Twenty-six Yale alumni recently went on a four-day Glimmerglass Opera experience in Cooperstown, N.Y. The trip was the first joint program between Yale Educational Travel and Yale Alumni College, both of which operate under the auspices of the Yale Alumni Association, combining the joys of travel, love of the arts, and the desire for lifelong learning.

A view from the Glimmerglass opera festival 2019The scenic beauty to get to Cooperstown is only the start of an enchanting four days that will never seem long enough. The charming landscape along the tranquil Otsego Lake left nothing to be desired, except maybe your own boat. Our group stayed at the elegant Otesaga Resort Hotel with a vast green lawn, a top-rated golf course, and majestic views of the lake.

Thursday evening kicked off the weekend with a meet-and-greet followed by a reception and dinner with talks by faculty leader Ethan Heard ’07, ’13 MFA, as well as Francesca Zambello, the artistic and general director of the Glimmerglass Festival. The evening’s performance of Show Boat was very well received by the group, starting the weekend off with a standing ovation.

Friday, many of the alumni in attendance took advantage of the multiple museums around the area, including the Baseball Hall of Fame, The Fenimore Art Museum, and The Farmers Museum. Others enjoyed the beauty of the lake by taking out paddleboards or kayaks, swimming, fishing, or just relaxing on the massive back porch of the resort enjoying the weather and view. 

Later that evening, the group attended a talk by Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me, which played as an excellent opening for the group to experience the world premiere of Blue, a modern opera based on raising a black boy in America today. The performance of Blue was very moving, with touches of humor that brought the characters to life in a new age-tragedy whose story is ever-present in today’s world. After the performance, Heard led a fascinating, meaningful discussion that allowed for a deeper bond among the group.   

Group discussion during the 2019 Glimmerglass FestivalSaturday, the group enjoyed a delectable lunch and a talk from Dramaturg Kelley Rourke before viewing The Ghosts of Versailles. This performance contained beautifully intricate period costumes and dramatic scenery that depicted the lands of the “ghosts” as well as the “living” in this opera within an opera. An optional change-over talk followed the performance which described the process of breaking down one show and setting up the next. That evening, the group got together for a dinner where discussions were lively. Praise, critiques, and takeaways of the performances mixed with memories of past performances echoed around the room. The camaraderie among the alumni was inspiring.

On the last day, after another bountiful breakfast with some of the best omelets in the area, the group headed to the festival for a private tour of the festival grounds and stage. The group was excited to walk around the stage and see what the actors see. Some were inspired enough to break out into song to hear how their voices carried in the open-air theater. Sunday’s performance of La Traviata was the perfect end to the weekend. A warhorse of an opera, La Traviata had been seen by most of the group previously and in some cases multiple times. Glimmerglass’s simplistic approach to the design and intimate space on stage brought the story to life in a way only Glimmerglass can do.

The participants take in a show during the 2019 Glimmerglass Festival.The trip was favored among the participants and received outstanding reviews. It will be held again next year, with an additional day to give participants more time to enjoy the area and more opportunities to build lasting relationships with fellow Yalies.

The anticipated dates for next year’s Glimmerglass Opera Experience are August 5-9, 2020. The performances that will be shown are Rinaldo, Don Giovanni, Die Feen, and The Sound of Music.

For more information on this trip or to see other trips/courses offered by Yale Educational Travel and Yale Alumni College, visit


Glimmerglass Testimonials:

“This trip was a wonderful way for a family of opera fans to be together, see beautifully produced operas (both cutting-edge new works and old favorites), meet and talk with new friends who shared an interest in the arts, and explore a beautiful and storied corner of the country. The resort is somehow both relaxed and elegant, and Glimmerglass is a vibrant community festival brimming with energy and ideas. Best of all was the leadership of our Yale professor who led great discussions and shared his own sense of what opera can be in the 21st century.”

– 2019 Glimmerglass participant

“Yale Educational Travel's Glimmerglass Opera Festival tour was excellent. In addition to the interesting, accomplished, and friendly other alumni and others, the Yale professor and guest speakers made this a special experience and enhanced my enjoyment of the works we saw at the wonderful Glimmerglass Festival.”

– Harvey Neville ’76


Sharon Small is the senior administrative assistant, Yale Alumni Association, Lifelong Learning and Travel.



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