Classical in the mountains
Central City Opera, Aspen Music Fest, Santa Fe Opera heat up in the summer
A mix of familiar and rare in Central City. A flashy farewell in Vail. A big-premiere moment in Santa Fe. The region’s classical summer has shaped up quite nicely.
While Denver’s in-town ensembles have all but given up on drawing audiences in the warm-weather months, there’s plenty of worldclass options just a car ride away.
Here’s my list of best bets for 2017
“Lucia di Lammermoor,” Santa Fe Opera, July 1-July 31.
Opera Colorado had a hard time drawing customers to its ‘Lucia” this spring because opera fans knew Santa Fe was likely to do it bigger and bolder this summer. This one features soprano Brenda Rae, who stole the show at Santa Fe’s 2014 presentation of “The Impresario.” She’s full of the potent charisma needed to keep Donizetti’s badass anti-heroine interesting until the deadly end. Info: 800-280-4654 or santafeopera.org.
Faculty concerts, July 2, 9, 23, Aug. 6 and Sept. 3. Rocky Ridge Music Center
It’s impossible to overstate just how perfect the Rocky Ridge Music Center’s Music in the Mountains Concert Series can be. The setting, in the hilly outskirts of Estes Park, is magical, and the concerts themselves are
high-quality and super intimate. There are a slew of student and faculty performances this summer, with a complete schedule available on the center’s website. The students shows are full of fresh faces and the faculty events give the teachers, who are spending their summer training classical’s next gen, a chance to do their best work in front of the public. These concerts are a deal at $25 and anyone under 12 gets in for free and there’s a reception for everyone after the show. Info at 970-586-4031 or rockyridge.org.
“Carmen,” Central City Opera, July 8-Aug. 6
This is particularly well-curated year at Central City, a mix of crowd-pleasers and off-beat gems, all worth the hike up the hill. “Carmen” kicks it off just right with soprano Emily Pulley singing the lead role in a production directed by Jose Maria Condemi. Expect an intimate, and sensual, take on one of opera’s all-time favorites. Info: 303-2926700 or centralcityopera.org.
The Philadelphia Orchestra, with Yefim Bronfman, July 15, Bravo! Vail Music Festival
The Philadelphia Orchestra return’s for its annual week in Colorado and this time busy conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin manages to join his musicians for three concerts in mid-July. They are all good choices, but this one, with Bronfman on Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 stands out. No doubt, the programmed “1812 Overture” will take things wonderfully overthe-top by the end of the evening. Info: 970-827-5700 or bravovail.org.
“The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” Santa Fe Opera, July 22-Aug. 15.
Santa Fe’s take on the late, American high-tech hero’s life and legacy is the most-anticipated premiere of 2017, not just in this part of the country, but in the entire world. Composer Mason Bates has a broad definition of opera in his head and it will spill across various genres as this experiment unfolds on stage. Colorado’s Mark Campbell contributes the libretto. This is what opera is -- right now -- and it’s right nearby. Well, sorta close, anyway. Info: 800-280-4654 or santafeopera.org
“The Burning Fiery Furnace” and “Cabildo,” Central City Opera, July 26-Aug. 2
Central City maintains its artistic credibility by sandwiching these two rarely-heard titles in between the warhorses that keep it in business. Benjamin Britten’s “The Burning Fiery Furnace” is a dark, one-act and one of his best works. “Cabildo” is composer Amy Beach’s only opera and a welcome contemporary turn in a traditional line-up. These are casual concerts presented in interesting, and alternative, venues. Info: 303-292-6700 or centralcityopera.org.
Master Class with Renée Fleming, July 27, Aspen Music Festival.
Aspen’s master classes are always a highlight of summer: dangerous outing where respected pros give tips to emerging singers -- in front of a live audience. This version ups the drama by putting the biggest name in American opera in the teacher’s seat. It’s a gimmick, of sorts, but a really fun one that sets the series apart in 2017. Info: 970 925 9042 or aspenmusicfestival.com.
“A Maestro’s Farewell,” July 28, Bravo! Vail Music Festival
Departing conductor Alan Gilbert is saying goodbye to the New York Philharmonic in a big way this summer, closing the orchestra’s annual Vail residency with the mother of all musical numbers, Beethoven’s Ninth. If it’s not a sentimental moment, it will certainly be a smashing night of classical sound-making. Pianist Inon Barnatan joins early for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 Info: 970-827-5700 or bravovail.org.
Jonathan Biss, Beethoven Sonatas, Aug. 1, Aspen Music Festival
Aspen has a slew of stars coming through this summer, but this mix of Biss and Beethoven is the one to catch. The pianist has a unique way of conveying the composer — gentle, passionate and powerful — and this event gives him a chance to connect the dots on a variety of pieces (Sonatas 3, 15, 20, 27 and 28 to be precise). If you like the show, you can return to Aspen Aug. 8 to hear part two. (Sonatas 2, 7, 16, 19 and 31) . Info: 970-925-9042 or aspenmusicfestival.com.
The Rocky Ridge Music Center concerts, held on the outskirts of Estes Park, are full of fresh faces, like these young musicians. Both students and faculty give performances all summer.
America’s favorite soprano, Renee Fleming, gives a Master Class at the Aspen Music Festival this summer.
Santa Fe Opera’s “Lucia” features soprano Brenda Rae, who stole the show at Santa Fe’s 2014 presentation of “The Impresario,” above.
Central City Opera will stage “Carmen” from July 8-Aug. 6
An aerial view of the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheatre, home base for the Bravo! Vail music festival.