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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Superconductor 2016 Summer Festival Preview II: Caramoor

The elegant estate in Katonah, NY has a full slate planned.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Baton out of nowhere: Gil Shaham in concert at Caramoor. The violinist will
close out the 2016 festival season Aug. 7. Photo © Caramoor Music Festival.
The Superconductor survey of the upcoming summer festival schedule moves just north of the city to Caramoor, an elegant, sprawling estate with shady, graveled walks, rolling grassy lawns and its own hedge maze. Caramoor also boasts a strong schedule of classical concerts, and the annual Bel Canto at Caramoor concert performances in the Venetian Theater are a magnet for Gotham opera-goers.



Of all the major festivals north of New York, Caramoor is the closest, with a Westchester locale right smack by the Connecticut border. It is the summer home of the Orchestra of St. Luke's, a palatial location whose secluded corners can turn a night at the opera into a romantic evening. There is food on site, but most people picnic at an array of unsightly but serviceable tables.

Here's some highlights.

On June 18, the Festival opens with a program of American songs sung by Kelli O'Hara and accompamied by resident ensemble the Orchestra of St. Luke's. And then the Caramoor grounds wil be open, with concerts, chamber music, recitals and even a folk and world music festival making this an ideal destination for the curious concert-goer.

This year's artist-in-residence is the stylish pianist Jonathan Biss: he will give a program of Beethoven and Martinu pieces for piano and orchestra, including the former's Piano Concerto No. 2 and the New York premiere of composer Timo Andres' new piece The Blind Banister.

On August 4 and 5, Mr. Biss will give a pair of concerts in the Spanish Courtyard of the elegant manor house that sparkes at the center of the Caramoor estate. The first of these is chamber music, the second an all-Beethoven recital.

The Bel Canto at Caramoor concerts open with a Rossini rarity: Aureliano in Parmira. This opera bombed at its La Scala premiere. and bits of it were recycled by the ever-economical Rossini into later works. A suspiciously familiar overture raises the curtain on a story of Roman conquest in Syria and the conflict between the Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Zenobia, the Syrian queen who spurns the Emperor for her lover Arsace. The denouement is sort of a cross between La Clemenza di Tito and Norma. July 16 will be devoted to this rare opera.

The second offering is more conventional and yet more challenging: a performance of Beethoven's lone opera Fidelio.. With Elza van der Heever in the title role as the cross=dressing wife of a political prisoner who disguises herself as a guard in order to win her husband back, this is a thrilling opera, made more so by Beethoven's sometimses creaky but usually brilliant score. Paul Groves is the hapless Florestan and big bass Kristinn Sigmundson is his jailer. Performance is on July 31.

The festivities end Aug. 7 with a sesson-closing concert by the Orchestra of St. Luke'sGil Shaham is the featured soloist and he will be playing the Brahms Violin Concerto in D under the baton of St. Luke's music director Pablo-Heras-Casado. The concert ends with the bucolic Second Symphony by the same composer.

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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.