As one of the world’s leading opera directors Francesca Zambello’s career has taken her around the globe, jetting to such illustrious houses as La Scala, Covenant Garden and the Metropolitan Opera. But as the new artistic director of Glimmerglass Opera, she’s been spending much of the fall driving herself around the Northeast, talking up the company with potential patrons and friends, from the Finger Lakes in New York to the central portions of Massachusetts.
During her visit to the Capital Region last month we shared lunch at Jack’s Oyster House in downtown Albany. I thought the conversation would be about opera repertoire and casting (and wondered if I’d be out of my league). In an unexpected role reversal, I was the one being peppered with questions. Zambello wanted to hear about the local economic and culture scene and to learn where else she should go and who else she should talk to in order to build support for Glimmerglass.
“I’m the artistic director but also the associate development director,” she joked.
Beyond fundraising, another priority is building ties to other cultural and civic organizations with the goal of reaching new audiences. For this coming summer, Zambello is setting in place collaborations with regional groups as diverse as the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Fenimore Art Museum and the Ommegang Brewery, all in Cooperstown, as well as the Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute in Utica and even the local penitentiary (with the notion of getting inmates to help spruce up the grounds).
Opera also came up, of course, but Zambello didn’t give any hint as to what’s in store for future seasons. She said that the programming decisions for her entire three-year contract are in place and that more big name artists can be expected. The headliner for this coming summer, of course, is Deborah Voigt in “Annie Get Your Gun.” Zambello’s close associations was such major artists was one of the reasons she got the job.
Though Zambello never suggested that the Cooperstown-based company is exactly on the ropes, she conveyed a palpable urgency and determination. Tight finances, she said, are common throughout the field. “As a director,” she said, “at every company I work at, the question is how to do things better but for less money.”
You can hear more of Zambello’s history and plans for Glimmerglass at the company’s website, which has an audio recording of a talk she gave this summer in Cooperstown.
Photos courtesy Glimmerglass Opera.