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Greeting from D.C. by way of Louisiana 

As regular readers of my Traveling iPad know, I find that one of the most enjoyable aspects of my work is researching the essence of a great opera or classic Broadway musical in order to present it in the most meaningful way. Tonight at Washington National Opera we open a new production of Dead Man Walking, based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean of her experiences in Louisiana counseling inmates on death row. (You may have seen the movie starring Susan Sarandon, which preceded the opera’s 2000 premiere.) The book, film and opera tell the story of a rape and murder that resulted in a capital sentence, and Sister Helen’s spiritual guidance of the accused as he awaits his fate. As the opera’s stage director, I wanted to go to Louisiana before starting rehearsals to meet Sister Helen and absorb the settings in the story. As a side note, I have vowed that before I get much older I want to see all of the United States, so I was grateful to have this project on my schedule to add Louisiana to my “repertory.” My wife, Faith, a Southerner, says I need a visa to go south of the Mason-Dixon line, since I’ve done it so rarely. Last month we both had business in New Orleans, so I dug out my “opera visa.”

Endless bayous, swamps and Spanish moss.  Louisiana’s red clay, endless bayous covered in swampy water and Spanish moss brought me closer into the center of the story. We drove hundreds of miles, seeing the double murder site in a deep ravine in what is now a park, the courthouse where the trial unfolded and the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, where the accused was incarcerated. I was particularly surprised to discover an extensive museum at Angola. Most importantly, Faith and I had the honor and pleasure of spending time with Sister Helen in New Orleans, where she runs a ministry to assist victims of violent crimes and engages in advocacy work to abolish capital punishment; since her Dead Man Walking experience, she also continues her work ministering to death row inmates. Composer Jake Heggie and librettist Terrence McNally have always emphasized that the opera is about forgiveness and redemption, not a debate about capital punishment, although the elimination of capital punishment became a great cause of Sister Helen’s as a result of her work on death row. A Roman Catholic nun, Sister Helen is passionate and articulate about her causes. She can convey her ideas with a wonderful mix of solemnity and infectious joy for seeking answers to hard questions. After the meeting, and because she enjoys having fun, she took us to a bar & seafood grill in the French Quarter called Pêche. (As we were heading out, I asked why a Catholic nun would take us to a restaurant called “Sin,” which would be the English translation of the French péché, when the accent marks are changed! Pêche, of course, also means fishing.)
Susan Graham, Sister Helen, Francesca Zambello
Susan Graham, who first sang the role of Sister Helen in the world premiere of Dead Man Walking at San Francisco Opera in 2000, performs the very moving role of Mrs. De Rocher, the mother of death row inmate Joseph de Rocher, for us at WNO. Here she is with me and Sister Helen. Dead Man Walking runs TONIGHT through March 11; from March 4-18, we are presenting Terrence Blanchard’s “jazz opera,” Champion, about the boxer Emile Griffith and starring Arthur Woodley and Denyce Graves. If you are heading to DC, let me know. I’d love to welcome you at one or both of these operas, which also feature many recent and current Glimmerglass Young Artists.
On the road from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. In addition to my research, we went to the Whitney Plantation, situated along the famed River Road from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Most of the land all along the Mississippi was once given over to plantations. Many have fallen into ruins, but the Whitney Plantation, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is beautifully restored — from the main house to the slave quarters. Among the buildings and grounds are memorial artworks — extraordinary sculptures and monuments that help illustrate the lives of the slaves. The tour is extremely powerful. I recommend a visit if you are in Louisiana. The Plantation’s website has some excellent photos to give you a sense of what we saw.
MoMath. This is not a typo for MoMA, but it IS a museum in NYC, specifically the National Museum of Math, which I really enjoy but which I doubt most if any of you have visited. The museum’s purpose is (to quote from their materials) to “illuminate the patterns that abound in our world. The National Museum of Mathematics strives to enhance public understanding and perception of mathematics. Its dynamic exhibits and programs stimulate inquiry, spark curiosity, and reveal the wonders of mathematics. The Museum’s activities lead a broad and diverse audience to understand the evolving, creative, human, and aesthetic nature of mathematics.”
I was terrible at math, but I have learned so much from visiting this museum multiple times with Jackson. The exhibits are all interactive and fun for both adults and children. This super cool museum is on Madison Square (not in Madison Square Garden, which was so-named because it was ORIGINALLY on Madison Square), at 11 East 26th Street, just off Fifth Avenue. You can walk around the square and also see the famous Flatiron building and the beautiful Beaux-Arts Appellate Division Courthouse. This museum is worth an hour visit, and the park adds a lovely 30-minute stroll. A fun finish is a shopping/eating spree at the truly decadent Italian food shop, Eataly, at 200 Fifth Avenue near 23rd Street.
And speaking of math… Becoming a parent later in life, I’ve have had to learn when to say “no” and, even harder, when to make personal compromises, neither of which is easy. These are realities of my work as a company head, too, and this struggle is never more present then when we are creating an organization budget for a future year. In these Traveling iPads, I usually focus on sharing with you the fun and creative aspects of what we do, but there are difficult realities that go with it. Glimmerglass is the little engine that could, but as in the children’s story, we begin the budget process with trepidation. We have kept our programming costs level for many years, thanks to an extraordinary production department and the type of creative innovation that is uniquely possible in our setting. Along with this, the number of full-time staff remains steady at 29, but the cost of doing business keeps increasing — in part due to imposed new regulations, aging facilities (we own and maintain 13 buildings in three communities, all mortgage-free, comprised of those on the theater campus, and rehearsal, storage and housing structures) and other factors. We are extremely grateful to several generous donors who have helped tremendously with major improvements to our facilities so we can focus our balancing act on operations, but we still have to address maintenance to the facilities within the basic budget.

We begin the financial analysis for a future year a full 12 months in advance, with some artistic costs thought-through as many as 24 or even 36 months ahead for projects that require a commitment to producing partners or need extra development time, in order to see if they can reasonably fit within our modest Glimmerglass-level costing. Each department head submits expected expenses to our Finance Director, Tammy Crossway, and Marketing and Development simultaneously provide income projections. You can imagine, in both the income and outgo categories, anticipating the future is no easy task, but the team has been quite good at their projections. We have planned a beautiful season for 2018, and at this moment we are working to balance the budget. We are always looking for creative ways to offer innovative programs within our modest budget. I would love to hear your thoughts on what aspects of our programming matter most to you. We have persevered successfully for 43 years, and we want to move forward with your ideas in mind.
Despite being in the throes of budgeting, we are inspired by our setting, which is as beautiful in winter as it is in summer. This photo, taken by Director of Production Abby Rodd, is of the spruce break beside the Pavilion. Covered in snow, it is hard to imagine that this idyllic location gives way to picnickers in just a few months. And by the way, we will be offering additional food options here this summer, and our ever-popular sippie cups will be back so you can again drink in the theater during shows!
Getting here. Part of our magic is our rural setting, but I know for many, getting here is also a hurdle. We are experimenting with a solution for New Yorkers -- travel with friends from the Upper West Side directly to Cooperstown. On four Festival weekends, Superior Sedan is offering $200 round trip per person service to the Otesaga Hotel or Cooper Inn in the heart of Cooperstown. There is trolley service from the Otesaga to and from shows, and you can enjoy walking to the museums and other village attractions; local taxi service can also be arranged. You also do not need to stay at the Otesaga or Cooper Inn to take advantage of the jitney or trolley; you would just need to get to an alternative B&B or lodging option, and we may be able to help you with that if needed.
Superior Sedan will be making the trip these weekends:
July 13-16
July 20-23
August 10-13
August 17-20

Click here for more information.
Inspired by my trip to New Orleans, I decided to make my own garlic powder and onion powder to use in Cajun recipes. I hate the ones available in the stores, as most have other stuff in them. These also make great gifts, and are super simple to make.

Onion or garlic powders. I use a few onions or several heads of garlic. Make sure all are clean, and peel the vegetables that you will be using. Cut up whichever vegetable you are using into thin slices and put on a cookie sheet in lowest setting in the oven (170-degrees or less). Bake each vegetable on separate trays if doing both. Basically you are dehydrating the onion or garlic until it is completely dry and not leathery. The dried vegetables should be brittle enough to break by hand. This is a day-long process. Check every few hours and remove any pieces that are done.
When all are done drying, put into coffee grinder, food processor or blender. Once they are finely powdered, leave in food processor or blender with lid on for so the dust can settle. Then store in glass jars.

Cajun spice mix. I made this using the homemade powders, because I craved a Cajun spice mix for shrimp and chicken after returning from Louisiana.
6 tablespoons paprika
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ground white pepper
2 tablespoons HOMEMADE garlic powder
2 tablespoons HOMEMADE onion powder
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon cayenne
Anticipation. Dehydrating the garlic and onions reminded me of the famous ketchup commercial, set to Carly Simon’s song, Anticipation. We are moving steadily ahead with our early preparations for 2018, and more rapidly with our work for this summer’s Festival and the many new education and outreach programs we are kicking off this year (I will fill you in on those in my next Traveling iPad). If you are able, helping us  “bang on the bottom of the bottle” with a gift of any size (and I always want to emphasize “any size”) would, as always, be appreciated. Thank you for allowing me to continue to ask, as it is an inevitable and much-needed part of our work.
Francesca Zambello
The Glimmerglass Festival
Artistic & General Director

Please click here if you would like to give to Glimmerglass

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P.S. Another form of support. I want to take a moment to mention the proposed elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. For Glimmerglass, the support we receive from the NEA has helped bring exceptional productions of opera and musical theater to the stage every summer, while providing invaluable training for our Young Artists and Summer Interns as they enter the workforce. It is through radio stations and PBS that many fans and followers have, for generations, learned to love opera. We are grateful that Glimmerglass productions are regularly broadcast on public radio (and even in the past on PBS), bringing our work to many who cannot come to us, and happily reviving it for many of you who could. These agencies account for just 1/10th of 1% of the federal budget, yet their efforts have positively impacted young and old alike and helped launch and sustain organizations like ours. (Think of all the children in your own families who grew up learning through Sesame Street.) Work funded by the NEA, NEH and CPB is about who we were, who we are and who we will be in the future. If you agree that the NEA, NEH and CPB are essential to our way of life and our legacy as a country, please contact your elected officials and ask them not to eliminate these valuable agencies. Thank you.

Copyright © 2017 The Glimmerglass Festival, All rights reserved.

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