Dreaming of Warmer Weather? Colorado’s Top Classical Music Festivals Have Announced Their Summer Schedules

Festival attendees sit in lawn chairs outside Aspen Music Festival's Benedict Music Tent
Festival attendees sit outside Aspen Music Festival’s Benedict Music Tent

Some of the world’s best classical musicians come to Colorado each summer to perform at music festivals across the state. Free, family-friendly, and ticketed events abound, so get out your calendar and start dreaming about all the inspiring music coming to Colorado in 2020.

Colorado Symphony plays Beethoven's 9th at Red Rocks

July 26, 2020 - Okay, this is not part of a festival, but the music and venue make this the classical event of the summer. The Colorado Symphony celebrates Beethoven's 250th birth anniversary with perhaps the largest force of musicians yet to perform at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, complete with full orchestra, a chorus of over a hundred voices plus soloists under Music Director Brett Mitchell. The spectacle is sure to be an awesome match for the beautiful view of Denver under a first quarter moon, should Beethoven's gloriously thunderous majesty not provoke the heavens during the course of the night. (More info) .

Aspen Music Festival and School

July 2 - Aug. 23, 2020 - One of the oldest and most renowned festivals in Colorado. Under Music Director Robert Spano, Aspen Music Festival and School's international reputation rests on a procession of star musicians lasting eight weeks, and over 400 events featuring performances by many alumni of its prestigious music school. The school is unmatched among the world’s summer festivals in size and scope, with more than 650 students (average age is 22) joining top professional performing artists and teaching faculty to perform for over 100,000 audience members each summer.

2020 Highlights: 

  • Soprano Renée Fleming and conductor Patrick Summers debut as co-artistic directors of The Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS program. Performances include Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” and Ricky Ian Gordon’s “The Grapes of Wrath”.
  • "The Mother of Us All" is an opera about Susan B. Anthony that marks the anniversary of women's suffrage. Also, works by female composers Joan Tower, Melody Eötvös, Sarah Kirkland Snider, and Kaija Saariaho.
  • Beethoven's 250th birthday is celebrated with multiple symphonies, concertos, and string quartets. Two programs, August 19 and 20, together re-create an historic marathon evening in December 1808 when Beethoven premiered his Fifth and Sixth symphonies along with many other works.
  • A collaboration with the Aspen Science Center returns: the Science of Music series of lectures and demonstrations explores science in acoustics and composition.

Colorado Music Festival

June 25 - August 1, 2020 - With performances at the historic Chautauqua Auditorium and other nearby Boulder venues, the Colorado Music Festival presents works for orchestral and chamber ensembles and impressive featured soloists. One hundred professional orchestra musicians from around the country descend upon the Boulder Flatirons to take part in the orchestra.

2020 Highlights:

  • A Celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday (noticing a theme here?) with performances of his Fifth and Seventh symphonies, music Director Peter Oundjian’s arrangement of String Quartet Op. 131, all five piano concertos performed by Canadian piano whiz Jan Lisiecki, Beethoven’s only violin concerto performed by Grammy-winning violinist Augustin Hadelich, as well as performances of several chamber works and pieces influenced by Beethoven.
  • Premiering this year is The Robert Mann Chamber Music Series, named for Robert Mann, composer, conductor and founding first violin of the five-time Grammy award-winning Juilliard String Quartet. The series launches on June 30 with a visit from the Juilliard Quartet and continues with exciting performances by the St. Lawrence String Quartet and Brooklyn Rider.
  • This year's family concert is “The Story of Babar” in partnership with Really Inventive Stuff, animateurs and vaudeville-inspired storytellers for orchestras. The program includes “Toy Symphony,” which features noisemakers, kazoos, and other toy instruments that are perfect for young audiences.

Central City Opera

Amanda Tipton
Alexandra Loutsion performs in Central City Opera's 2018 production of “Il Trovatore”

July 4 - Aug. 2, 2020 - Central City Opera prides itself on high quality opera and easy accessibility to this historic mining town about an hour west of Denver. The 2020 season features all new productions of Verdi's “Rigoletto”, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Carousel” and Purcell's “Dido and Aeneas”. The Opera Bus and Boomer Bus take audiences to and from the historic opera house from Denver and Lakewood. Several ancillary events are offered including Opening Night Dinners, Lunch and a Song, and post-performance discussions on select evenings. Educational and family-friendly events this year include Mozart & Friends and several matinees. Central City Opera's Performing Arts Intensive at Kent Denver is currently accepting applications for singers in grades 10-12 and incoming college freshmen.

Bravo! Vail

June 25 - Aug. 6, 2020 - This year's Bravo Vail Music Festival once again brings more top-flight orchestras to one destination in the summer than anywhere in the country. Debuting this year is The Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Making return visits: The New York Philharmonic, The Philadelphia Orchestra and The Dallas Symphony. Each gives several performances across a week at the Gerald Ford Amphitheater. The festival’s Artistic Director, Anne-Marie McDermott, is a world-class pianist and features prominently. In addition to the big name orchestras, Bravo’s chamber music concerts always bring a fun twist to the season.