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The Glimmerglass Festival’s staging of The Sound of Music is a great production of a great musical.
Every aspect of the production works including the very important but rarely seen relationship between performers and audience. There is a type of magic when the performers have the audience in the palm of their hands or the audience is enthralled by the performance and they appreciate every move on stage the way the performers dream it would happen. That is what happened during the performance of The Sound of Music at the Alice Busch Opera Theater in Cooperstown, New York.
The production is directed by Francesca Zambello, the outgoing Artistic and General Director of the Glimmerglass Festival and it is a fitting farewell by a woman who has done outstanding work there.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1959 musical has had its detractors as being sentimental and far from the standards set by say Oklahoma or South Pacific. Its enormous success has silenced many of them and Zambello’s production showed nothing but enthusiasm by the audience and critics be damned.
The Sound of Music requires a worthy Maria, the would-be nun who is sent to tutor Captain von Trapp’s seven children. Mikaela Bennett is a perfect Maria. She has a beautiful voice but just as importantly she can act. She is effervescent, lovable and just what the children and the captain need.
Captain von Trapp (Michael Mays) starts as a dour martinet but guided subtly, almost imperceptibly by Maria he becomes a loving father, dumps his blonde girlfriend Elsa (Alyson Cambridge) and marries Maria. Big-voiced baritone Michael Mays handles the role with aplomb and brings in a superb performance.
We have a monastery where Maria is taking the first steps towards becoming a nun and a convent high in the Alps, you need a Mother Abbess and soprano Alexandra Loutsion fills the role splendidly. She shows the Abbess’s humanity and sings a gorgeous ”Climb Ev’ry Mountain”.
The seven children deserve kudos for their singing and the humour that they bring to the production. They are Liesl (Tori Tedeschi Adams), Friedrich (Gavin Grady), Louisa (Annie Hotz), Kurt (Oliver Horvath), Brigitta (Cordelia Dziuban), Marta (Arianne Ajakh) and Gretl (Nadia Buttermann). Adams is a member of the Young Artists Program and all the rest are members of the Glimmerglass Youth Ensemble.
There is a serious aspect to The Sound of Music and that is the role of the Nazis and the Anschluss which resulted in the “peaceful” annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany. It is a sickening sight to see some Austrians become collaborators and others recommend submission. Captain von Trapp and his family refuse to submit or collaborate and manage to escape from Austria. We see Nazi banners unfurl on the stage and Nazi officers guard the singers during a concert where the von Trapp family performs. The von Trapp family is spirited out and they are saved by the decency of Rolf (Marcus Lee), Lisl’s boyfriend who had become a Nazi officer but, in the end, refused to betray the von Trapps and they were able to escape to Switzerland.
The Glimmerglass Festival frequently presents workmanlike sets and I attribute it not to the lack of talent of the designers but to the amount of money available. It is wiser to spend the funds available for performers rather than expensive sets. The sets for this production were sumptuous and simply marvelous. Modular panels showed the interior of the convent with columns and paintings of religious subjects. Then we saw the Captain’s lavish house on top of the mountain. Large columns, a winding staircase and fine furniture, it was spectacular.
James Lowe conducted The Glimmerglass Festival Orchestra and Chorus adding to the splendid evening at the opera house.
The Sound of Music by Richard Rodgers (music), Oscar Hammerstein II (lyrics) and Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse (book) is being performed thirteen times until August 19, 2022 at the Alice Busch Opera Theater, Cooperstown, New York.\

August 11, 2022

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