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10 ways to fill your summer with classical music

Live music returns to Tanglewood, Newport, and other regional festivals.Hilary Scott

SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA The famed festival is returning to in-person performances this summer, but also plans to quickly release taped highlights from each concert. Online audiences can catch several pieces by resident composer Jessica Meyer including “From Our Ashes” (written for violinist Livia Sohn, who is recovering from focal dystonia); a nonet by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor; and the first movement of Beethoven’s “Archduke” Trio featuring violinist and festival chamber music director Geoff Nuttall, pianist Inon Barnatan, and cellist Alisa Weilerstein. Programs will be available through June 18. May 29-June 18.

BOSTON LYRIC OPERA An all-virtual season comes to a close with an operatic miniseries in eight episodes, involving a crack team of composers, screenwriters, directors, singers, and actors. Filmed in Palm Springs, Calif., the series follows the innkeepers and guests at a mysterious motel where nothing is quite what it seems. The series debuts June 3, and like a certain other hotel in California, you can check (it) out anytime you like.


A scene from Boston Lyric Opera's "Desert In" miniseries.Courtesy Boston Lyric Opera

BOSTON EARLY MUSIC FESTIVAL This weeklong extravaganza typically draws an international audience of early music professionals and enthusiasts, so it’s no surprise that they played it safe and made the call early to go virtual. But as usual, this lineup’s no slouch. An archival video presentation of 2017′s lavish production of Campra’s “Le Carnaval de Venise” serves as the centerpiece opera, and newly recorded concert programs by local and global ensembles will be released daily during the festival. June 6-13.

CARAMOOR Not only is this Katonah, N.Y., festival throwing open the gates again after a silent summer, they’re doing so with newly renovated grounds. Most concerts will take place in the Venetian Theater at reduced capacity, but the festival is also making full use of its new outdoor stage and putting up several interactive concerts, including a free performance of John Luther Adams’s “Ten Thousand Birds” by Alarm Will Sound (July 11) and the world premiere of “The Forest,” a work written for choir The Crossing and a specially designed amplification and looping system wittily dubbed “ECHOES” (it stands for Ex-Covid Haptotropic Optimistic Electrophonic Sound) (July 3). June 11-Sept. 12. Various locations, Katonah, N.Y. 914-232-1252,


YELLOW BARN This forward-looking festival doesn’t have complete details and dates nailed down, but this summer promises a residency by composer James McMillan, saxophonist Travis LaPlante exploring Miles Davis’s “On the Corner” collaboration with Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate’s “Standing Bear: A Ponca Indian Cantata.” Also of note: a long-delayed celebration of the life of piano pedagogue Leon Fleisher, a mentor of festival artistic director Seth Knopp. July 9-Aug. 7. Yellow Barn, Putney, Vt. 802-387-6637,

Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate's "Standing Bear: A Ponca Indian Cantata" will be performed at Yellow Barn.Alana Rothstein/Courtesy Yellow Barn

NEWPORT MUSIC FESTIVAL Performances that would ordinarily take place inside Newport’s opulent Gilded Age mansions have been moved to their lawns, and because of strictly limited capacity, many concerts sold out immediately when tickets were released in mid-April. However, the festival intends to follow state and local guidelines, so more tickets may become available. In the meantime, if you’re willing to get up with the sun (5 a.m., anyone?), you can join members of A Far Cry (Jul. 9) or guitar-flute duo Lara Deutsch and Rupert Boyd (Jul. 16) to greet the day at the Norman Bird Sanctuary. July 4-20. Various locations, Newport, R.I. 401-849-0700,


Newport Music Festival moves from Gilded Age mansions to lawns, including the greenspace outside the Chanler at Cliff Walk.Kate McElwee

TANGLEWOOD After the first year canceled since World War II, the Boston Symphony Orchestra is back in its summer home in the Berkshires for a shortened season in the Koussevitzky Music Shed. Music director Andris Nelsons leads six concerts, including one where he plans to share the podium with Boston Pops laureate conductor (and a childhood idol) John Williams (Jul. 24). Other highlights include Yo-Yo Ma taking center stage as conductor Karina Canellakis makes her BSO debut (Aug. 8), an all-Brahms closing afternoon with conductor Herbert Blomstedt (Aug. 15), and a tantalizing Festival of Contemporary Music that ties off with Thomas Adès conducting the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra (Jul. 25-26). Guest artists (also under the Shed — no Ozawa Hall this year) include baroque orchestra Apollo’s Fire, chamber band The Knights, and the piano trio of Ma, Emanuel Ax, and Leonidas Kavakos. July 9-Aug. 16. Tanglewood, Lenox. 401-849-0700,

ROCKPORT MUSIC The Shalin Liu Performance Center opens its doors in early July for classical, jazz, and Celtic offerings that will keep the lights on till Labor Day and beyond. Most performers offer two shows (early evening and 8 p.m.) to allow for physical distancing inside the hall. Highlights include New Orleans jazz troubadours Tuba Skinny (Aug. 5), the powerful Junction Trio (Aug. 15), and Boston-based Palaver Strings exploring classical strings and trad fiddling (Aug. 21). July 9-Sept. 19. Shalin Liu Performance Center, Rockport. 978-546-7391,

Junction Trio performs Aug. 15 in Rockport.Shervin Lainez

GLIMMERGLASS OPERA The Cooperstown opera and musical theater festival is putting up 90-minute performances outdoors on a specially built stage. On the ticket: new adaptation-productions of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” Verdi’s “Il Trovatore,” and Offenbach’s “Songbird”; the launch of the festival’s “Common Ground” initiative aimed at staging stories of life in America; and the new play with music “The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson,” starring mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves as the founder of the National Negro Opera Company. July 15-Aug. 17. Alice Busch Opera Theater, Cooperstown, N.Y. 607-547-2255,


LOUD WEEKEND Details and full lineup have not been announced yet for this event at Mass MoCA by contemporary classical conglomerate (and perennial North Berkshires guests) Bang on a Can. But if 2019′s inaugural weekend and decades of marathon concerts are anything to go by, faces will melt, genres will bend, and minds will be blown. July 30-31. Mass MoCA, North Adams. 413-662-2111,

A.Z. Madonna can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @knitandlisten. Madonna’s work is supported by the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.

A.Z. Madonna can be reached at Follow her @knitandlisten.