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Sunday, May 27, 2012

The 2012 Superconductor Summer Preview

Our handy one-stop guide to summer concerts and festivals.
International opera sensation Homer Simpson presents a cogent argument for
going to Tanglewood instead of the beach. Image © Gracie Films, from PopArt.Uk.
The days are getting long and barbecue grills are firing up. But in between bites, there's a smorgasbord of classical music and opera on offer this summer. We present our guide to the best of what's coming up in the summer months.
In New York


The River to River Festival is a month-long event taking place in Manhattan at various venues. It opens June 17 at the Winter Garden with the 2012 Bang on a Can Marathon a free 12-hour event of modern music. On June 20, the Philip Glass Ensemble gives its only free concert of the year, giving concert-goers the opportunity to sing along with Mr. Glass' group. 

At the Lincoln Center campus, there is programming all summer long with a bevy of entertainment options . In addition to the outdoor dance party A Midsummer Night's Swing and the jazz and world music oriented Lincoln Center Out of Doors, there's the Lincoln Center Festival.


Elisabeth Futral in Emilie. Image © 2012 Lincoln Center Festival.
This year's festival offering is heavy on the theater and ballet, but relatively light in its music offerings. There is a premiere of Emilie, an important new work by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho starring Elizabeth Futral in the title role, and a performance of John Adams' jazzy City Noir with the Juilliard Orchestra conducted by the composer.

Founded in 1966, Mostly Mozart focuses on the music of Salzburg's favorite son, in an acoustically reconfigured Avery Fisher Hall that moves the orchestra closer to the audience and adds a concert ceiling to facilitate playing by smaller ensembles. Louis Lortie is the music director.

Highlights of this year's schedule include an opening concert with Nelson Friere, Yannick Nézet-Séguin's festival debut, and a complete opera: Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. Mostly Mozart opens July 28 and runs for the whole month of August.

The New York Philharmonic drew the wrath of the whole city last year when they shelved the orchestra's annual free Concerts in the Parks. This season, the band returns with appearances in all five boroughs, and a short festival of Fourth of July themed concerts at Avery Fisher Hall. (Those you have to pay for.)

The Metropolitan Opera continues to sideline its beloved Opera in the Parks series in favor of smaller recitals featuring Met artists and repeat screenings (in movie theaters) of Live in HD telecasts. The opera company will attempt to make it up to the city on August 25, when Lincoln Center Plaza becomes an outdoor movie theater, showing re-runs of the Live in HD telecasts. The schedule is not yet announced.

Of course these are just the highlights. See the monthly edition of The Short List and the linked websites above for more information as the summer rolls on.

Outside New York
Here's a quick look at five summer festivals. All are north of New York City.

Caramoor Festival (Katonah, NY)
Set against the spectacular backdrop of a Katonah, NY estate modeled after an Italian renaissance palace (people had money back then!) Caramoor continues to be the summer home of the Orchestra of St. Luke's. Advertised as "a garden of great music," it's also the closest summer festival to New York City.

The Bel Canto at Caramoor series is a must for opera lovers, with rare Italian operas performed in a concert setting under a festival tent. This year, New Yorkers can hear Rossini's obscure Ciro in Babilonia and a complete performance of Bellini's Shakespearean I Capuletti e i Montecchi. The Italian Courtyard is home to chamber music performances. Finally, the Orchestra of St. Luke's gives concerts under new music director Pablo Heras-Casado.

Glimmerglass Festival (Cooperstown, NY, formerly the Glimmerglass Opera.)
On the southern shore of historic Lake Otsego stands Cooperstown, NY, home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. But the real home run in Cooperstown is its opera company, which has a new name and new artistic energy from Francesca Zambello.
Chabrier's opera is offered at this year's
Bard Festival.
This year, the small stage at the Alice Busch Opera House (located on the northwest corner of the lake shore) is home to four operas.

The festival opens with Verdi's Aida, proving that this giant Egyptian story is a small, intimate drama which just happens to have lots of spectacle. Also on the slate: Lully's Armide, Kurt Weill's Lost in the Stars and a production of The Music Man. Finally a series of recitals featuring Deborah Voigt, Eric Owens and others should keep music lovers flocking to the little town on the lake.


Bard SummerScape/Bard Music Festival (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
Leon Botstein's two-part music festival continues at the Frank Gehry-designed Fischer Center, located on the lush campus of Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson. Dance, theater and opera are on the program, with cabaret performances in the on-site Spiegeltent.  The July opera features Emanuel Chabrier's little-known opera Le Roi Malgré Lui (The King in Spite of Himself) in a fully staged production.

The Music Festival proper begins in August when Dr. Botstein turns his laser-like focus on the music of French composer Camille Saint-Säens. Remembered today for three works (the Carnival of the Animals, Samson et Dalila and the Organ Symphony) Saint-Säens was a phenomenal child prodigy whose vast catalogue has been prodigiously ignored in the 21st century.  Dr. Botstein aims to correct that with a performance of the composer's opera Henry VIII and other compositions of interest.

Tanglewood Festival (Lenox, MA)
Tanglewood turns 75 this year. The former Tappan estate, located in the rolling hills of the Berkshires is just a day trip or weekend getaway away. The festival offers Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts in the Shed and chamber and modern music in the more modern Seiji Ozawa Hall.

Since the Boston Symphony Orchestra remains without a music director, this year's anniversary festival has a feeling of a "greatest hits." But there's still great music being made in the Berkshires. There's lots of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, a complete cycle of Brahms piano music by Gerhard Oppitz, and a Damnation of Faust starring the redoubtable Susan Graham. 
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.