Wednesday, June 1, 2016

For one brief shining moment. . .

Cooperstown, New York is mostly known for the Baseball Hall of Fame and a fine attraction it is, too. I love baseball and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Hall of Fame; I would happily go again.

But Cooperstown offers more than baseball and one of my favourite memories from our last visit there was live theatre at the Glimmerglass Festival.

The author, James Fenimore Cooper, was born and grew up in Cooperstown. The town was named after his father who was a judge. It's situated on the shores of the beautiful Otsego Lake. It was James who first called the lake "Glimmerglass" in his novel, The Deerslayer.

(A short aside: The name Glimmerglass was not new to me. You may know — because I've probably told you — that I'm one of the self-described experts on the works of L.M. Montgomery. There was a time when I could recite by heart whole pages from her books — and I was just a little kid! Anyway. . . when I saw the Cooper reference to Glimmerglass, I went to Anne of Avonlea and turned to page 106. I found Anne and three of her friends roaming through woodlands where they found a small shallow pool. They ran a little contest to choose a name for the pool. It was Anne's friend, Priscilla, who chose Glimmer-glass — it wasn't the winner — and there was no mention of James Fenimore Cooper.)

The Glimmerglass Festival started out as The Glimmerglass Opera and its opera is still its major production. But it's branched out enormously and now does, in repertory, a Broadway musical, youth productions, second-stage plays, workshops etc. The opera being performed the summer we were there was The Flying Dutchman and I honestly didn't think I could happily sit through three hours of Wagner on a beautiful summer's day. (The opera this summer is La bohème. I would happily sit through that.)

We decided to do the Broadway musical — Camelot. I was glad to be able to see it on stage. I had never seen it anywhere although I knew the music well. I knew the music from the original Broadway production although for some awful reason which I don't know, I own the long-playing soundtrack of the movie. I feel such hostility even thinking about it that I should go routing around in the basement until I find it and make sure I put it out in the yard sale. I think I got it at a yard sale, now that I think about it.

While I've been writing this, I've been thinking of successful Broadway musicals that were turned into terrible movies because Hollywood producers were too short-sighted and greedy to put the Broadway stars into the films. But that's a story for another day. For sure.

Part of the experience of Glimmerglass is just being in that lovely setting. When you take your seat, the walls are still retracted so you're in an open-air theatre. As the production starts, the walls descend as the lights go down.

This photo was taken in the aisle, right beside our seats.

It was a beautiful production. It starred Nathan Gunn in the role of Lancelot, with David Pittsinger as King Arthur and Andriana Chuchman — from Winnipeg — as Guenevere.

At Glimmerglass, the music was provided by a 42-piece orchestra and the singers don't use microphones so it was a beautiful authentic musical experience. The songs — I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight?, The Simple Joys of Maidenhood, Camelot, C'est Moi, The Lusty Month of May, Then You May Take Me to the Fair, If Ever I Would Leave You, What Do the Simple Folk Do?, I Loved You Once in Silence, and others — are as lovely as they ever were (and much nicer than the renditions on my movie record.)

I love musicals. I listened earlier to Robert Goulet, as Sir Lancelot, singing If Ever I Would Leave You. It was a sublime experience. I intended to come here and write a few pleasant things about musicals I've loved and others that I haven't loved. I'll be sure and do that — soon.

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