Once again, classical music-loving travelers will be faced with a staggering abundance of performance options at the hundreds of music festivals that dot the American summer landscape.
Following is a selective guide to some of the most interesting, promising and/or noteworthy cultural destinations, presented by region and in alphabetical order. As always, programs and dates are subject to change and should be verified.
Bravo! Vail Music Festival, June 22-Aug. 3; Vail, Colo.: The 30th season will feature residencies by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Five commissioned works will receive world premieres. Dozens of performances and programs for all ages will feature such guest artists as Leonidas Kavakos, Steven Isserlis and Yefim Bronfman, framed by the scenic vistas of Vail Valley. 877-812-5700; www.bravovail.org.
Aspen Music Festival and School, June 29-Aug. 20; Aspen, Colo.: With more than 400 orchestral concerts, recitals, master classes and world premieres, the 69th season offers something for practically every musical taste, with the Colorado Rockies as a magnificent backdrop. “Enchantment” is the theme for programs under music director Robert Spano, including Berlioz’s “The Damnation of Faust” and Ravel’s “L’enfant et les Sortileges.” Soloists include Renee Fleming, Sarah Chang, Gil Shaham, Marc-Andre Hamelin, Conrad Tao, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Sharon Isbin. 970-925-9042; www.aspenmusicfestival.com.
Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, July 30-Aug. 12; Santa Cruz, Calif.: America’s longest-running festival of new orchestral works celebrates the arrival of Cristian Macelaru as music director with a series of commissions that further its commitment to the music of today. Composers in residence include Clarice Assad, Gerald Barry, William Bolcom, Michael Gandolfi, Jake Heggie and David T. Little. 831-426-6966; www.cabrillomusic.org.
Music Academy of the West Summer Festival, June 12-Aug. 5; Santa Barbara, Calif.: The seaside festival turns 70 with a packed schedule that includes orchestra, chamber and solo concerts, 10 premieres and a new piano competition. In his final appearance as music director of the resident New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert will conduct Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, an outdoor performance billed as the largest classical music event in local history. 805-969-8787; www.musicacademy.org.
Music@Menlo Chamber Music Festival and Institute, July 14-Aug. 5; Atherton, Calif.: The theme of the 15th anniversary season is “The Glorious Violin,” exploring the evolution of violin playing and composition and its impact on the musical landscape. Artistic directors David Finckel, cello, and Wu Han, piano, will oversee more than 50 events, including concerts by international artists and an institute for emerging professional chamber musicians. 650-785-6707; www.musicatmenlo.org.
Ojai Music Festival, June 8-11; Ojai, Calif.: Curated by music director Vijay Iyer, the 71st annual festival weekend seeks to connect genres and traditions and, in so doing, reveal common purpose among today’s composers and performers. Highlights include the world premiere of Iyer’s Violin Concerto, played by its dedicatee, Jennifer Koh, and George Lewis’ opera “Afterword.” Among the participants will be Muhal Richard Abrams, Brentano Quartet, Claire Chase and International Contemporary Ensemble. 805-646-2053; www.ojaifestival.org.
Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, July 16-Aug. 21; Santa Fe, N.M.: Countertenor David Daniels is artist-in-residence as part of a packed five-week program of concerts, recitals, master classes and open rehearsals. This year’s roster includes violinist Rachel Barton Pine playing solo Bach, pianist Kirill Gerstein performing a new solo work by artistic director Marc Neikrug and the FLUX Quartet playing Morton Feldman’s six-hour String Quartet No. 2. A fully staged production of Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale” also is planned. 505-982-1890; www.santafechambermusic.com.
Santa Fe Opera, June 30-Aug. 26; Santa Fe, N.M.: No operatic premiere this summer is more highly anticipated than that of Mason Bates’ “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs,” depicting the life of one of the great digital-era innovators as a tangled journey to enlightenment. Other operas in the festival season are Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus,” Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” Handel’s “Alcina” and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Golden Cockerel.” 800-280-4654; www.santafeopera.org.
Tippet Rise Art Center, July 7-Sept. 16; Fishtail, Mont.: Entering its second season, this 10-week festival of chamber music, recitals and outdoor sculpture exhibitions takes place on a 10,000-acre sheep and cattle ranch at the foot of the Beartooth Mountains. The roster is as big as the Montana sky, with more than 30 concerts at intimate indoor and outdoor sites. A new cello-piano work by Aaron Jay Kernis is the first fruit of a three-year commissioning program. 406-328-7820; www.tippetrise.org.
Cincinnati May Festival, May 19-27; Cincinnati: The city’s oldest arts organization, the May Festival Chorus, welcomes Gerard McBurney as creative partner for a series of concerts including Bach’s B-minor Mass (led by Harry Bicket), Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Elgar’s “The Dream of Gerontius” and other works. Other conductors include Juanjo Mena and Markus Stenz. Pending the completion of the renovation of Cincinnati Music Hall, performances will take place at the Taft Theater. 513-381-3300, www.mayfestival.com.
Des Moines Metro Opera, June 23-July 16; Simpson College, Indianola, Iowa: The highlight of the 45th festival summer promises to be Benjamin Britten’s “Billy Budd,” in a new edition by Britten scholar Steuart Bedford. Rounding out the schedule will be Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music,” Piazzolla’s “Maria de Buenos Aires” and Puccini’s “Turandot.” 515-961-6221; www.dmmo.org.
Minnesota Orchestra Sommerfest, July 21-Aug. 5; Minneapolis: Two milestones will be observed — Andrew Litton’s 15th and final season as artistic director and the 90th birthday of trumpeter Doc Severinsen, Sommerfest’s Pops conductor laureate. Litton’s operatic finale will be a concert version of Strauss’ “Salome,” starring Patricia Racette. 612-371-5656; www.minnesotaorchestra.org.
North Shore Chamber Music Festival, June 7-10; Village Presbyterian Church, 1300 Shermer Road, Northbrook, Ill.: Directors Vadim Gluzman, violin, and Angela Yoffe, piano, will preside over the seventh edition, which will include performances by the Escher String Quartet; a mostly Mozart gala with the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra of Columbus, Ohio, under David Danzmayr; and pianist-composer Adam Neiman leading the festival’s first commissioned work. 847-370-3984; www.nscmf.org.
Opera Theater of St. Louis, May 20-June 25; Loretto-Hilton Center, Webster University, Webster Groves, Mo.: The 45th festival of operas in English will bring the U.S. premiere of Philip Glass’ “The Trial,” based on Franz Kafka’s novel; a new performing version of “The Grapes of Wrath” by Ricky Ian Gordon; Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly”; and Mozart’s “Titus” (“La Clemenza di Tito”). 312-961-0044; www.experienceopera.org.
Peninsula Music Festival, Aug. 1-19; Door Community Auditorium, Fish Creek, Wis.: Surrounded by the natural beauty of Door County, the 65th summer fest under music director Victor Yampolsky will emphasize the music of Dvorak and his contemporaries in three programs. Soloists include pianists Vasily Primakov and Jon Kimura Parker; violinists James Ehnes and Anna Lee; and cellist Mark Kosower. 920-854-4060; www.musicfestival.com.
Bard Summerscape, June 30-Aug. 20; Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Music of Chopin and his contemporaries is the focus of the 28th festival, at Fisher Center and other locations on and around the Bard College campus in the Hudson River Valley. The mix of music, opera, theater, dance, film and cabaret will include a rare staging of Antonin Dvorak’s opera “Dimitrij,” the New York City Ballet and a film series about Chopin and romanticism. 845-758-7900; www.fishercenter.bard.edu/summerscape.
Glimmerglass Festival, July 7-Aug. 22; Cooperstown, N.Y.: The lakeside festival, nestled between the Adirondack and Catskill mountains in central New York, will present four main stage productions of opera and musical theater. Attractions include Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” Donizetti’s rarely heard “The Siege of Calais,” Handel’s “Xerxes” and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” Among the novelties is Derrick Wang’s one-act comic opera “Scalia/Ginsburg.” 607-547-2255; www.glimmerglass.org.
Lincoln Center Festival, July 10-30; New York: Multiple venues on and off the Lincoln Center campus will host 43 international music, dance and theater events. Highlights include “Cloud River Mountain,” a world-premiere collaboration between Chinese singer Gong Linna and the Bang on a Can All-Stars; Morton Subotnick’s pioneering electronic work “Silver Apples of the Moon”; a multipart tribute to jazz great Ornette Coleman; and a 50th-anniversary all-star dance performance of George Balanchine’s ballet “Jewels.” 212-721-6500; www.lincolncenterfestival.org.
Mostly Mozart Festival, July 25-Aug. 20; New York: This midtown Manhattan summer musical tradition enters its sixth decade with a variety of orchestral concerts, opera, chamber and contemporary music, plus late-night recitals, under music director Louis Langree and others. One highlight is the Budapest Festival Orchestra’s production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” conducted and directed by Ivan Fischer. 212-721-6500; www.mostlymusic.org.
Spoleto Festival USA, May 26-June 11; Charleston, S.C.: The 41st season of this multi-arts festival features the usual groaning board of symphonic, choral and chamber music, along with three operas — Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin,” and the U.S. premieres of Vivaldi’s “Farnace” and Luca Francesconi’s “Quartett.” Additional attractions include Mozart’s “Great” Mass and two works exemplifying modern puppetry. 843-579-3100; www.spoletousa.org.
Tanglewood, June 18-Sept. 6; Lenox, Mass.: The Boston Symphony Orchestra takes up residence in its summer home in the Berkshires for 10 programs under music director Andris Nelsons. A wealth of classical, popular and educational events will tempt travelers. Mahler’s Second and Beethoven’s Ninth symphonies will bookend Nelsons’ residency, which is to include the BSO’s first full concert performance of Wagner’s “Das Rheingold.” Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter will premiere a new work by John Williams, and composer Thomas Ades will make his Tanglewood debut as BSO artistic partner, appearing as conductor, pianist and mentor to fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center. 888-266-1200; www.bso.org.