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Adirondack Adventure beyond Lake George Village:

Ten Minutes North: The Sembrich

By Persis Granger

Marcella Sembrich's lakeside studio is nestled beneath grandfather pines. It now
serves as an intimate concert venue and a museum. Photo credit - J. Stanek.

For over a century, Lake George Village in the southern Adirondacks has been a Mecca for tourists from near and far. With the main drag, Canada Street, lined with little shop draw visitors after they've sunned themselves silly on the beach, ridden the steamboat, wave runners or parasail and are ready to shop. Much has remained over the decades - the T-shirts, post cards, ice cream cones, pizzas, miniature golf and arcades. One night a week in summer there are open air concerts in the park, and sometimes fireworks over pristine Lake George. Many, after enjoying the shopping, dining and diversions of the village, are ready to explore. This writer suggests heading north on route 9N, also known as Lake Shore Drive.


With the hustle of Lake George Village fading in the rearview mirror, a traveler northbound on 9N is dazzled by lake-reflected sunlight slicing through tall trees as the road traces the Lake George shoreline for just ten minutes to The Sembrich. A large gateway welcomes guests to this idyllic woodland hideaway, the former retreat and studio of Metropolitan Opera diva Marcella Sembrich. The gracious driveway sweeps one from the twenty-first century back to the Golden Age of the Opera, the era in which Madame Sembrich provided summer vocal instruction to aspiring students from the Curtis Institute and Juilliard School in her Spanish Revival stucco studio.

Perhaps Mme. Sembrich remembered her own days as a young musician. Born in Austria to Polish parents of modest means, Praxede Marcellina Kochanska began as a young child to study music under her father's tutelage. At the age of 15 she astounded Franz Liszt, who had been convinced by a friend to hear her play the piano. Astounded by her skill, he asked if she had any other musical talents, whereupon she dazzled him with her expertise on the violin.

And then she sang.

The Sembrich Opera Museum displays costumes
and memorabilia of the opera diva.

Deeply moved by her gift, Liszt encouraged her to focus on her vocal training, within three years she had begun her operatic career. By her mid-twenties, then known as �Marcella Sembrich�, she was performing at the Metropolitan Opera and went on to be one of the most acclaimed sopranos of her era, rubbing elbows with the likes of Verdi, Puccini, Mahler, Edison and Twain. This was the Gilded Age, when performers of her status were treated like royalty, but Marcella Sembrich never forgot her humble beginnings and the needs of aspiring young musicians.

After her death in 1935, this four-acre portion of her lakeside estate, now on the National Register of Historic Places, became a museum, and the Marcella Sembrich Memorial Association was formed to preserve her treasures and property, honor her work and continue her tradition of encouraging some of the world's finest young performers. Known today as the Opera Museum, the building now serves a dual purpose, with one area housing the Sembrich collection of memorabilia, art and costumes, and the acoustically fine teaching room now functioning as an intimate setting for chamber music performances, allowing audiences to experience the music as it was originally performed in the salons and chambers of Europe. Mme. Sembrich's 1905 Steinway piano, completely restored, reigns over all.

The Hyperion String Quartet, selected as this year's
Flonzaley Quartet, will perform August 25, 2012. They are standing before a portrait of Marcella Sembrich.

The Sembrich, now celebrating its 75 th year, has scheduled over 20 performances, lectures and films for summer 2012, mostly representing the theme Exploring a World of Music , with several related to the Titanic tragedy 100 years ago. Revel in dancing of the Balkans, Bards of Ireland, folk music from South America and Chopin compositions from Poland. Highlighting the season will be the weeklong presence of Saratoga's own Hyperion String Quartet, designated for the second year as The Sembrich's Flonzaley Quartet-in-Residence. The residency name honors both Eduard deCoppet's prestigious chamber group e stablished in 1902 and de Coppet's daughter, Julliette deCoppet Stengel, who, as daughter-in-law of Marcella Sembrich, opened the Opera Museum in 1937. The residency affords the honored musicians a week of uninterrupted time to practice in Sembrich's studio, to bond as an ensemble and. This year, prepare for the program for their August 25 th concert at The Sembrich. On that evening, they will perform a compelling new work by Chinese composer Tan Dun, entitled � Eight Colors for String Quartet�, along with Haydn's Quartet in C-major, Op. 76, No. 3, �Emperor�, and Brahms' String Quartet in A-minor, from Op. 51, No.2. On August 22, they also will participate in the 7:30 presentation, � Titanic and the Band that Played On�, a multimedia talk with author Thomas Larson . This outstanding group has garnered numerous awards and has performed around the world at such notable venues as New York's Lincoln Center and Japan's Izumi Hall.

Whether you are able to take in a performance, lecture or film, or just manage to drop in to tour the museum, The Sembrich is a site that should top your itinerary.

The Sembrich's summer season draws to a close in mid-September, but it maintains a presence on the Lake George arts scene throughout the year.

The Sembrich Opera Museum is located in Bolton Landing, New York on Route 9N, one half mile south of the traffic light, on the east side of the highway. The museum and grounds are open daily from June 15th through September 15 th . Plan visits 10:00 a.m. � 12:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. � 5:30 p.m. While the museum does not charge an admission fee, donations are appreciated to help preserve the collection. For any special need situations call the Museum Office at (518) 644-2431.


Persis�better known as �Perky��Granger is the author of two YA works of historical fiction and a teacher's guide, (�Adirondack Gold� and its sequel, �A Summer of Strangers�) as well as an adult nonfiction anthology about living with Alzheimer's disease (�Shared Stories from Daughters of Alzheimer's: Writing a Path to Peace�). Another novel is in progress, vying for time with her freelance work and community volunteer efforts. Inspired by and enamored of the writing community, Perky also created �Fiction Among Friends�, a mini-business which hosts readings, workshops, signings and retreats for writers. See more at and visit our contributors page for more about her.


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