Opera Saratoga all Quixote, outdoors for 60th season

Opera Saratoga all Quixote, outdoors for 60th season

Photo of Shrishti Mathew

Opera Saratoga is celebrating its 60th anniversary with a message of optimism. For its upcoming season, the theater company is presenting three performances inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ “Don Quixote.” All performances will be held outdoors, instead of the organization’s usual home in Little Spa Theatre.

 Lawrence Edelson, artistic and general director of Opera Saratoga, said that it was the protagonist’s insatiable optimism that made him choose this novel for the season.

“I felt that we need to do programming this summer that would be uplifting,” said Edelson. “We've all had an extraordinarily difficult year. For many, it has been a year of tragedy with personal loss. And I wanted something that was really going to be uplifting, and that would also appeal not only to opera lovers, but also to theater lovers.”

The season includes the Tony-winning “Man of La Mancha.” The 1965 musical will be done in association with the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, will be held at the amphitheater and will feature Zachary James as Don Quixote.

The second production will be “Don Quichotte at Camacho’s Wedding,” a one-act comic serenata by Georg Philipp Telemann with a libretto by Daniel Schiebeler. The tale is taken from Part Two of the novel, where Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza encounter some rather strange wedding celebrations as they roam the world in search of adventure. This will be held outdoors at the Columbia Pavilion in Saratoga Spa State Park. The performances will feature Festival Artists from Opera Saratoga’s Young Artist Program.

The final production, presented along with Pitney Meadows Community Farm, is the “Quixotic Opera,” a collection of scenes from other operas inspired by the novel. The featured scenarios are from “Don Quichotte chez la Duchesse” (1743) by Joseph Bodin de Boismortier and Charles Simon Favart; “Die Hochzeit des Camacho” (1827) by Felix Mendelssohn and Friedrich Voigts; “Il furioso all'isola di San Domingo” (1833) by Gaetano Donizetti and Jacopo Ferretti; “Don Quixote” (1898) by Wilhelm Kienzl; “La Venta de Don Quijote” (1902) by Ruperto Chapí and Carlos Fernandez Shaw; “Don Quichotte” (1910) by Jules Massenet and Henri Caïn; and “El retablo de maese Pedro” (1923) by Manuel de Falla.

James, who plays Quixote in "Man of La Mancha," is excited about his return to the stage after more than a year.

“To return to a live audience for the first time, I think will be incredibly emotional,” said James. “And this is really the perfect show, because the message of the of this show is exactly what we need right now, both onstage and for the audience. It's about dreaming and reaching and hoping. And I think it's gonna be really quite beautiful.”

The cast and crew have taken COVID-19 protocols very seriously as they have been rehearsing. According to Edelson, the process took 10 months to conceptualize the season while simultaneously consulting with medical as well as performing arts specialists. Their measures included weekly tests, masked rehearsals and putting all artists into a bubble for the duration of rehearsals.

“A colleague of mine described coming back to perform not like turning on a light switch,” said Edelson. “It's not an on or off, it's more like a dimmer. We have to slowly bring the dimmer back on.”

Edelson added that these productions called for a lot more creativity as they could not perform in their usual theater. Instead, they have chosen some unusual spaces and learned how to incorporate those into the production.

The audiences in turn will have to adhere to New York state and CDC guidelines. All ticket buyers will be required to show either proof of vaccination at least 14 days prior to their attendance, or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the performance they are attending.  Audience members will also be required to wear masks at all performances, regardless of vaccination status or proof of a negative test.

Tickets are limited this season due to social distancing. They will be sold in socially distanced pods of two seats at all venues, except for “Man of La Mancha” at SPAC, where pods of one, two or four seats will also be available on the SPAC lawn. 

Priority pre-sale for members will begin May 3. Members should call 518.584.6018. Ticket sales open to the general public on May 10. They will be available to the public online at spac.org

If you go

“Quixotic Opera”

Where; Pitney Meadows Community Farm

When: 7 p.m., June 24-25

Tickets: $50 (two-person pod)

 “Man Of La Mancha”

Where: Musical Saratoga Performing Arts Center Amphitheater

When: 8 p.m., July 8-10

Tickets: $40-$250 in amphitheater; $30 lawn

“Don Quichotte at Camacho’s Wedding”

Where: Columbia Pavilion - Saratoga Spa State Park

When: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 6 p.m. July 14-18

Tickets: $100 (two-person pod)