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Butterflies Replace Elephant On Glimmerglass Fest Lawn

Edition: June 5, 2014

By Jim Kevlin

‘Madame Butterfly” ends in tragedy.
Not so with Otto Lilienthal, the little-remembered inventor of the glider, as George Peters told it while he installed his “Flight Patterns” on the lawn of the Glimmerglass Festival Saturday, June 1.
Lilienthal was the rage in Berlin in the 1890s. He built the Fliegerberg (“Aviator’s Hill”) at his home outside the city, and Berliners would picnic there and watch him glide. If only people could fly, he believed, peace on earth could be achieved.

As it happened, he died of injuries from a glider crash, but he didn’t consider it a tragedy. His final words: “It’s a small sacrifice for peace.”
So this summer, when Puccini’s tragic “Butterfly” is performed inside the Alice Busch Theatre, during intermissions opera-goers will be able to ponder happier visions of flight in the colorful banners that now line the walkway from the parking lot to the main building.

Peters – the step-father-in-law of Cherry Valley’s Pam Livingston, he was one of the originators of the semi-annual Kite Festival there – and his creative partner, Melanie Walker, now of Boulder, Colo., won a commission offered by Francesca Zambello, the Festival’s general & artistic director
(Last year, you may remember, Elizabeth Schoonmaker, the Town of Plainfied sculptor, installed a huge wicker elephant, inspired by Verdi’s “Aida” on the Festival’s lawn, just across the Town of Springfield line on West Lake Road.)


This year, Zambello asked Sydney Waller, chair of the new Cooperstown Arts Council, to “find something butterfly-like on the grounds to express ‘Madame Butterfly’,” Waller said.

A giant metal butterfly was considered, “but that would have been very expensive,” she said. Then artist Patti Erway Engle, just moving back to Cherry Valley from Texas, suggested George Peters.

Contacted, he proposed butterfly-shaped banners. Then, banners shaped like Japanese fans. Sensing over the e-mails that his ideas weren’t resonating, he and Melanie visited the etymology department at the University of Colorado/Boulder, and hit on the winning idea.

The result is photos of the U of C samples, photoshopped, brilliant, that were then applied to large vertical banners through a process called heat transfer dye sublimation by a friend of the couple’s in Seattle.

Assisted by Charlie Bremer, the Otego sculpture – one of his benches is part of another installation planned on Glimmerglass’ grounds this summer – Peters was on site Saturday, May 31, installing the flags.

“It’s like painting with butterflies,” the artist said, pausing from his labors. “What could be better than that?”



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