga. Today, Opera Saratoga has unveiled its 60th anniversary season and 2021 Summer Festival with a number of performances inspired by epic Spanish novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. To up the ante a little bit—but nodding to COVID’s not-quite-yet curtain-call—the opera company will be teaming up with the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), Saratoga Spa State Park and Pitney Meadows Community Farm to host COVID-safe, in-person performances throughout the city this June and July.

First up will be Opera Saratoga’s presentation of the Tony Award-winning musical, Man of La Mancha at SPAC, featuring Broadway and Opera star Zachary James in the role of Cervantes/Don Quixote; and Opera Saratoga favorite, Kelly Glyptis, returning to Saratoga in the role of Aldonza. (You may remember Glyptis’ moving performance at last year’s Saratoga Living/Capital Region Living Capital Region Gives Back celebration). The COVID-safe production, directed and choreographed by Opera Saratoga’s Artistic and General Director Lawrence Edelson will feature projection and lighting design by Barry Steele, costumes by Glenn Avery Breed, and will be conducted by Laura Bergquist, who most recently led the musical, Allegiance, on Broadway. La Mancha, with a book by Dale Wasserman, music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, was inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th-century masterpiece, Don Quixote. A universal tale of love, hope and adventure, La Mancha celebrates the perseverance of one man who refuses to relinquish his ideals—who is determined to see life not as it is, but as it ought to be. The celebrated score includes “The Impossible Dream,” “I, Don Quixote,” “Dulcinea,” “I Really Like Him,” “Little Bird” and “To Each His Dulcinea.” Three performances are scheduled on SPAC’s main stage July 8–10 at 8pm.

Next, with a focus more on classical form, will be Don Quichotte at Camacho’s Wedding, a one-act comic serenata by Georg Philipp Telemann with a libretto by Daniel Schiebeler, inspired by an episode in Don Quixote, in which the knight and his squire, Sancho Panza, encounter some rather strange wedding celebrations as they roam the world in search of adventure. The al fresco production will be staged by Rebecca Miller Kratzer and will be conducted by Michelle Rofrano in and around the Columbia Pavilion in Saratoga Spa State Park, with the backdrop of the forest creating a natural setting for this pastoral adventure. The performances will feature Festival Artists from Opera Saratoga’s Young Artist Program—the second oldest professional training program for emerging professional singers in the country. Twelve performances are scheduled between July 14–18, with performances at 11am, 1pm and 6pm.

Additionally, Opera Saratoga will host on a third performance event—think of it as a centuries old operatic mixtape—entitled Quixotic Opera, which will feature a concert of scenes from other operas inspired by Cervantes’ novel, presented in partnership with Pitney Meadows. The program, under the music direction of Laurie Rogers, will feature scenes from Don Quichotte chez la Duchesse (1743) by Joseph Bodin de Boismortier and Charles Simon Favart; Die Hochzeit des Camacho (1827) by Felix Mendelssohn and Friedrich Voigts; Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo (1833) by Gaetano Donizetti and Jacopo Ferretti; Don Quixote (1898) by Wilhelm Kienzl; La Venta de Don Quijote (1902) by Ruperto Chapí and Carlos Fernandez Shaw; Don Quichotte (1910) by Jules Massenet and Henri Caïn; and El retablo de maese Pedro (1923) by Manuel de Falla. Two performances are scheduled for June 24 and 25 at 7pm.

“As we considered how to best return to the stage this summer, I found myself repeatedly drawn to works inspired by Don Quixote,” notes Edelson. “I think we’ve all needed to channel some of the famous knight-errant’s idealism and extreme optimism—and to dream impossible dreams in the face of unprecedented challenges. Thanks to the willingness and enthusiasm of our partners at SPAC, Spa State Park and Pitney Meadows to dream with us, we are able to come back together as a community to safely enjoy some incredible music and theater together this summer.” Edelson adds that: “The enormous size of the SPAC amphitheater will allow us to welcome socially distanced audiences as well as to stage Man of La Mancha with all necessary safety protocols in place, incorporating vivid projection design to enhance the production; while the more intimate spaces in Spa State Park and at Pitney Meadows Community Farm will allow for safe gathering of smaller audiences in covered, open-air venues that allow us to draw upon the natural beauty and intimacy of these unique spaces.”

As an added bonus, Opera Saratoga will also offer an eight-week online course leading up to the festival, entitled Another Age, Another Place, Another La Mancha: Don Quixote and the Birth of the Modern World. Taught by Skidmore professor Grace Burton, it will explore why the story of an old man’s wanderings through the dusty plains of 17th-century Spain has captured the imagination of philosophers and filmmakers, composers and choreographers, dramatists and dreamers alike. “To answer this question, we will go back to the time and space of Cervantes’ La Mancha,” says Burton. “What we will find there is a man who, having arrived too late to live in a chivalric world filled with knights in shining armor and damsels in distress, sets out on an adventure that leads not to the past he so fervently admires, but to a future he never could have imagined: the world we now recognize as modern.” The course will be offered exclusively via Zoom, on eight consecutive Wednesday evenings, from May 12 through June 30.

Below, find the full schedule:

Quixotic Opera at Pitney Meadows (concert)
Thursday, June 24 at 7pm
Friday, June 25 at 7pm

Tickets, which cost $50 per two-person pod, can be purchased here. Tickets will go on sale May 3 for Opera Saratoga members and May 10 for the general public.

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Man of La Mancha at SPAC amphitheater (musical)
Thursday, July 8 at 8pm
Friday, July 9 at 8pm
Saturday, July 10 at 8pm

Priority on tickets will be offered to Opera Saratoga members (call 518.584.6018) and SPAC members on May 3, with the general public added into the mix on May 10. Purchase tickets here. Tickets will be available in the following tiers:
A: $125 (single tickets) or $250 (two-person pod)
B: $100 (single tickets) or $200 (two-person pod)
C: $80 (single tickets) or $160 (two-person pod)
D: $60 (single tickets) or $120 (two-person pod)
E: $40 (single tickets) or $80 (two-person pod)
LAWN: Lawn tickets are available to purchase for $30 (single tickets); $60 (two-person pod) or $120 (four-person pod)

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Don Quichotte at Camacho’s Wedding at the Columbia Pavilion in Spa State Park (opera)
Wednesday, July 14 at 11am, 6pm, 8pm
Thursday, July 15 at 11am, 6pm, 8pm
Friday, July 16 at 11am, 6pm
Sunday, July 18 at 11am, 1pm

Tickets cost $100 per two-person pod and will go on sale first for Opera Saratoga members on May 3 and for the general public, May 10. Members should call 518.584.6018 for priority tickets. All other tickets, on and after May 10, can be purchased here.

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Another Age, Another Place, Another La Mancha: Don Quixote and the Birth of the Modern World via Zoom (online course)

May 12–June 30, every Wednesday evening from 7pm-8:30pm
Cost: $95 ($70 for Opera Saratoga Guild Members); to register, call 518.584.6018 or visit Opera Saratoga’s website.

Will Levith

Will Levith is Editorial Director at Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living magazine. He's a native Saratogian and graduate of Saratoga Springs High School. His work has been published by Esquire, Playboy, Condé Nast Traveler, Men's Health, RealClearLife and many others. He lives in Troy with his wife, Laura, and dog, Esopus.

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