Maestro Nader Abbassi prepares for La bohème premiere at Glimmerglass Festival

Ati Metwaly , Wednesday 5 Jul 2023

Nader Abbassi, the Egyptian maestro, is eagerly awaiting the premiere of Giacomo Puccini's opera La bohème at the 2023 Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, New York state.

La boheme
Final rehearsals of La boheme, opening the Glimmerglass Festival on 7 July. (Photos: Evan Zimmerman)


The premiere of the performance is on 7 July, with multiple matinee and evening stagings throughout July and August (9, 14, 18, 24, 29 July and 1, 3, 5, 8, 11, 14, 19 August), and the festival will conclude on 20 August. Additionally, the maestro will give talks during the festival.

“We have concluded all the rehearsals: those with the orchestra, the Italian rehearsal [where the actors read their lines at high speed, without the accompanying acting] all the way to the general rehearsal,” Abbassi shared with Ahram Online through an online conversation.

He has completed all preparations to conduct the USA's national anthem, which will open the Glimmerglass Festival.

After working on La bohème for over a month, the maestro describes the orchestra, singers, and overall experience as "wonderful" and "excellent."

"All the artists and the crew are highly professional. Each conductor has a few assistants, the choir consists of soloists who are cast in important roles in other operas across the country."

Directed by E. Loren Meeker, General and Artistic Director at Opera San Antonio, Giacomo Puccini's masterpiece features a cast comprising tenor Joshua Blue (Rodolfo), baritone Darren Drone (Marcello), soprano Teresa Perrotta (Mimi), soprano Emilie Kealani (Musetta), and supporting roles played by Stefano de Peppo (Benoit/Alcindoro), Nan Wang (Colline), Justin Burgess (Schaunard), Zachary Rioux (Parpignol), Jonathan Patton (Sargeant), and Henry Benson (Prune Man).

 “I am impressed with the professionalism, dedication and commitment of everyone involved in this production. It’s a real pleasure to work with those artists. I am very happy and proud to be part of this journey.” The maestro mentioned that the cast will take a few days off before returning to the stage for the premiere on 7 July.

"The festival is fantastic," he remarks. It began in 1975 with just four performances of La bohème in the Cooperstown High School auditorium, but over the years it has grown to feature multiple operas over 40 days, with many new productions. In the mid-1980s, the Alice Busch Opera Theater was constructed, with 914 seats specifically designed for opera performances.

According to Abbassi, the festival, led by Artistic and General Director Robert Ainsley, offers "incredible programming and organization." He also notes "the festival's Young Artists programme, which selects highly talented young artists and assigns them to various roles."

The Glimmerglass Festival's website states that their "Young Artists Programme (YAP) was established in 1988 to promote an artistically challenging environment for young performers. The programme offers training and performance experience for singers, musical theater performers, dancers, coaches, accompanists, conductors, and stage directors at the beginning of their professional careers".

"All this is happening within the unique environment. The city of Cooperstown, the nature and especially the Otsego Lake [next to the Alice Busch Opera Theater] are all breathtaking," Abbassi remarks on the distinctive pastoral setting and landscape of the location.

Rehearsals for Bernstein's Candide and Gounod's Romeo and Juliet are currently underway and will be performed in the upcoming days of the Glimmerglass Festival.

Before the performances of La bohème on 29 July, 3 August, and 5 August, the audience will have the opportunity to attend talks. During these events, Abbassi will discuss Puccini and his opera, as well as the maestro’s own careerThe talks are a regular event offered by the Glimmerglass Festival, alongside the backstage tours.

Abbassi, one of the most well-known Egyptian musicians of his generation, has had a diverse career that includes playing bassoon, composing, singing opera, and conducting.

In the early 2000s, he served as the artistic director and principal conductor of the Cairo Opera Orchestra, as well as the first musical director and principal conductor of the newly formed Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra from 2009 to 2011.

Abbassi has collaborated with numerous international orchestras such as Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, Philharmonisches Orchester Heidelberg, Orchester des Richard Strauss Konservatoriums München, Orchestre de Chambre de Genève, and Sinfonieorchester Basel. He has also been a returning guest conductor at the Marseille Philharmonic Orchestra since 2006.

He gained international recognition when he conducted two major globally broadcast national events in 2021: the Pharaohs Golden Parade and the reopening of the 3000-year-old Avenue of the Sphinxes in Luxor.

Abbassi conducted the United Philharmonic Orchestra during these events, which he founded in 2017. The ensemble has performed concerts featuring music by well-known Arab composers and accompanied numerous renowned singers from Egypt and the Arab world on various stages. 

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