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The best summer classical concerts to see this summer

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When it comes to the summer sun, classical music is a delicate flower. Between seasons, it’s common for orchestras, chamber ensembles, conductors and soloists to head for the shade offered by a well-established network of barns, sheds, tents and pavilions. If you’re a classical fan, you’re probably also a seasoned festival head, and if you’re new to the stuff (or just classical-curious), the picnic-first approach to Very Serious Music can help level the playing field into something more like a grassy lawn. What follows is a selection of summer festivals, ordered by proximity to the District of Columbia. Stay hydrated and happy listening!

As most every other opera company packs it in for the season, summer is showtime for Wolf Trap Opera, which splits its summer offerings between the acoustically cozy indoor venue The Barns and the grander open-air setting of the Filene Center. Conductor Christine Brandes leads director Dan Rigazzi’s “Così fan tutte” (June 21-29) to open the season. In addition to leading an exclusive master class (July 10), mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton will also give a Barns recital with pianist Joseph Li (July 14). The National Symphony Orchestra backs up a main-stage production of Puccini’s “La Boheme” (July 19) starring soprano Amanda Batista as Mimi and tenor Eric Taylor as Rodolfo. Composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning opera “Silent Night” closes the season at the Barns (Aug. 9-17). The summer season will also feature three installments of the intimate, artist-curated Salon Series (June 23, 28 and July 1) as well as the return of WTO’s ever-popular Aria Jukebox, where audience members choose what Filene Artists sing (July 7). June 21-Aug. 17 at Wolf Trap, 1551 Trap Rd., Vienna. wolftrap.org

National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap

In addition to appearances with Wolf Trap Opera (see: “La Boheme” on July 19) the NSO has a busy summer schedule of high-profile guests and low-key movie nights at the Filene Center. On this summer’s guest list are Phish frontman Trey Anastasio (June 25); rapper Nas celebrating the 30th anniversary of his landmark album “Illmatic” (July 21); and Grammy-winning genre-fluid pop iconoclast Beck giving favorites from his catalogue an orchestral glow-up (July 27). Movie buffs who double as classical fans take note of the NSO’s live soundtracks to “Star Wars: A New Hope” (July 13), “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1” (July 24) and “Ghostbusters” (July 26). And for some serious musical fireworks, the Cathedral Choral Society joins conductor Ruth Reinhardt and the NSO for a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth, on a program that also features Sphinx Concerto Competition winner Njioma Grevious, performing Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Violin Concerto (July 12). June 25-July 27, at Wolf Trap, 1515 Trap Rd., Vienna. wolftrap.org

Just north of New York City in Katonah, the venerable summer outpost for classical music is busy with highlights and ready for your picnic blankets. A free day-long Soundscapes event (June 9) opens the season, as well as the Caramoor grounds — home to sound art by Stephan Moore, Senem Pirler, Liz Phillips, Taylor Deupree, Annea Lockwood, Bob Bielecki and Ranjit Bhatnagar. It will also feature Majel Connery’s “Rivers Are Our Brothers,” an electronic song cycle on ecological responsibility; a theremin workshop with Rob Schwimmer; and composer Darian Donovan Thomas’s installation “Safe Space.” Regular-season concerts include appearances by Abeo Quartet (June 27), Roomful of Teeth (June 28), The Knights with Aaron Diehl (June 30), the Sphinx Virtuosi (July 7), Owls (July 11), Xian Zhang leading the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and guitarist Miloš (July 14), Sandbox Percussion’s world premiere of Douglas J. Cuomo’s “The Jump Up!” (July 21), “classically trained garage band” Time for Three (July 26), Silkroad head Rhiannon Giddens (Aug. 3) and more. Plus: Dance makes a return to Caramoor with a presentation of Purcell’s “The Fairy Queen” (July 20) and an appearance from Mark Morris Dance Company (Aug. 1). June 9-Aug. 16 at Caramoor, Katonah, New York. caramoor.org

The oldest ongoing summer chamber music festival returns to its woodland home in Hurley, N.Y., with Sunday classical concerts in its handcrafted concert barn. This summer’s Chamber Music Festival kicks off with the Manhattan Chamber Players and pianist David Fung (June 30) and continues into September with performances by Escher String Quartet (July 7), the Four Nations Ensemble (July 13), Windsync with composer Viet Cuong (July 13 and 14), Miró Quartet (July 21), Chelsea Guo (Aug. 4), Margaret Leng Tan (Aug. 24) and more. June 15-Sept. 14 at Maverick Concerts, Hurley, N.Y. maverickconcerts.org

Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood

Maestro Andris Nelsons opens the BSO’s season at its longtime summer campus with an all-Beethoven program headlined by violinist Hilary Hahn performing the Violin Concerto (July 5) and an all-Strauss program featuring soprano and Kennedy Center honoree Renée Fleming (July 7). The Koussevitzky Music Shed will also host appearances from violinist Augustin Hadelich (July 14), Christine Goerke (July 20), Emanuel Ax (July 21), Jean-Yves Thibeaudet (July 27), Kirill Gerstein (Aug. 4 and 9), Midori (Aug. 16) and Yo-Yo Ma (Aug. 18). Artists giving recitals at Seiji Ozawa Hall this summer include Yuja Wang (July 17); a special trio appearance of Kirill Gerstein, Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis (July 31); Paul Lewis (July 24); Danish String Quartet (Aug. 1); and more. Freshly appointed concertmaster Nathan Cole will also make his first appearances at Tanglewood with the BSO this summer. Book a few days, so you can take in afternoon master classes, open rehearsals, composer talks and the extraordinary view of the Berkshires. July 5-Aug. 25 at Tanglewood, Lenox, Mass. bso.org/tanglewood

Loud Weekend at Mass MoCA

For aficionados of new music and the avant-garde end of the classical spectrum, the secluded mill town of North Adams — and its massive contemporary art center Mass MoCA — host this reliably ear-ringing festival presented by New York City experimental mainstays Bang on a Can. This summer’s Loud Weekend (Aug. 1-3) will include appearances by Duet Behavior (featuring Meredith Monk and percussionist John Hollenbeck); cellist Maya Beiser’s take on Terry Riley’s minimalist monument “In C”; a new work “for 1-bit electronics and harpsichord” by Tristan Perich; works by Huang Ruo, Marcos Balter, Mathew Rosenblum, Annika Socolofsky, Jeffery Brooks and many, many more. Aug. 1-3 at Mass MoCA, North Adams, Mass. massmoca.org

A strong summer season awaits at the Cooperstown, N.Y., opera festival, now directed by Robert Ainsley, former director of the Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program and the American Opera Initiative. In addition to offering artist talks, pre-show concerts and festival dinners, Glimmerglass will showcase new productions of “The Pirates of Penzance” directed and choreographed by Seán Curran; a “Pagliacci” that moves from a picnic to the stage by Brenna Corner; Francesco Cavalli’s “La Calisto” directed by Mo Zhao and conducted by Ainsley; and Kevin Puts’s “Elizabeth Cree,” directed by Alison Moritz and starring 2024 Glimmerglass artist-in-residence Tara Erraught (who will also appear in concert with Glimmerglass Young Artists on Aug. 15). Don’t be afraid to bring the kids; there’s lots of lawn plus a family-friendly performance of Jens Ibsen and Cecelia Raker’s “Rumpelstiltskin and the Unlovable Children.” July 22-Aug. 20 at Glimmerglass Festival, Cooperstown, N.Y. glimmerglass.org

Incoming Washington National Opera music director Robert Spano is also director of the Aspen Music Festival, which is celebrating its 75th season with a busy summer of concerts. Highlights include Renée Fleming singing Strauss (June 30); Daniil Trifonov playing Mozart’s “Jeunehomme” concerto (June 28); Joshua Bell, Steven Isserlis and Jeremy Denk performing Beethoven’s “Triple” concerto (July 14); Midori playing Bartok’s second concerto (Aug. 4); and Matthew Aucoin conducting “The Marriage of Figaro” in a new production by Sara Erde (Aug. 12). June 26-Aug. 18 at Aspen Music Festival, Aspen, Colo. aspenmusicfestival.com

The nation’s most spectacular (and surprisingly temperate) outdoor opera festival returns to the desert with five new productions (and if you go Aug. 5-9, you can catch them all in a row). Louisa Muller’s “La Traviata” is billed as a “memory play” set in 1939 Paris. Stephen Barlow’s Victorian-tinted “Don Giovanni” filters the opera through Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Karina Canellakis makes her SFO debut conducting “Der Rosenkavalier” (with Ying Fang as Sophie!). Stephen Lawless directs the revival of SFO’s 2009 production of Donizetti’s “The Elixir of Love.” And the heavy-hitting world premiere of Gregory Spears and Tracy K. Smith’s “The Righteous” stars Anthony Roth Costanzo, Michael Mayes, Elena Villalón, Jennifer Johnson Cano and Greer Grimsley. June 28-Aug. 24 at the Santa Fe Opera, Santa Fe, N.M. santafeopera.org



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