Toast to classical music under the stars

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What can I say ? I am fickle. One minute I can’t stop cheering for the return of classical music to concert halls, and the next I’m about to ditch them all in favor of some cold dew, fresh air and of “La Traviata“Under the Stars. Get your best covers ready, folks: Summer concert season is back.

Below is a modestly sized picnic basket of classic outdoor parties of all sizes that should find a place in your calendar. A few of them are in our own backyard; others could make for a particularly enjoyable vacation.

Wolf Trap Opera presents an exciting trio of productions this summer. Carl Maria von Weber’s seldom-heard 1821 opera ‘Der Freischütz (The Marksman)’ arrives at the Barns on June 18, 24 and 26 – a book ending for the season-closing performance, Carlisle’s ‘Susannah’ Floyd on August 12, 14 and 20, also at Les Granges. But for a true Wolf Trap Opera experience on the main stage, be sure to catch Chanae Curtis as Violetta in “La Traviataat the Filene Center, conducted by Emma Griffin and featuring the National Symphony Orchestra under Roberto Kalb on July 15. Various dates through August 20 at Wolf Trap, 1551 Trap Rd., Vienna, Virginia.

Lately, there have been all kinds of opportunities to hear the National Symphony Orchestra outside the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. They performed throughout the spring at the newly opened Capitol One Hall and Anthem on DC’s southwest waterfront, but the Filene Center remains my favorite satellite stage for the orchestra. This season, the NSO is teaming up with Pink Martini for a show led by conductor Steven Reineke (July 8). Reineke also conducts two episodes of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” in concert (July 22 and 23). Emil de Cou leads the NSO in a concert of John Williams’ score for “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” combined with a screening of the film (July 29), and gives “Toy Story” the same treatment the following night (July 30). Driver Ruth Reinhardt closes the orchestra’s summer holidays with the violinist Gil Shaham performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, as well as a rousing run through Dvořák’s Ninth, the “New World” symphony. Various dates through August 5 at Wolf Trap, 1551 Trap Rd., Vienna, Virginia.

Concerts at the Secret Garden

The small “Secret Garden” venue run by classical touring company Classical Movements first opened its doors to music-hungry listeners at the start of the pandemic. Since then it has continued to function well, hosting intimate musical gatherings in the charming backyard of the Rectory on Princess Street in Alexandria. This summer, the garden hosts “Steps Towards Freedom: A Juneteenth Remembrance” (June 16) with the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts, featuring soprano Ayana Freelon, baritone Carl Dupont, dancer Shawna Williams, pianist Lester Green and narrator Pamela Simonson. And “A Night in Havana” (June 23) brings Luis Faife and his Cuban roots, with flautist and saxophonist Manuel “Memo” Pelayo, to play selections from Eliades Ochoa, Company Segundo, Sergio Gonzalez Siaba and Miguel Matamoros. The Parsonage on Princess Street, 711 Princess St., Alexandria.

The MacArthur Award-winning all-rounder Rhiannon Giddens embarks on its first tour with the venerable and versatile Silkroad Ensemble (founded by Yo-Yo Ma in 1998) since being appointed Artistic Director in 2020. On this tour, the ensemble makes its debut »Phoenix risingdescribed as a “musical renaissance” for the band. Giddens and 13 Silkroad musicians will also perform new commissions from Sandeep Das, Maeva Gilchrist and Kaoru Watanabeas well as new arrangements by Giddens, Colin Jacobson, Edouard Perez and Mazz Swift. July 24 at Wolf Trap, 1551 Trap Rd., Vienna, Virginia.

The annual Cooperstown, NY Opera Festival, led by Washington National Opera Artistic Director Francesca Zambello, returns with a strong summer lineup. A production of “The Sound of Music” with Houston Grand Opera brings Rodgers and Hammerstein’s beloved latest musical to life (July 8-August 19). Mezzo-soprano Briana Hunter sings the lead role in a new production of “Carmen,” a production with Minnesota Opera (July 16-21). A special doubleheader pairs “Taking Up Serpents” by Kamala Sankaram and Jerre Dye with “Holy Ground” by Damien Geter and Lila Palmer (July 29-August 20). Playwright Ken Ludwig presents the world premiere of his Rossini comic opera “Tenor Overboard” (July 19-August 18). Sandra Seaton creates “The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson”, a play with music by Carlos Simon celebrating the founder of the National Negro Opera Company (August 15-16). And Sankaram teams up with Kelley Rourke for a lyrical new retelling of “The Jungle Book,” featuring the Glimmerglass Youth Chorus (August 4-8). July 8-August. 21 at Glimmerglass, Cooperstown, NY

The Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home in Lenox, Mass., has a busy season with far too many highlights to list, but here are a few. andris nelson opens the orchestra’s summer season on July 8 with “Opening Prayer” by Leonard Bernstein, with baritone Jack Canfield, as well as the composer’s second symphony, “The Age of Anxiety”, with pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. On July 9, he conducted pieces by Carlos Simon, Barber, Ellington and Gershwin, featuring the soprano Nicole Cabell and pianist Aaron Diehl. Cabell returns to Tanglewood later this month to sing Donna Elvira in a Mozart concert”Don Giovanni.” Other highlights include soprano Ying Fang and bass-baritone Shenyang (July 17); soprano Latonia Moore and pianist Seong Jin Cho (July 24); conductor Cristian Măcelaru with cellist Yo-Yo Ma (August 14); a celebration of John Williams’ 90th birthday (August 20); and Michael Tilson Thomas lead young Russian piano phenom Alexander Malofeev in Rachmaninoff’s epic Piano Concerto No. 3 (August 28). Various dates through August 28 at Tanglewood, 297 West St., Lenox, Mass.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s 36-acre summer home once again features Marin Alsop, Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, as Principal Conductor for three of the orchestra’s six weeks in Highland Park, Illinois (the remaining weeks will be filled with guest conductors including Carlos Miguel Prieto and Peter Oundjian). Alsop’s concerts include soprano Yeree Suh and baritone Matthias Goerne as well as his “Break down barriers(July 29-31), which this year focuses on women on the podium — including a tribute to Chicago Symphony Chorus founder Margaret Hills — and features Esperanza Spalding and soprano Janai Brugger. Through September 18 at Ravinia, 201 Ravinia Park Rd., Highland Park, Illinois.

If California calls you this summer, this year Ojai Music Festival is organized by AMOCthe opera company that pushes the boundaries founded by Matthew Aucoin and Zack Winokur. Among other things, the festival presents a performance of “Little Jimmy” by composer Andrew McIntosh (with pianists Conor Hanick and Aucoin and percussionists Jonny Allen and Mari Yoshinaga) paired with the premiere of Aucoin’s “Family Dinner” – a cycle mini-concerts. Other highlights: Composer Anthony Cheung premieres his song cycle “The Echoing of Tenses,” featuring poems by selected Asian American writers such as Monica Youn, Jenny Xie and Ocean Vuong; soprano Julia Bullock and pianist Conor Hanick perform a new production of Olivier Messiaen’s “Harawai” song cycle; and a groundbreaking final concert joins the AMOC with an ensemble of music from the early United States Ruckus and countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo for a program that stretches from Vivaldi and Frescobaldi to Nina Simone and Julius Eastman (and adds a choreographed rendition of Schubert’s “Ständchen”). June 9-12 at the Ojai Music Festival, 210 S Signal St., Ojai, CA.


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