Top Five Summer Music Festivals in Historic Settings

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The old town in Dubrovnik, Croatia The old town in Dubrovnik, Croatia (Brian Wise/WQXR)

In the competitive field of international summer festivals, spectacular sightseeing often combines with beautiful sounds. With stages in Roman amphitheaters, 17th century palaces, and churches where Mozart played, these five festivals should delight both history buffs and classical music fans.

1. Salzburg Festival

One of the most famous and venerable of all summer classical music series, the Salzburg Festival, running from July 19 through September 1, selects its performance halls from the historic palaces and churches all over the city. From buildings that stood during Mozart’s time (the 12th-century Benedictine Abbey of St. Peter, and the baroque Cathedral Square) to ones named in his honor (the grand 19th-century Mozarteum and the recently remodeled Haus fur Mozart), few festivals have as much charm and can claim as important a legacy in music history.

2. Versailles Festival

The gardens, fountains, mirrored halls, gilded chapels and other exquisitely decorated rooms at Versailles compete with the entertainment at the palace’s annual summer festival. Inspired by the 400th anniversary of the birth of Versailles gardener and landscaper André Le Nôtre, this year’s offerings, from May 31 through July 7, include innovative programs celebrating flora. Performers include early music specialist such as Jordi Savall, William Christie, and Cecilia Bartoli, and events like the first Royal Carousel since Louis XIV’s reign and a masked ball in the Orangerie also harken the 17th century.

3. Savonlinna Opera Festival

Richard Wagner created the Bayreuth Festspielhaus to his precise specifications, but it’s hard to think of a more fitting fairy-tale setting for his operas than the Savonlinna Opera Festival. Set in eastern Finland, the 15th-century Olavinlinna castle (below) provides the venue for performances. This fortress protected the Swedes against Russian attacks from 1495 through the mid-19th century. During the festival, from July 5 through August 3, it will be better appreciated as a backdrop for productions of Wagner’s Lohengrin and Verdi’s Macbeth.

4. Dubrovnik Summer Festival

The ancient streets of Dubrovnik’s Old Town, a UNESCO heritage site, provides numerous picturesque settings for its annual summer festival. World-class musicians perform on stages set in old forts, Gothic churches and Renaissance squares, which draws figures from around the world. This year’s edition, from July 10 to August 25, combines concerts by Croatian performers and international acts, including Rufus Wainwright and the London Sinfonietta.

5. Verona Opera Festival

The Roman Amphitheater where the Verona Opera Festival takes place each year predates the invention of opera. Built in 30 AD, its use as a music venue is a relative recent development, beginning in the 19th century. The festival, which marks its 100th anniversary (with a program honoring Verdi’s 200th), will be a fitting backdrop for this season’s productions for the classical subjects in Aida and Nabucco, as well as a geographically accurate staging of Gounod’s Roméo et Juilliette. The festival runs from June 1 through early September.

Arena di Verona (foto Ennevi)


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Comments [2]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

New York has always had amateur opera groups like the Amato, Bronx Opera, Punch Opera or Stuyvesant Opera or opera workshops at Juilliard, Mannes, Manhattan, NYU, Hunter, New York College of Music or Columbia with highly enthusiastic, rarin' to go talented singers, conductors and instrumentalists. Nowadays with the New York City Opera on the ropes and Europe attempting to salvage funds for its very own, there exists no starting "intern" ground there for tyros from other nations.

May. 28 2013 07:34 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

News today by the general manager of LA SCALA, Stephane Lissner that the world-famous opera house that was VERDI's outreach to the musical world is suffering government subsidy cutbacks and diminished attendance records will cut back on its scheduling, its season length and the number of productions. Worldwide the excuse by governments for cutting back on support of their cultural institutions, the opera, the symphony, the music conservatories, the museums, the universities and television and radio public broadcasting is 'we can't afford it." What we can't afford is the ignorance of our respective cultures that provide the incentive for achieving, that entertain and inform In the USA we are not even paying attention to our intrastructure with thousands of bridges and roadways and hospitals and schools in dangerous conditions, falling bridges with vehicles plunging into the waterways below. Terrorists terror but simple-minded, ethically challenged politicians potentially are even more destructive of an enlightened civilized society. I am a Wagnerian heldentenor, opera composer and
director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute.

May. 27 2013 09:40 AM

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