CD Reviews | CTD (Briefly Noted) | JFL (Dip Your Ears) | DVD Reviews


Summer Music Festivals: U.S.

Soprano Angela Meade
What would Ionarts be covering this summer if we had an unlimited travel budget? Here are our picks for the best performances of opera and classical music being presented by American summer festivals.

This may be the summer for my first visit to Cincinnati Opera, primarily because Angela Meade will be the Donna Anna in their production of Don Giovanni (June 13 and 15), and Michelle DeYoung will be the Amneris in their Aida (July 18 to 28), but also for the chance to see Philip Glass's Galileo Galilei (July 11 to 21). There is also Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier (June 27 and 29), in which Sarah Coburn should make a scrumptious Sophie.

We have not been to St. Louis since 2005, but the chance to see a staging of Smetana's The Kiss (June 16 to 28) might make a trip worthwhile. The rest of the season is less essential, especially a Pirates of Penzance, although the combination of Pagliacci and Il Tabarro (June 1 to 29) has some appeal. There is also the world premiere of Champion, a new jazz opera by Terence Blanchard (June 15 to 30).

Because the South Carolina festival gets started before summer vacation does, it has been impossible for me to make it there yet. This summer offers two worthy operas, a double-bill of Puccini’s Le Villi and Umberto Giordano’s Mese Mariano (May 25 to June 7) and the American premiere of Matsukaze, Toshio Hosokawa's opera about a traveling monk's encounter with two ghostly sisters.

There are three operas at the little festival on the Finger Lakes this summer, and we would be happy to see all of them, starting with the double-bill of David Lang's Little Match Girl Passion and Pergolesi's Stabat Mater (July 20 to August 22). The Lang piece is one of my favorite new compositions of the last ten years, and the juxtaposition with the older piece is intriguing. For the Wagner anniversary, Francesca Zambello directs The Flying Dutchman (July 6 to August 24), paired with Un Giorno di Regno for the Verdi anniversary (July 21 to August 24).

Giuseppe Verdi
Speaking of Angela Meade, she will star in Will Crutchfield's complete performance of Les vêpres siciliennes (July 6), the original grand opera version of the opera Verdi composed for Paris. Match that with more Verdi in French, the four-act version of Don Carlos, starring Jennifer Check and Jennifer Larmore (July 20).

Three contemporary operas are a good reason to go to New York this summer: Lera Auerbach's The Blind (July 9 to 14), another performance of Hosokawa's Matsukaze (July 18 to 20), and Michaels Reise um Erde from Stockhausen's Licht (July 18 to 20).

We will always go back for more of Lorin Maazel conducting Puccini, which he does again at the festival he started at his house in Rappahannock County, Virginia, with a production of La Fanciulla del West (July 6 and 12). Verdi gets his play here, too, with the gutsy choice of Otello (July 13 to 28) -- with no tenor announced yet. Guest conductor Antonio Méndez will also lead a double-bill of La Voix Humaine, the play version by Cocteau and the opera version by Poulenc (July 20 and 27). Quite nicely, Mahler is also featured, with performances of the fourth and fifth symphonies, plus a recital of his songs.

Our regular summer visit to New Mexico has been on hiatus, but this would be a good summer to go back. The highlights are Rossini's La Donna del Lago (July 13 to August 14), with Joyce DiDonato and Lawrence Brownlee, and the world premiere of Oscar, Theodore Morrison's new opera on the life of Oscar Wilde (July 27 to August 17). Also on this season are Offenbach's Grand Duchess of Gerolstein, Verdi's La Traviata (a revival of the rather odd Laurent Pelly production seen there in 2009), and Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro (a revival of Jonathan Kent's 2008 staging, again with Susanna Phillips).

This quirky little festival in Colorado, which we last visited in 2009, is presenting only two operas this season. It might be worth the trip to see Ned Rorem's Our Town (July 6 to 28).

This was almost the summer we made the longest trip of all, to see the August Ring cycle in the other Washington (three complete cycles, from August 4 to 25). So much is good this year, including Greer Grimsley as Wotan, Stephanie Blythe as Fricka, and Stuart Skelton as Siegmund, but to make the trip would require a commitment. I do have an old college friend there...

The whole Ionarts family loved the Berkshires so much last year that we are hoping to go back again this summer for Tanglewood's 75th anniversary season. Performances we would enjoy hearing include Mahler's third symphony with Anne Sofie von Otter and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos (July 6), John Harbison's 1999 opera The Great Gatsby with the Orchestra and Chorus of Emmanuel Music (July 11), the third act of Wagner's Die Walküre with Katarina Dalayman and Bryn Terfel (July 20), the Mahler Chamber Orchestra with Daniel Harding and Paul Lewis (July 24), an all-Mozart program with Christoph Eschenbach and soprano Christine Schäfer (July 26), and a double-bill of Britten's Curlew River and Purcell's Dido and Aeneas with Mark Morris Dance Group (July 31 and August 1).

For contemporary music, try Pierre-Laurent Aimard and the JACK Quartet in music of Carter, Lachenmann, and Stroppa (August 9 and 10), or the U.S. premiere of George Benjamin's opera Written on Skin, conducted by the composer (August 12).

The biggest event of them all, however, will be a performance of Verdi's Requiem Mass under the baton of Andris Nelsons (July 27), the Music Director-designate of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, as announced yesterday.

This festival opens with the U.S. stage premiere of Sergey Taneyev's operatic setting of Oresteia (July 26 to August 4). Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and SITI Company perform their version of that other modern ballet premiered 100 years ago (July 6 and 7), plus lots more Stravinsky (August 9-11 and 16-18).

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has some performances at Ravinia we would like to hear, including a Beethoven-fest with Christoph von Dohnányi and Emanuel Ax (July 11 and 12) and concerts with James Conlon, especially a concert performance of Verdi's Aida with Michelle DeYoung, Roberto Alagna, and Latonia Moore (August 3). If we win the Powerball jackpot tomorrow, put us down for the complete performance of Bartók's six string quartets with the Takács String Quartet (August 5 and 6) and a concert by the new formation of the Emerson Quartet (August 13).

[Edited to add:]
There is nothing all that exciting from this local company this summer, but I recommend their productions in the Barns, which are generally beautifully mounted and sung. This year that includes Rossini's nutty Il Viaggio a Reims (June 21, 23, 29) and Verdi's masterful Falstaff (August 9, 11, 14, 17). The amplification required for the cavernous outdoor venue is a deal-breaker for opera in my book.

No comments: