Summer music. Two of the best words in the English language. But with so many options, what are the best concerts to catch? Here’s our list of the most important summer classical music festivals and opera festivals. What to see, where to stay, and what not to miss – we’ve got it right here. These are our picks for the most important classical music and opera festivals happening in summer 2019.
Tickets are already on sale for some of these events, some are nearly sold out, and others are just about to become available, so this is a good time to get out your calendar and start scheduling.
Here’s our list of 16 not-to-be missed summer festivals (in chronological order) if you love classical music or opera:
Glyndebourne Festival Opera, May 18 – August 25, 2019. Held near Lewes in East Sussex under the supervision of the Christie family, this highly esteemed opera festival has taken place annually since 1934, except during the World War II years. It’s elegant, luxurious and very British. The stunning opera house can seat up to 1,200 guests, and this year’s highlights include performances of La Damnation de Faust; Il barbiere di Siviglia; Cendrillon and more. Performances start in the afternoon, and people arrive early, dressed in formal attire, for en plein air picnics on the extensive lawns. A long interval during the evening performances facilitates picnic dinners or a gourmet meal in one of the restaurants on the grounds. Stay at: The Grand Hotel Eastbourne or Gravetye Manor. Don’t miss: the performance of Die Zauberflöte, which already has limited ticket availability.
2. The Ojai Festival
The Ojai Music Festival, June 6-9, 2019. Located just outside of Los Angles, this early summer classical music festival is led by violinist and music director Barbara Hannigan. This year’s performances include The Rake’s Progress, Stravinsky’s interpretation of an archetypal tale of good and evil inspired by 18th-century engravings of William Hogarth. Stay at: The Ojai Valley Inn Don’t Miss: The Friday evening performance of Vivier’s Lonely Child, conducted by Hannigan and performed by emerging soprano Aphrodite Paloulidou.
Tanglewood, June 15 – September 1, 2019. The summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1937, Tanglewood is quite similar in spirit to Glyndebourne – a serene country estate with ample room for strolling and picnics. This year’s program will feature performances from an enormous range of artists, including Josh Groban and Renée Fleming. Performances will include Verdi’s Requiem and Wagner’s Die Walküre, as well as Kevin Puts’ The Brightness of Light, which is inspired by letters from Georgia O’Keeffe. Stay at: Blantyre in Lenox, Massachusetts. Don’t miss: James Taylor’s annual concert over the July 4th holiday. And the John Williams Film Night, hosted by the composer himself. It’s a favorite of attendees, and features some of the most beloved music of Hollywood.
4. Bravo! Vail
The Bravo! Vail Music Festival, June 20-August 4, 2019. Several of the world’s greatest orchestras make their summer home at Bravo! Vail. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic will each perform this summer for a stretch of one to two weeks. Stay at: The Ritz Carlton Vail Don’t Miss: The North American debut of the Chamber Orchestra Vienna – Berlin, a unique collaboration of two of the world’s most prestigious ensembles, the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras.
5. Santa Fe
The Santa Fe Opera Festival, June 24 – August 28, 2019. Founded in 1957 by the Santa Fe Opera Company, this festival provides attendees a fully immersive experience in a stunning location. There are shuttles to the festival each day from Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and preview dinners before each show. The company’s 63rd season will feature the beloved La Bohème, The Pearl Fishers, and Così Fan Tutte. Stay at: The Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado or the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi. Don’t miss: The tailgate picnic, a beloved tradition of festival-goers.
The Aspen Music Festival, June 27-August 18, 2019. Now in its 70th year, this festival in Colorado Rockies is a wonderful mix of performances from well-known global artists and students at the Aspen Music School. The 2019 season explores the theme of “Being American,” with works by Gershwin, Ives, Wynton Marsalis, and Copland, including Appalachian Spring; works by emmigré composers; and settings of the poetry of Whitman, Melville, Dickinson, and Poe. Stay at: The Little Nell or the St. Regis. Don’t miss: Renee Fleming performing with the Emerson String Quartet on August 1, 2019 (Fleming will host a Master Class the day before). And the closing night performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony, Resurrection.
7. Bard Music Festival and Summerscape
The Bard Music Festival and Summerscape, June 29–August 18, 2019. Held every summer at Bard College, about 90 miles north of New York City, this season marks the 16th annual Summerscape festival. The program features world-class opera, theater, dance, cabaret, film, and music. Embedded within Summerscape is the 30th annual Bard Music Festival – its theme this year is Korngold and His World. Over two weekends, the work and life of Erich Wolfgang Korngold will be celebrated, including the world premiere of his work The Miracle of Heliane. Stay at: The Ritz Carlton Westchester
Aix-en-Provence, July 3-22, 2019. The Festival International d’Art Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence has been held each summer since 1948. Devoted mainly to opera, it also includes concerts of orchestral, chamber, vocal and solo instrumental music. Performances are given in a variety of locations, including the Théâtre de l’Archevêché (in the courtyard of the former Archbishop’s palace); the Jeu de Paumes (a restored 18th century theatre); and the Théâtre du Grand Saint-Jean, on the grounds of a chateau. This summer’s program focuses on the relationship between life and death. It includes performances of Mozart’s Requiem, Puccini’s Tosca, and Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny by Kurt Veill, Stay at: The Hotel Le Pigonnet. Don’t miss: Eight by Michel Van Der AA and Kate Miller-Heidke, an installation that combines music, virtual reality, and visual art.
9. The Hollywood Bowl
The Hollywood Bowl, July 4 – September 12, 2019. The summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic has been, for more than 90 years, this open-air amphitheater with 17,500 seats and distant views of the iconic Hollywood sign. As with many of its peer orchestras, the LA Phil keeps the seats filled by performing the scores from several movies during its residency outdoors (it is Hollywood, after all). This year’s repertoire will feature a wide array of music, from Tchaikovsky and Verdi to the scores of Jurassic Park and An American in Paris. Stay at: The Beverly Wilshire (A Four Seasons Hotel). Don’t miss: The Philharmonic’s Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular, with Nile Rogers and CHIC.
Glimmerglass, July 6-August 24, 2019. The Glimmerglass Festival in upstate New York focuses on musical theater and opera. This year’s program will open with a performance of Show Boat, and will include performances of La Traviata and The Ghosts of Versailles. Stay at: The Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown. Don’t miss: Presentations from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
11. Mostly Mozart
The Mostly Mozart Festival, July 10-August 10, 2019. Mostly Mozart at Lincoln Center in New York is now a multi-disciplinary celebration of music, dance and theater. Tickets go on sale April 15, 2019. This year’s music and opera highlights include Barrie Kosky’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute; guest conductors Andrew Manze and Gianandrea Noseda; and superstar Joshua Bell. The young violinists Vilde Frang and Pekka Kuusisto make their festival debuts. Ivan Fischer will conduct the Budapest Festival Orchestra in Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony. And the Takács Quartet will perform Mozart, Beethoven and Dohnányi in a concert with the pianist Jeremy Denk. Stay at: The Mandarin Oriental. Don’t miss: Davóne Tines in Langston Hughes’s The Black Clown. A fusion of vaudeville, gospel, opera, jazz, and spirituals, the work uniquely illuminates the theme of resilience in the face of oppression that lies at the heart of the poem.
Ravinia, July 12-August 18, 2019. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra plays an annual 18-concert summer season at the Ravinia Festival. This summer-long event takes place in the 36-acre park of one of Chicago’s most upscale suburbs—Highland Park– and is North America’s oldest music festival. Founded in 1904, it got its name because of the ravines located at the nearby shores of Lake Michigan. This year’s program runs the gamut from the 35th anniversary of Ghostbusters, with the score conducted by the son of the film’s composer, to Chicago’s own Jennifer Hudson. She’s headlining the annual gala on July 14, 2019. Stay at: The Four Seasons Chicago or The Ritz-Carlton Chicago. Don’t miss: The All-Tchaikovsky program featuring a performance of the 1812 Overture with cannons on August 18, 2019.
13. BBC Proms
The BBC Proms, July 19 – September 14, 2019. Founded in 1895, this eight-week summer festival of almost 100 classical music concerts is held in the Royal Albert Hall in central London and in Chelsea’s Cadogan Hall. The list of this summer’s performances and their specific dates will be announced on April 17, 2019, and tickets will go on sale on May 11, 2019. Stay at: The Beaumont Hotel in Mayfair. Don’t miss: The Last Night of the Proms, which always draws a devoted crowd and is also broadcast live on radio and television.
The Salzburg Music Festival, July 20-August 31, 2019. The birthplace of Mozart will be the site of several opera productions from the Vienna Philharmonic this summer, including Mozart’s Idomeneo, Handel’s Alcina, and Strausse’s Salome, as well as music from the Vienna Philharmonic. Stay at: The Goldener Hirsch Hotel. Don’t miss: The Gala on August 1, 2019, which will present highlights from the festival.
Bayreuth Festival, July 25 – August 28, 2019. Performances of operas by the 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner are presented here annually. Conceived of by the composer himself, this festival serves as the perfect showcase for his music. In a theater built specifically for these works, attendees can enjoy performances of Lohengrin, Parsifal, Tristtan Und Isolde and more. Stay at: The Hotel Rheingold. Don’t miss: The Bayreuth Festival Talks or “The Caesuras,” which delve deeper into the influence and innovation of Wagner’s work.
Lucerne Summer Music Festival, August 16 – September 15, 2019. One of our favorite places in all of Switzerland is home to an international music festival first held in 1938, when Toscanini directed a gala concert in front of Wagner’s home. Tickets go on sale this year on March 25, 2019. The program this summer will include more than 100 concerts, with performances by the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. The theme this year is “Power.” A highlight will be Teodor Currentzis conducting Mozart’s three operatic masterpieces – Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte – all of which shed light on different facets of the Festival theme. Stay at: The Burgenstock Resort. Don’t miss: Performances by composer-in-residence Thomas Kessler, who fuses rap with contemporary music and supplies orchestral musicians with iPads and speakers so that they can modulate their live sound electronically.
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