The 10 Best Classical Music Festivals in the US This Summer

Summer for the city

After the scourge of the pandemic, the inaugural Summer for the City festival offers New Yorkers a summer to “rejoice, reclaim and remember” with an outdoor dancefloor and free installations. Although it has less music than its predecessor, the Lincoln Center Festival, the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra will present free concerts starting July 6, then a series of classics paired with music by black composers.

May 14-August 14, lincolncenter.org

Ravinia

More than 100 events make up this year’s Ravinia Festival in Chicago, from world music and family-friendly performances to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in residence. Marin Alsop conducts the opening concert of the CSO on July 15. Later highlights include an Osvaldo Golijov and Bernstein duet, a focus on Mexican music, a celebration of Stephen Sondheim and concerts of two Mozart operas, Don Giovanni and Tito’s clemency.

May 20-September 18, ravinia.org

Marin Alsop conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia © Ravinia Festival

St. Louis Opera Theater

A mission to bring opera to audiences, accessible in English, has made the Opera Theater of St Louis one of America’s premier festivals. This year’s program is led by the premiere of alarm clocksbased on neurologist Dr Oliver Sacks’ moving tale of lives rediscovered, by composer Tobias Picker, and a powerful new edition by Stewart Wallace Harvey Milk. Carmen and The magic flute play side by side.

May 21-June 26, opera-stl.org

Opera Theater of St Louis creates a new opera, “Awakenings”

Spoleto Festival United States

Opening night at this year’s festival in Charleston, South Carolina is the first of Omar, a new opera by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels. The story is taken from the autobiography of Omar Ibn Said, who was transported on a slave ship to Charleston in 1807. Other highlights include unholy warsa new musical theater event reassessing the crusades, a new work by Nico Muhly and music by Tyshawn Sorey, straddling classical and jazz.

May 27-June 12, spoletousa.org

Ojai Music Festival

For the first time in 75 years of history, Ojai in California welcomes a collective, the American Modern Opera Company, as musical director. One of the co-founders of AMOC was the composer of the moment Matthew Aucoin and his family dinner, a cycle of mini-concerts, is at the head of a program of six musical and choreographic creations. The festival opens with an “epic musical marathon” featuring core AMOC members.

June 9-12, ojaifestival.org

Works by Matthew Aucoin presented at the Ojai Music Festival © Annalies Van der Vegt

Tanglewood

At the heart of Tanglewood’s varied musical season are the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops. Based in the beauty of the Berkshires, the BSO’s summer festival kicks off with high-octane Bernstein and Stravinsky. Highlights include Andris Nelsons conducting nine programmes, Beethoven’s piano concertos with Paul Lewis, a handful of premieres and two operas in concert, Mozart by Don Giovanni and George Benjamin Lessons of love and violence.

June 17-September 4, bso.org

Andris Nelsons directs nine programs at Tanglewood

Bard SummerScape

Eight weeks of music, opera, dance and theater make up the 19th annual Bard SummerScape at the Fisher Center in New York’s Hudson Valley. A rare chance to see Strauss Die schweigsame Frau is the catch of the opera program. At the center of SummerScape is the Bard Music Festival (August 5-14), an intensive two-week exploration of “Rachmaninoff and his world” in 12 concerts, talks and themed panel discussions.

June 23-August 14, bard.edu

Santa Fe Opera

As the sun approaches, nothing beats opera under a towering sky overlooking the mountains of New Mexico. David Henry Hwang’s award-winning play Mr Butterfly takes on new life as an opera, music by Huang Ruo, libretto by the author himself, getting its premiere as the last of five Santa Fe operas this year. Carmen, The barber of Siviglia, Falstaff and Tristan and Isolda all get new productions.

July 1-August 27, www.santafeopera.org

Grand Teton Music Festival

Nestled at the base of the Teton Mountain Range in Wyoming and adjacent to Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Teton Music Festival offers unparalleled access to the natural world along with eight weeks of music. Under the direction of musical director Donald Runnicles, the program will begin with a cycle of piano concertos by Beethoven with Garrick Ohlsson and end with concerts by Puccini Bohemian.

July 3-August 27, gtmf.org

Glimmerglass Festival Alice Busch Opera Theater
Classic and contemporary come together at Glimmerglass © Karli Cadel

Glass Glow Festival

Opera and musicals play side by side in New York’s scenic Cooperstown neighborhood. Classic and contemporary collide in Glimmerglass’ main novelty of the season, when highlights from Rossini’s operas are married to a comic new story from playwright Ken Ludwig in tenor at sea. The sound of music and Carmen provide the mainstays and there is a double program of new one-act operas by Kamala Sankaram and Damien Geter.

July 8-August 21, glimmerglass.org

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