Coming Events: Western Festivals Light Up The Sky

At the Aspen Music Festival, music resounds in the Benedict Music Tent. (Photo by Alex Irvin, Aspen Music Festival)

DATE BOOK — Whether it’s opera in the desert, orchestral music in the Grand Tetons, or chamber music in a pueblo-style auditorium, there’s plenty to enjoy in the enormously varied festivals planned in America’s West. The hotter months invite you to plug into a new opera about Steve Jobs, enjoy outdoor concerts at ski-country heights, and cruise the Colorado River with daily concerts at bankside. Here’s a look at some of the season’s highlights:

Aspen: Focus on the concerto’s ongoing, irresistible allure

June 29-Aug. 30: Full details

The 2017 edition of the Aspen Music Festival is dubbed the “Year of the Concerto,” an exploration of the centuries-old musical form, including works from past and present. Among the highlights, pianist and scholar Robert Levin will offer his reconstruction of Mozart’s unfinished Concerto for Violin and Piano, K. 315, (July 7). Inon Barnatan will deliver the world premiere of Aspen president and CEO Alan Fletcher’s Piano Concerto (July 30), and Malaysian pianist Tengku Irfan will give the world premiere of Canadian composer Matthew Ricketts’ Piano Concerto (Aug. 9).

Other notable events: the American premiere of British composer Luke Bedford’s chamber opera Seven Angels, inspired by Milton’s Paradise Lost, with text by Glyn Maxwell, Yves Abel conducting (Aug. 5); and a concert performance of Ravel’s opera L’enfant et les sortilèges (July 21), Robert Spano conducting, as part of the festival’s 2017 theme, “Enchantment.”

Vail: Bravo! Vail Festival parades 4 orchestras, 5 world premieres

Four orchestras perform high in the Rockies at Bravo! Vail.
(Zach Mahone, courtesy Bravo! Vail)
June 22-Aug. 4: Full details

The festival’s 30th season marks the launch of the New Works Project, which has resulted in the commissioning of five works to be heard for the first time. The return of longtime resident orchestras – Dallas Symphony, New York Philharmonic, and Philadelphia – also features the second-annual residency of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, with violinist and music director Joshua Bell.

Upcoming world premieres include Roberto Sierra’s Dos piezas para orquesta, with Jaap van Zweden leading the Dallas Symphony (June 30)Guillaume Connesson’s Les Regrets, with Stéphane Denève leading the Philadelphia Orchestra (July 9)White Stone, by Julia Adolphe, with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic (July 26); and David Ludwig’s Pangaea for Strings and Piano, with pianist Anne-Marie McDermott and the AeolusCalder, and Lyris quartets (Aug. 3). An overture for violin and orchestra by Edgar Meyer, for Bell and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, premiered on June 22.

Central City: Historic mountain opera company scales eclectic heights

Central City, Col., has been home to opera for 85 seasons.
(Courtesy Central City Opera)
July 8-Aug. 6: Full details 

This summer the Central City Opera marks its 85th anniversary, making it one of the oldest professional opera presenters in the United States. The main offerings are at the Central City Opera House, an 1878 rock structure in this tiny, historic mining town high in the Rocky Mountains, but this year is particularly notable for the rarities presented in other local spots: Britten’s Burning Fiery Furnace (July 26-27 and Aug. 2), Douglas Moore’s soap opera parody Gallantry (Aug. 3-4), and Amy Beach’s 1932 Cabildo, a pirate’s tale set in New Orleans during the War of 1812 (July 26, 29 and Aug. 2). Meanwhile, on the main stage – Carmen and Così fan tutte. Here’s a calendar.

Santa Fe: Chamber music riches include two world premieres by FLUX

FLUX Quartet will perform two world premieres by young composers.
(Courtesy Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival)
July 16-Aug. 21: Full details

One of the biggest and best-known such series in the country, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival returns for its 45th season, with concerts across Santa Fe and the Albuquerque region. This year’s edition of some 100 works will feature FLUX performing the world premieres of quartets by two composers born in 1989, Freya Waley-Cohen and Phil Taylor (Aug. 4). Rarities include the Op. 25 Duo Concertante for Violin and Guitar by the early 19th-century composer and virtuoso guitarist Mauro Giuliani, with violinist Daniel Hope and guitarist Łukasz Kuropaczewski (July 19-20). And in a special project, director-designer Doug Fitch will present his staging of Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du soldat with actor Wallace Shawn providing the narration (Aug. 17).

Santa Fe: Steve Jobs, now an opera character, via Mason Bates

Baritone Ed Parks will star as Steve Jobs in an opera by Mason Bates.
(Dario Acosta, courtesy Santa Fe Opera)
June 23-Aug. 5: Full details

The Santa Fe Opera ranks as this country’s largest and most prestigious summer opera festival, offering performances in a high-tech amphitheater that sits dramatically on a mesa just north of the city. This season’s highly anticipated world premiere is Mason Bates’ The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, to a libretto by Mark Campbell, directed by Kevin Newbury with Michael Christie conducting and baritone Edward Parks in the title role (July 22-Aug. 25). It spans nearly five decades of the enigmatic visionary’s life. Other relative rarities include Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel, Emmanuel Villaume, conductor, and Paul Curran, director (July 15-Aug. 18), and Handel’s Alcina, Harry Bicket, conductor, and David Alden, director (July 29-Aug. 23). Johann Strauss, Jr.’s Die Fledermaus (June 30-Aug. 26) and Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (July 10-Aug. 24) round out the season.

Moab, Utah: Music in the spectacular flow of a river’s white waters

Bankside concert, great view, on a whitewater raft trip.
(Richard Bowditch, courtesy Moab Music Festival)
Aug. 31-Sept. 11: Full details

Perhaps more than any other mountain festival, the Moab Music Festival works hard to combine the splendor of its natural surroundings with the music-making. Special events in this vein include the Westwater Musical Raft Trip, a two-night, three-day voyage through the Colorado River’s Ruby-Horsethief and Westwater canyons, with daily concerts on the banks. Launching Aug. 28, this adventure offers a high-level roster of musical artists alongside whitewater rafting and camping, for a price: $2,000.

Kyle MacMillan served as the classical-music critic for the Denver Post from 2000 through 2011. He is now a freelance journalist in Chicago, where he contributes regularly to the Chicago Sun-Times and Modern Luxury and writes for such national publications as the Wall Street Journal, Opera News, Chamber Music, and Early Music America.