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Handel's 'Imeneo'

The Village of Cooperstown, in upstate New York, is surely one of the best-known small towns in America. A few years back, it showed up in an award-winning book chronicling its storied history and the life of its pioneering founder, William Cooper. Long before that, it became famous as the model location for books such as Leatherstocking Tales, by William Cooper's son, the novelist James Fennimore Cooper.

Perhaps even more famously, Cooperstown is the legendary home of America's "national pastime," and the actual home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame — a true Mecca for legions of sports fans.

In recent years, however, Cooperstown has also became an annual gathering place for another group of aficionados — opera fans. The village lies on the south end of Otsego Lake — a lake the Native Americans of Leatherstocking Tales called "Glimmerglass." Just a few miles north of town, on the east edge of the lake, is Glimmerglass Opera, home to one of America's finest and most prestigious summer opera festivals.

Over the years, Glimmerglass Opera has been acclaimed for incisive presentations of unusual operas, and Handel's Imeneo is a good example. It was his next-to-last opera, and it's hardly what opera-goers had come to expect from Handel. The music is brilliant, including some choral numbers that Handel later lifted for use in Messiah. But it's a small-scale piece, without the historical sweep and spectacular set pieces featured in many of Handel's other operas, and it has only five characters.

Imeneo also has an odd-ball of a story. There's a love triangle, with two guys who want to marry the same girl. After a quandary during which she denounces them both and feigns a nervous breakdown, she makes the decidedly non-operatic decision to go with honor and duty instead of true love.

On World of Opera, host Lisa Simeone brings us a Glimmerglass Opera production that truly lives up to the opera's quirky nature. The title character sings his big aria while bringing down a bevy of ducks with a shotgun. And, during a dysfunctional dinner, the lead soprano nails one of her onstage colleagues smack in the nose with a dinner roll!

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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