War and peace in Otsego County.

Crossing Shadow Brook on Rathbun Road, Otsego County

I love small town America and it doesn't get much smaller than Hartwick, south of Cooperstown. We decided to try the local diner for breakfast despite a warning from our airbnb host. He was right but the coffee was drinkable and I enjoyed listening to the locals talking about out-of-towners. "Have you seen the size of their SUVs?"
The view while driving country roads.

We were amused as a police car approached us on our walk and gave us a friendly wave. It started to rain as we set off back home and a local, mowing his lawn, asked us how far we were going. " I could give you a ride home if you want," he offered. This caused me to wax lyrical about the kindness you encounter from Americans while my Canadian husband rolled his eyes.

We're here in upstate New York for the Glimmerglass Festival and in contrast to the peace and love all around us, today has a distinct wartime feel. There is the moving Pulitzer prize-winning opera Silent Night about the Christmastime truce during the First World War and then opera superstar Eric Owens and the very talented members of the Young Artist Program sing songs from wartime. ("There'll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover" anyone?)

Evening light on the road to Cherry Valley

We take our daily swim at Fairy Springs Park and then are bowled over by this production of Silent Night. (Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell). The set was divided into three levels on stage with soldiers from Scotland, France and Germany in each, constantly reacting to the story as it unfolded. When, as in real life, they all agree to halt fighting at Christmastime they descend onto the stage to shake hands, share stories and chocolate. Such a perfect subject for an opera with this one moment in time summing up the futility of war. 

Tenor Arnold Livingston Geis. Photo Karli Cadel

Standout performer for us was Arnold Livingston Geis who owned the stage in his role as the opera singer sent to fight, Nikolaus Sprink.  Also Conor McDonald was wonderful as aide and barber, Ponchel, whose death, after agreeing to swap uniforms with a German to visit his mother in a nearby village,  is heartbreaking. I'd seen this show before at Montreal Opera and was not prepared to feel so moved again but the production, directed by Atlanta Opera's Tomer Zvulun and conducted by Nicole Paiement, was truly beautiful. 

Eric Owens' concert Over There was marked by some great performances, not just from the man himself, but from many young artists. I particularly loved Alexandria Shiner singing "I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier" and Jawan Cliff-Morris' performance of "Brother, can you spare a dime?". There is an extra special silence which grips an audience when Owens sings. I've witnessed it here before in Lost in the Stars. Today it was the same for "Over There"," I'll be seeing you" and "There'll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover."(Always a good one for a Brit).

Our favourite restaurant, The Rose and Kettle in Cherry Valley.

 One of the delights of visiting the Glimmerglass Festival is driving around the lovely country roads of Otsego County and as we headed out for dinner we got to enjoy the yellow evening light over the cornfields, old barns and wooden houses. Arriving early in Cherry Valley, a quirky little town, we strolled the deserted streets in the last light before dinner at our favourite restaurant, the Rose and Kettle. Singers from the show, including Eric Owens, were dining there too and it seemed like the perfect end to the perfect day.

The town of Cherry Valley in Otsego County.
Glimmerglass Festival runs until August 25. Read more about it here.


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