The Arts Issue

42 essential arts events of the spring and summer

Globe critics surveyed New England to pick their favorite upcoming shows, including 7 that are absolutely free.

The lineup for spring’s Boston Calling features R&B star Janelle Monae.
The lineup for spring’s Boston Calling features R&B star Janelle Monae. Marc Baptiste

By Sarah Rodman

Boston Calling — May 27-29

This biannual festival continues to go from strength to strength. After a dynamite fall edition featuring Alabama Shakes and Chvrches, the spring lineup offers another rainbow of sounds, including quirky pop diva Sia, EDM heavyweights Disclosure, and buzzed-about indie rocker Courtney Barnett, among many others.

City Hall Plaza, Boston, bostoncalling.com

Green River Festival — July 8-10

It’s the 30th anniversary of this multi-genre festival held on the grounds of Greenfield Community College, and the stellar lineup — including Peter Wolf, Dawes, and Shakey Graces — is appropriately celebratory, with more than 30 acts performing on three stages. And for the first time, festival camping will be available at the nearby Franklin County Fairgrounds.


1 College Drive, Greenfield, 877-987-6487, greenriverfestival.com

Levitate Music and Arts Festival — July 9

This roots-rocking fest — born out of the surf/skate shop of the same name in Marshfield — boasts some big names for its fourth edition. On hand to serve as a summer soundtrack will be the scorching blues rock collective the Tedeschi Trucks Band, the always festive Los Lobos, and reggae heads Rebelution among others.

Marshfield Fair Grounds, 140 Main Street, Marshfield, 781-834-2755, levitatemusicfestival.com

Newport Folk Festival — July 22-24

Last year’s festivities were wildly disparate and hugely entertaining, with everyone from Roger Waters to Jason Isbell putting in appearances. Among the must-see acts this year are Ray Lamontagne, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, and Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. Tickets sold out fast, but are available on resellers like StubHub.

Fort Adams State Park, 90 Fort Adams Drive, Newport, Rhode Island, newportfolk.org

Rock Hall Three for All Featuring Heart, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, and Cheap Trick — July 24


For classic rock fans, this may be the performance roster to beat in 2016, as the trio of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers who made their bones in the ’70s and ’80s come together for a night of powerful vocals, loud guitars, and a steady stream of hits.

Xfinity Center, 885 South Main Street, Mansfield, 866-448-7849, livenation.com

FREE! Outside the Box Festival

This event, which returned in 2015 after a hiatus, proved a big success, drawing crowds for a diverse array of acts, from children’s performers to dance companies and theatrical performances to a wide spectrum of music from pop rockers like Guster to rising country star Kacey Musgraves. The list of acts is still being assembled, and the dates are up in the air, but we’re excited to see what’s in store.

Boston Common, otbboston.com

By Jeremy Eichler

Classical fans flock each summer to Tanglewood, the picturesque Berkshires home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Classical fans flock each summer to Tanglewood, the picturesque Berkshires home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/File

Rockport Chamber Music Festival — June 3-July 10 and July 22

An intimate space, good acoustics, and soulful views of the sea. What more could you ask of a chamber music venue? Rockport’s Shalin Liu Performance Center comes alive in the early summer weeks, thanks to this festival’s wide-ranging yet carefully curated programming. Look for pianists Jeremy Denk, Kirill Gerstein, and Lise de la Salle as well as the acclaimed Catalan gambist Jordi Savall, among plenty of others.

978-546-7391, rockportmusic.org

FREE! Inuksuit — June 12

Nature frames many of the popular summer music stages. But how about nature as the stage? Some 50 New England percussionists will finally give Boston a chance to hear Inuksuit, an iconic outdoor work by John Luther Adams, the renowned Thoreauvian composer whose scores often link listening with a deeper ecological awareness. In this case, the musicians will be stationed throughout the conifer collection of the Arnold Arboretum. A must-see for new music fans, and anyone else prepared to swap the riesling for some walking shoes.


125 Arborway, Boston, kadencearts.org

Tanglewood — June 19-September 1

Whether it’s for Prokofiev accompanied by a picnic or the other way around, classical fans flock each summer to Tanglewood, the picturesque Berkshires home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. A wide range of populist programs are performed in the Koussevitzky Music Shed (look for appearances by conductors Andris Nelsons, Charles Dutoit, Christoph von Dohnanyi, and even a brief cameo from Seiji Ozawa). And, meanwhile, just down the path, Ozawa Hall hosts more exploratory concerts featuring celebrated soloists in recital, student performers, early music, and the annual Festival of Contemporary Music.

297 West Street, Lenox, 617-266-1200, tanglewood.org

Marlboro Music — July 16-August 14

With the Apollonian piano priestess Mitsuko Uchida as its artistic director, this venerable Vermont festival remains the destination of choice for serious chamber music fans. The programs are selected by the artists themselves; veteran luminaries play alongside rising stars. The setting is unfussy, and the focus remains on the music, typically performed at the very highest level.


2427 South Road, Marlboro, Vermont, 215-569-4690, marlboromusic.org

Borromeo String Quartet — July 31, August 7, August 14

Boston’s best musicians tend to head for the hills every summer, but the Borromeo String Quartet will at least return for regular visits. Over three Sundays at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, this estimable foursome will traverse Beethoven’s much-loved “Razumovsky” Quartets (Op. 59) alongside complementary repertoire ranging from Bach to Ligeti.

25 Evans Way, Boston, 617-278-5156, gardnermuseum.org

Bard Music Festival — August 5-7 and 12-14

Packed into the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center on Bard’s Hudson Valley campus, this festival plays to the mind as well as the ears. Each summer, a single composer takes the spotlight, with two weekends of concerts, lectures, panels, and films designed to illuminate both the music and the culture from which it was born. This year, Bard presents Puccini and His World.

60 Manor Road, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, 845-758-7900, fishercenter.bard.edu/bmf

By Sebastian Smee

Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes From the Prado (left) opens June 11 at the Clark Art Institute. Rodin: Transforming Sculpture (right) opens May 14 at the Peabody Essex Museum.
Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes From the Prado (left) opens June 11 at the Clark Art Institute. Rodin: Transforming Sculpture (right) opens May 14 at the Peabody Essex Museum. Alberto Otero (left); Christian Baraja (right)

Off the Wall: Gardner and Her Masterpieces — March 10-August 15

Some people who visit the Gardner Museum have a hard time telling the masterpieces from the copies, the trinkets from the treasures. This should help. Twenty-five of the museum’s most celebrated works of art by masters such as Rembrandt, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Rubens have been moved from Mrs. Gardner’s palace into the contemporary Hostetter Gallery while the palace’s leaking roof is repaired and an entire floor is closed for nine months.

25 Evans Way, Boston, 617-566-1401, gardnermuseum.org


Megacities Asia — April 3-July 17

Cities are hotbeds of vibrant new art. Megacities — we’re talking Mumbai, Beijing, Shanghai, Delhi, and Seoul — are all the more so and have inspired many recent artists to reflect on what life in these unprecedentedly massive metropolises is like. This Museum of Fine Arts show includes sculptures, installations, and other work by such contemporary artists as China’s Ai Weiwei and India’s Asim Waqif, all of it responding to the energy and stresses of some of the world’s biggest cities.

465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, 617-267-9300, mfa.org

FREE! Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television — April 9-July 31

Robert Hughes once wrote that art was “exactly what mass visual media are not: a way of specific engagement, not general seduction.” But the mass medium of television exerted its seductive effect on fine art, too. What’s more, the influence went both ways. At the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy, more than 260 objects open a window onto the ways in which avant-garde art affected the look of early television, and the ways in which TV in turn spread people’s awareness of modern art.

3 Chapel Avenue, Andover, 978-749-4015, addisongallery.org

Geoffrey Farmer — April 13-July 17

Late last year, Geoffrey Farmer, a fascinating artist from Vancouver, was selected to represent Canada at the 2017 Venice Biennale. At the Institute of Contemporary Art, he will present a room-sized installation of hundreds of his small-scale “paper works” — sculptures made of photographic cutouts, fabric, and various supports. His subjects? Image saturation, history, chaos, and overflow.

100 Northern Avenue, Boston, 617-478-3100, icaboston.org

Rodin: Transforming Sculpture — May 14-September 5

Auguste Rodin was not only the greatest sculptor of the 19th century but also the first great modern sculptor. He found electrifying forms for psychic states, in the process inspiring everyone from Degas and Monet to Picasso, Matisse, and beyond. This survey at the Peabody Essex Museum of works in plaster, bronze, and marble, along with related drawings, should blow you away.

161 Essex Street, Salem, 978-745-9500, pem.org

Splendor, Myth, and Vision: Nudes From the Prado — June 11-October 10

The Prado, one of the world’s greatest museums, is lending 28 nudes by some of the biggest names of European art, among them Titian, Rubens, Tintoretto, Velazquez, Ribera, Brueghel, and Poussin, to the Clark Art Institute. Twenty-four have never previously been seen in the United States. The show will explore the story of collecting at the Spanish royal court and the individual history of each painting. Should be sumptuous.

225 South Street, Williamstown, 413-458-2303, clarkart.edu

By Don Aucoin

Scene from ”The May Queen,” which will be at the Cape Playhouse this summer.
Scene from ”The May Queen,” which will be at the Cape Playhouse this summer.Chautauqua Theater Company

Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years — Through March 13 (New Haven) and March 31-April 24 (Hartford)

Emily Mann’s adaptation of the 1993 best-selling oral history by Sadie Delany and her sister Bessie, the daughters of a former slave who lived together for more than a century, comes to two theaters in Connecticut. Both sisters were pioneers: Bessie, a 1923 graduate of Columbia University, was the second African-American woman to work as a dentist in New York, while Sadie broke ground as the first black home economics teacher in white New York City schools.

> Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven, 203-787-4282, longwharf.org

> Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford, 860-527-5151, hartfordstage.org

Blues for Mister Charlie — March 18, 27, and April 1

Employing flashbacks and the techniques of courtroom drama, James Baldwin’s 1964 play explores the fallout after a black man returns from the North to his racially segregated Southern hometown, where he is killed by a white shop owner. The play, being staged by the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, was inspired by the 1955 murder of Emmett Till.

201 Washington Street, Providence, 401-351-4242, trinityrep.com

Premeditation — May 4-14

ArtsEmerson presents the Latino Theater Company’s production of a film noir-style comedy by Evelina Fernandez about the unexpected connection between two unhappily married women. When a woman (played by Fernandez) hires a hit man to kill her husband, a UCLA professor, the hit man’s wife finds the socialite’s number in his pocket and concludes her husband is having an affair. A skein of complications ensues, culminating in a showdown between the couples.

Paramount Mainstage, 559 Washington Street, Boston, 617-824-8400, artsemerson.org

The Taming — May 27-July 30

Shakespeare & Company stages the regional premiere of a political comedy by the exceptionally prolific and creative Lauren Gunderson (Exit, Pursued by a Bear  and I and You), inspired by Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. A patriotic beauty queen named Katherine, intent on rounding up bipartisan support for her bid to rewrite the US Constitution, locks herself in a hotel room with an aide to an ultraconservative Southern senator and a liberal activist-blogger.

70 Kemble Street, Lenox, 413-637-3353, shakespeare.org

FREE! Love’s Labour’s Lost — July 20-August 7

This summer’s installment of Free Shakespeare on the Common by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company will be an early comedy about the power of love to vanquish even the most meticulous life plan. Three noblemen join the King of Navarre in a solemn vow to abjure the company of women for three years and devote themselves instead to lofty scholarly pursuits. But their will seriously weakens when the Princess of France and a trio of her ladies from court arrive in the kingdom.

Boston Common, Boston, 617-426-0863, commshakes.org

The May Queen — July 26-August 6

In Molly Smith Metzler’s comedy at the Cape Playhouse, a former high school beauty — the subject of feverish speculation and rumor since graduation — returns to her hometown and finds temp work in an insurance agency. Her co-workers turn out to be several of her former classmates, including, in Metzler’s words, “the one person she does not want to run into.’’

820 Main Street, Dennis, 508-385-3911, capeplayhouse.com

By Karen Campbell

Misa Kuranaga (left) of the Boston Ballet; Sarah Reich (center) from On Tap; and Souleymane Badolo, who’ll be at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
Misa Kuranaga (left) of the Boston Ballet; Sarah Reich (center) from On Tap; and Souleymane Badolo, who’ll be at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Gene Schiavone (left); Jeremy Jackson (center); and Nina Mouritzen (right)

Compagnie Herve Koubi — March 11-12

Comprising a dozen French-Algerian and African men, this provocative company blends hip-hop and street dance with contemporary dance, spins and flips of capoeira, even a little ballet. World Music/CRASHarts presents the troupe’s Boston debut at the ICA, performing Ce que le jour doit a la nuit (What the Day Owes the Night), which features ecstatic and contemplative Sufi imagery.

100 Northern Avenue, Boston, 617-876-4275, worldmusic.org

Boston Ballet — March 17-May 28

To finish out its 52d season, Boston Ballet offers three very different programs at Boston Opera House that showcase its depth and diversity. Kaleidoscope (March 17-26) focuses on work by 20th-century masters — Balanchine, William Forsythe, and Leonid Yakobson. The more contemporary Mirrors (May 6-28) features edgier fare, including world premieres by Yury Yanowsky and “punk ballerina” Karole Armitage. In between is Mikko Nissinen’s take on the quintessential classic, Swan Lake.

539 Washington Street, Boston, 617-695-6955, bostonballet.org

Malpaso Dance Company — May 14-15

One of the few companies in Cuba that operate independently of the government, this lively troupe offers a taste of the country’s contemporary dance scene in its Boston debut at the Citi Shubert Theatre. Plus, it’s a twofer — in addition to choreography by artistic director Osnel Delgado and Trey McIntyre, the concert features live music by Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble. Can’t go wrong.

265 Tremont Street, Boston, 617-482-6661, celebrityseries.org

FREE! Eighth Annual Dance for World Community Festival — June 11

This all-day celebration (part of a larger festival week) showcases the power of dance to build community and effect change. Sponsored by Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre and taking place in and around the company’s home base at the Old Cambridge Baptist Church, the event features performances by more than 80 groups, introductory dance classes, family activities, food, and the chance to stroll Advocacy Way, lined with socially active nonprofit info booths. The capper is a parking lot dance party.

1151 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, 617-354-7467, danceforworldcommunity.org

Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival — June 18-August 28

A mecca for dance lovers, the internationally renowned dance festival in the Berkshires celebrates its first summer under new executive director Pamela Tatge. Highlights include a handful of world premieres — don’t miss the evening-length tap collaboration among Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Derick K. Grant, and Jason Samuels Smith — plus rare US appearances by Korean contemporary ensemble Bereishit Dance Company and the Argentinian all-male troupe Che Malambo.

358 George Carter Road, Becket, 413-243-0745, jacobspillow.org

On Tap — Beantown Tapfest Faculty Showcase — August 5

Julia Boynton’s annual tap confab August 1 through 7 gathers a terrific lineup of teacher/dancers at the Deborah Mason School of Dance in Somerville. On August 5, a select group strut their stuff in two special performances (6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.) at Boston University Dance Theater. This season’s cast includes New York tap diva Brenda Bufalino, Los Angeles dynamo Sarah Reich, hometown ex-pat Josh Hilberman, Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk alum Khalid Hill, and local talent Ryan P. Casey, Ian Berg, Sean Fielder, and others.

915 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, beantowntapfest.com

By Kate Tuttle

Poet Billy Collins (left) and novelist Marlon James (right) will be among literary stars at the Nantucket Book Festival.
Poet Billy Collins (left) and novelist Marlon James (right) will be among literary stars at the Nantucket Book Festival. Suzanne Gilman (left); Macalester College (right)

James McBride — April 18

Author of both the National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird and the beloved memoir The Color of Water, McBride is back with a new nonfiction book, Kill ’Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul. James McBride will be at the Writers in the Loft series at The Music Hall, a performance venue and arts center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Tickets for the 7 p.m. show include a copy of the book and reserved seating.

131 Congress Street, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 603-436-2400, themusichall.org

FREE! Hubbub — June 4

Come to Copley Square the first Saturday in June for Hubbub, an all-day celebration of books, art, music, and creativity for kids aged zero to 12. An offshoot of the Boston Book Festival, Hubbub brings together authors and readers for a series of readings, interactive pursuits, and the opportunity for young bookworms to see some of their favorite characters — last year’s roster included Madeline, Maisie, Clifford, and Curious George — walking through the courtyard of the Boston Public Library.

Copley Square, Boston, 617-945-9552, hubbubfest.org

Nantucket Book Festival — June 17-19

This summer marks the fifth edition of the Nantucket festival, featuring readings and signings by a blend of local and regional authors as well as national and international literary stars. This year’s lineup includes Man Booker Prize winner Marlon James, nature writer Diane Ackerman, and former US poet laureate Billy Collins, among others.

Various locations, 508-919-6230, nantucketbookfestival.org

Sunken Garden Poetry Festival — June 22-August 17

One of New England’s hidden gems, the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, Connecticut, is a National Historic Landmark whose picturesque grounds host the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, a series of evening readings featuring some of the country’s most acclaimed poets. This year’s festival begins with Heather McHugh, recipient of a MacArthur Foundation grant, and includes US poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera as well as noted poets Edward Hirsch, Kwame Dawes, and Brian Turner.

35 Mountain Road, Farmington, Connecticut, 860-677-4787, hillstead.org

Bookstock Literary Festival — July 29-31

Held in Woodstock, Vermont, the Bookstock Literary Festival unspools over three days, including a big book sale on the village green, and brings together authors and readers from all over New England and the nation. This year’s literary lights include Howard Frank Mosher, Robin Gaby Fisher, and Howard Axelrod.

Various locations, bookstockvt.org

Mount Desert Island Book Sale — August 6 and 7

The public library at Southwest Harbor, Maine, is the place to be the first weekend in August. Both days, from 9 to 5, the library hosts its enormous annual book sale, featuring paperbacks and hardcovers for children and adults, in addition to puzzles, audio books, and DVDs. All are available in exchange for a voluntary donation to the library, save a special “white glove” table for books with collector appeal.

338 Main Street, Southwest Harbor, Maine, 207-244-7065, swhplibrary.org

By Peter Keough

Every Thursday throughout the summer newportFILM will showcase documentaries.
Every Thursday throughout the summer newportFILM will showcase documentaries. J. Clancy Photography

Guy Maddin Presents — March 11-May 8

Canadian Guy Maddin (My Winnipeg) may be the most original filmmaker in North America, and one way to adjust to his skewed vision might be to watch screenings of his favorite films in this Harvard Film Archive series. Maddin’s selections include the 1961 revenge drama Something Wild, the Ukrainian film Shadow of Forgotten Ancestors, and James Bidgood’s gay cult classic Pink Narcissus.

24 Quincy Street, Cambridge, 617-495-4700, hcl.harvard.edu/hfa

Green Mountain Film Festival — March 18-27

There might not be much skiing around Montpelier, Vermont, in late March, but there will be plenty of seeing. Movies, that is. Now in its 19th year, the Green Mountain Film Festival has programmed a lineup that includes 55 features and 48 shorts from 30 countries. Films include the anti-fracking documentary Frackman and the 1991 Studio Ghibli anime masterpiece Only Yesterday.

Various locations, 802-917-1225, gmffestival.org

Wicked Queer: Boston LGBT Film Festival — March 31-April 10

After 32 years, the Boston Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Film Festival has simplified its name to the comprehensive and catchy sobriquet “Wicked Queer.” For decades, wicked queer filmmakers have put the avant in garde and the cutting in edge. This year is no exception, and it all begins with the opening night party at the ICA on March 31.

Various locations, wickedqueer.org

Maine International Film Festival — July 8-17

Due north is the direction cinephiles should be heading this summer. Waterville, Maine, to be exact, which hosts the 19th annual Maine International Film Festival and its program of more than 100 of the finest American, independent, international, and made-in-Maine movies. The annual “Rediscovery” section should delight auteur fans with screenings of Orson Welles’s Chimes at Midnight and Jacques Rivette’s Out 1.

Various locations, 207-861-8138, miff.org

Woods Hole Film Festival — July 30-August 6

MovieMaker magazine declares the Woods Hole Film Festival on Cape Cod “one of the 25 coolest festivals in the world.” It marks its 25th year this summer with a program that includes Rachel Grady’s documentary Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You and panel discussions about the state of independent filmmaking featuring past festival alumni.

Various locations, 508-495-3456, woodsholefilmfestival.org

FREE! newportFILM Outdoors — Late June-September 1

Documentaries are hot these days, and nothing beats watching them on a cool lawn on a lovely Newport, Rhode Island, night. For free. Every Thursday throughout the summer, around the area, newportFILM will showcase films of the caliber of 2016 Oscar nominee What Happened, Miss Simone? (about the iconic singer), which screened last summer, followed by a Q-and-A with the director, Liz Garbus. This year’s event will be the perfect way to see next year’s Oscar contenders.

Various locations, 401-649-2784, newportfilm.com

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