“…the music, libretto, themes, and ideas relate to the world we live in today so powerfully.” A conversation with Francesca Zambello – The Crucible

In honor of National Opera Week (Oct. 27 – Nov. 5), E. C. Schirmer explores the creative process behind writing and producing new opera. Join us as we commemorate the creativity, diligence, and work of the composers, librettists, and producers who bring those operas to life.

An internationally recognized director of opera and theater, Francesca Zambello’s American debut took place at the Houston Grand Opera with a production of Fidelio in 1984. She debuted in Europe at Teatro la Fenice in Venice with Beatrice di Tenda in 1987 and has since staged new productions at major theaters and opera houses in Europe and the USA. Collaborating with outstanding artists and designers and promoting emerging talent, she takes a special interest in new music theater works, innovative productions, and in producing theater and opera for wider audiences. Ms. Zambello has been the General Director of The Glimmerglass Festival since 2010, and the Artistic Director of The Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center since 2012. She also served as the Artistic Advisor to the San Francisco Opera and as the Artistic Director of the Skylight Theater.

The Glimmerglass Festival programmed Robert Ward’s Pulitzer Prize-winning opera, The Crucible, in its 2016 summer program. Ms. Zambello detailed the experience of directing that performance:

“But to hurt innocent people whom I knew many years ago in order to save myself is, to me, inhuman and indecent and dishonorable. I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions, even though I long ago came to the conclusion that I was not a political person and could have no comfortable place in any political group.” Lillian Hellman’s letter to HUAC [United States House Un-American Activities Committee] speaks to us so powerfully today as it did then more than 60 years ago.

As I thought about everything in that period of American history I was drawn to present and direct The Crucible at The Glimmerglass Festival as the music, libretto, themes and ideas relate to the world we live in today so powerfully. Although not a recent work, we at Glimmerglass have been resolved to feature great American repertory from the second half of the 20th century which has been so pivotal in inspiring today’s composers. We were blessed with a phenomenal cast led by Jamie Barton, Brian Mulligan, and Jay Hunter Morris under the baton of Nicole Paiement, an advocate for 20th century American music.

As we dug into the score all of the cast was riveted by the piece, the melodies and the searing text, especially the unforgettable trial scene where every bit of fake news becomes the truth. It was a perfect piece for a young cast as they connected so powerfully to all the characters. Along with our designers, I decided to be totally true to the period as it is so shocking, then and now. I hope our effective revival will re-popularize it.

Great reading by the way is Stacy Schiff’s book: The Witches, 1692

For more information about The Crucible, click here.

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