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12 New York-Area Summer Music Festivals

Music Festivals are flourishing in the New York region this summer, from Lincoln Center's marquee events, to upstate getaways at Caramoor and Glimmerglass, to musical havens in the Hamptons. Below are 12 events where culture-starved urbanites can get their musical fix.

New York City
Mariinsky Theatre's Kirov Opera presents Mussorgsky's "Khovanshchina," July 10-21. Photo: Valentin Baranovsky

Lincoln Center Festival
July 8-27
The Lincoln Center Festival's blockbuster mixture of cutting-edge and international work looks particularly auspicious for its eighth season. A particular highlight is an extended visit by the Kirov Opera of the Mariinsky Theater, led by Valery Gergiev, presenting five productions including the North American premiere of Prokofiev's "Semyon Kotko." Other attractions include Deborah Warner's theater performance installation "The Angel Project," first presented in London in 1999; Salvatore Sciarrino's opera "Macbeth;" "The Orphan of Zhao," an opera directed by festival mainstay Chen Shi-Zheng; and Dance Theater of Harlem's premiere of "St. Louis Woman," choreographed by Michael Smuin to a score by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer.
Lincoln Center Web site

Louis Langrée, music director of the Mostly Mozart Festival.

Mostly Mozart Festival
July 25-August 23

In recent years Mostly Mozart's seemingly winning artistic formula has shown signs of wear with overused repertory and a general lack of daring. But beginning this season, the programming department at Lincoln Center is giving the 35-year-old festival a much-needed makeover. This means fewer routine concerts and more unusual productions, like this year's repeat of Tricia Brown's choreographic realization of "Winterreise" with Simon Keenlyside (presented last fall as part of the New Visions series). Other highlights include the festival's first fully staged opera, Mozart's Il re pastore ("The Shepherd King"), performed by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra under Nicholas McGegan; performances by pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, and countertenor David Daniels; and nine orchestral concerts led by the new music director, Louis Langrée.
Mostly Mozart Web site

New York Grand Opera
July 2-August 13

After several years at the Central Park Summerstage, the New York Grand Opera is moving its al fresco operas to the East Meadow (Fifth Ave. & 97th St.) for its 30th-anniversary season. Whether that will improve the perennially trouble-plagued sound system remains to be seen. What audiences can count on is a solid cast of up-and-coming singers and first-class conducting from Vincent La Selva, the company's founder. Programming this year includes both versions of "La Bohème"--Puccini's and Leoncavallo's--as well as "Madama Butterfly."
New York Grand Opera Web site

The New York Philharmonic plays in 2002 before a crowd of 80,000. Photo: Chris Lee

New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Park
July 6-13

Bug spray, blanket, and a well-stocked picnic are among the requisite accessories for any visit to the New York Philharmonic's parks concerts across the five boroughs. New York Philharmonic associate conductor Roberto Minczuk leads orchestral showpieces by Mozart, Falla, Fauré, Tchaikovsky, Musorgsky, Ginastera, and Bernstein, on Central Park's Great Lawn, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and other locations. Guest artists include Brazilian mezzo-soprano Luciana Souza, violinist James Ehnes, and two 18-year-old musicians: clarinetist Won-Jin Jo, and violinist Yura Lee. The price is right and performance end with the obligatory fireworks display.
New York Philharmonic Web site

Metropolitan Opera Concerts in the Park
June 10-21

The 37th season of free Metropolitan Opera performances in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut will open with Puccini's "Turandot" on June 10 on the Great Lawn of Central Park. The three-week season also includes Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor." For "Turandot," Andrea Gruber will sing the title role, with Hei-Kyung Hong as Liù, Franco Farina as Calàf, Oren Gradus as Timur, and Joseph Colaneri conducting. In "Lucia di Lammermoor" Elizabeth Futral stars as Lucia, Frank Lopardo as Edgardo, Bruno Caproni as Enrico, Dimitri Kavrakos as Raimondo, and Edoardo Müller conducting.
Met Opera Parks Web site

New York State

Bard Summerscape
Annandale-on-Hudson, July 23-August 17

After the auspicious opening of the Richard B. Fisher Center in April, Bard will inaugurate SummerScape, a month-long event that incorporates the 14-year-old Bard summer music festival, as well as theater and opera performances. Frank Gehry, who designed the spectacular new facility will also design opera sets for the American stage premiere of Leo Janacek's "Osud." The opera forms part of a larger focus on the Czech composer which takes place over two weekends in August (Aug. 8-10 and 15-17), led by Leon Botstein, Bard's president and musical architect.
Bard Summerscape Web site

Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival
Bridgehampton, July 30-August 23

The pilgrimage eastward to the Hamptons during the summer months doesn't have to be an experience devoid of culture. The Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, under the direction of its founder and flutist Marya Martin, has been doggedly presenting some of the finest names in chamber music along with premieres and rare works every summer for 20 years. Along with Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms, this year will feature works written especially for the festival by Ned Rorem, Mark O'Connor, and Paul Moravec.
Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival Web site

Caramoor International Music Festival
Katonah, June 21-August 9

Situated on the manicured Westchester estate, the Caramoor Festival is a perfect day trip for any New York music lover, with an international assortment of top-caliber soloists. Its vast Italian-style gardens and Spanish Courtyard at the villa offer some of the most beautiful al fresco performances across the New York area. A centerpiece this year is the premiere of the French version of Donizetti's opera "Elisabetta," discovered and reconstructed by Caramoor's opera director, Will Crutchfield. If opera isn't your thing, six concerts by the Orchestra of St. Luke's feature soloists like Gil Shaham, Garrick Ohlsson, and Leon Fleisher.
Caramoor Festival Web site

Glimmerglass Opera
Cooperstown, July 3-August 26

While the major opera houses take their summer vacations, the Glimmerglass Opera Festival kicks off its 28th season of ambitious, international-caliber events. These include Offenbach's lighthearted "Bluebeard" (sung in English), Mozart's "Don Giovanni" (with Amy Burton as Donna Elvira) and Handel's "Orlando," with the exceptional countertenor Bejun Mehta. Also not to miss is Robert Kurka's "The Good Soldier Schweik," an opera based on Jaroslav Hasek's satirical novel. The pastoral, summer resort setting near Lake Otsego is complemented by the lovely 900-seat Alice Busch Theater.
Glimmerglass Opera Web site

Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Saratoga Springs, June 27-September 4

This idyllic upstate New York cultural hub is actually six festivals in one: the summer home of the New York City Ballet and The Philadelphia Orchestra; the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival, Freihofer's Jazz Festival, the Saratoga Wine & Food Festival, and Lake George Opera. Charles Dutoit, Philly's Saratoga summer artistic director, will conduct a complete cycle of Brahms concertos and lead a salute to St. Petersburg, Russia, for its 300th anniversary. Prominent pianists featured include Martha Argerich (Prokofiev's Third Concerto); Boris Berezofsky (Rachmaninoff's Third); and Lang Lang (Tchaikovsky's First).
Saratoga Performing Arts Center Web site


Norfolk Chamber Music Festival
Norfolk, June 28-August 23

A festival with a rich, 62-year history, Norfolk's musical lineage includes such luminaries as Sergei Rachmaninoff, Enrico Caruso and Fritz Kreisler. Today, the school and festival regularly attract promising young ensembles from around the world that audition for the opportunity to study with Yale School of Music resident faculty. Many of these groups go on to win major awards, recording contracts, and management offers. Concerts are given in the acoustically superb Music Shed, situated on the 70 acres of rolling lawns, gardens and historic buildings. New music is a particular focus this year, with works by Bright Sheng, Steven Mackey, Joan Tower and David Del Tredici featured this summer. Artists include the Tokyo String Quartet, the Miró Quartet and Eighth Blackbird (pictured).
Norfolk Chamber Music Festival Web site

Music Mountain
Falls Village, June 8-August 31

Situated in Connecticut's Berkshire foothills, Music Mountain is the oldest continuing summer chamber music festival in the United States. Founded in 1930 as the permanent home of the Gordon String Quartet, Music Mountain's bucolic, 132-acre campus is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This year, the 335-seat Gordon Hall will play host to a fine roster of chamber ensembles and soloists like Shanghai String Quartet, Ruth Laredo, Avalon String Quartet, St. Petersburg String Quartet; a four-part, Friday evening choral series; and an eight-part Saturday night jazz series.
Music Mountain Web site

Other Selected Summer Festivals Around The U.S.

  • Aspen Music Festival (Aspen, Colorado)
  • Hollywood Bowl (Hollywood, CA)
  • Ojai Music Festival (Ojai, CA)
  • Oregon Bach Festival (Eugene, OR)
  • Ravinia Festival (Highland Park, Illinois)
  • Santa Fe Opera (Santa Fe, NM)
  • Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival (Santa Fe, NM)
  • Tanglewood Festival (Lenox, Mass)

    Additional Resources:

  • Best of the Fests's Round-Up of 2002 Festivals.
  • Louis Langree on Soundcheck Mostly Mozart's new director speaks with John Schaefer about what to expect this summer.