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Opera at The Hyde

During a free evening concert at The Hyde Collection last year, Opera Saratoga performs operatic favorites in The Hyde House courtyard. 

GLENS FALLS — There is something elegantly romantic about being serenaded from a terrace above, especially when seated in the Venetian-style grand courtyard at the Hyde House in Glens Falls.

And next week, from the second-floor balcony, the classical artistry of composers Puccini, Verdi, Donizetti and Bizet will fill Charlotte Pruyn Hyde’s sun-speckled garden space as operatic artists perform their works.

This free concert, one of three free evenings of opera at area museums, is part of Opera Saratoga’s “Saratoga Sings of Art and Inspiration.”

“The audience sits in the courtyard,” said Lawrence Edelson, artistic and general director of Opera Saratoga, about the Hyde House concert. “It is a unique way to experience opera.”

The evening concerts, scheduled to run the first week in May, are planned for The Albany Institute of History and Art on May 2, The Hyde Collection on May 3 and the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie on May 4.

According to Edelson, who curated the three concerts, the evening features music inspired by the visual arts, and the setting for each concert is different, taking advantage of each distinctive artistic space.

Hyde founder Charlotte Pruyn Hyde and her sisters, Nell Cunningham and Mary Hoopes, loved the opera, attending Metropolitan Opera Company performances in New York City, and in 1894, the sisters went to Paris Opera, a venue frequented by Degas.

Former Hyde Collection Director Erin Coe wrote, “This early exposure to the cosmopolitan climate of Paris, New York and Boston awakened in Charlotte and her sisters a deep appreciation for the fine and musical arts that shaped their future role as cultural leaders of Glens Falls.”

And before the Hyde House was even complete, Mrs. Hyde offered it up for meetings and performances of the Morning Musical Society, a group of which she became honorary chairwoman. The group held its first concert in Hyde House in April 1913.

Edelson talked about the performances in the courtyard as related to the evening event.

“We will use her piano,” he said.

Over the past several seasons, the opera company has launched a series of programs to increase accessibility of opera and classical vocal programs. Opera members have traveled to galleries, bars and pubs to perform and even performed in the snow of Schubert’s “Wintereisse” at Sarataga Spa State Park.

“As part of Saratoga Sings, we are increasing and diversifying, we are broadening our geographic footprint,” Edelson said. “We want people to realize they have an opera company.”

Next week’s program includes operatic selections by composers Gaetano Donizetti, Giacomo Puccini, Giuseppe Verdi, Georges Bizet, Francis Poulenc, Benjamin Britten and William Bolcom. And mezzo soprano Annie Chester and tenor WooYoung Yoon, both members of Opera Saratoga’s 2019 Young Artist Program, are featured. Laurie Rogers, Opera Saratoga’s head of music staff and director of the Young Artist Program, is the featured pianist.

These museum concerts are a prelude to the Summer Festival at the Spa Little Theater in Saratoga Spa State Park, which features the 2019 World Premiere of “Ellen West.”

Through the Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry of Frank Bidart and the music of Ricky Ian Gordon, the opera will explore the challenges of a woman struggling with food and perceptions of her body.

Inspired by one of the earliest cases of existential analysis, “Ellen West” aims to bring the audience into the lives of psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger and his patient, Ellen West, said Edelson.

“This is historically significant,” he said. "Through the Discover!Opera program, we are visiting high schools in advance of the production with a special program about the opera and how the themes of the opera intersect with issues facing teens today, and are then providing students with free tickets to the performance as a part of the Summer Festival."

The evening opera concert at The Hyde is at 6 p.m. Friday, May 3.

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Kathleen Phalen-Tomaselli covers Washington County government and other county news and events.

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