Glimmerglass: fine dining and fine singing in a country setting.

Glimmerglass - the festival in upstate New York - always makes me feel quite hedonistic. Not surprising when you are gorging yourself on such beautiful music in a pastoral idyll. It can go to your head. The sunsets, the sparkling wine and some of the best singers on the planet to entertain you. Attending Glimmerglass is like entering a dream. Each night is another performance of incredible quality and every morning you wake on the edge of a lake glimmering in the sunshine. What's not to like?

Our Black Cat Cafe picnic 

In this spirit of indulgence we treat ourselves to a Glimmerglass picnic made by the Black Cat Cafe on our first night. The Alice Busch Opera Theater (I know, it's American spelling) sits in the countryside outside the charming town of Cooperstown (also home of baseball). We are staying at the Bayside Inn and Marina just five minutes from the theatre where we have good WiFi and our own beach and kayaks- useful for downtime from all this fine living. The picnic was ordered online and we pick it up two hours before the show. We sit on the picnic table in the grounds and listen to a pre-show talk about Candide. There is an orange glow from the setting sun and I'm drinking an Ommegang wheat beer. Life is good.

View from our beach at the Bayside Inn and Marina
Glimmerglass Festival is celebrating its fortieth year with a stunning programme of operas including the operatta Candide with music by Leonard Bernstein. As you may know I make my living as a video producer in the opera world (check out my work on Opera McGill and Atelier lyrique's YouTube Channels) and I am a huge lover of opera. Candide was wonderful in every way - the sets and costumes were drop-dead gorgeous and we loved soprano Kathryn Lewek singing Glitter and be Gay with great passion and tenor Andrew Stenson was wonderfully innocent as Candide. You get a sense of the energy in this production in this wonderful video by Jacob McAuliffe.

As regulars to Glimmerglass will tell you there are a couple of restaurants which are not to be missed near Cooperstown. One is the Blue Mingo Grill, which sits on the edge of Lake Otsego (Glimmerglass in the James Fenimore Cooper Leatherstocking Tales). Many diners turn up by boat and you can get a table on the water and enjoy a Last of the Mojitos from the cocktail list. (see what they did there?) A beautiful setting and my citrus tuna below was to die for and by the look of it someone did die making it.

Our lakeside table at the Blue Mingo restaurant
Only complaint - a completely miserable hostess - but this place is so good even that didn't spoil it. Our waiter in contrast was charming, a local born and bred who explained to us what the fearsome siren was in Cooperstown earlier that day. He is a volunteer fireman and that is a call for all volunteers like him to turn up at the fire hall ready for action. He tells us that you can hear the sound six miles out of town. We had wondered if a nuclear war had broken out and were bemused that no-one batted an eyelid. (The other must in dining terms BTW is the Rose and Kettle in Cherry Valley.)

Dinner at the Blue Mingo
Glimmerglass offers you not just great operas but also concerts and talks so you can immerse yourself in this music with a bit of background knowledge. We took the tour backstage at the theatre - well worth doing. We find that building a set can take an hour but that before the team were well-practised it took them more like four hours. 

A singer's eye view of the Glimmerglass theatre
We get a tour of the costume department and hear tales of the first costume fittings. "That's when we find out how hopeful the singers have been about their sizes, " jokes Jodi Zanetti, costume director. She also shares some tricks of the trade on how to keep the ladies from falling out of their low-cut dresses and how to undo a laced up bodice in a couple of seconds for quick changes for the singers.

The costume shop: finding out the secrets
We're told that making the singers comfortable in their outfits is crucially important. They are certainly doing something right as the costumes in all the productions this year were stunning. Next up: Macbeth, riding carousels and flying the flag for Britain.
Cocktail list at the Blue Mingo Grill
Our previous trip to Glimmerglass


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