The concert halls have been closed for so long that we’ve almost forgotten the anticipation we feel while the orchestra warms up, the sound of the collective applause as the concertmaster and conductor take the stage, and the thrill of that first downbeat. Live music, glorious live music, how we’ve missed you!
So now that you’ve become an expert at making a reservation for just about everything this past year, here’s what you need to know about Colorado classical music festivals and their return to live music. Tickets for all festivals on sale now.
The Colorado Music Festival in Boulder, Bravo! Vail, and the Aspen Music Festival -- the three big powerhouse classical music festivals -- have all announced their summer season and all of them include in-person concerts. In addition, streaming performances you can enjoy from the comfort of your home are being planned for CMF and Bravo! Vail. Aspen has not announced streaming events as of yet, but is considering adding them.
And these aren’t the only places you’ll find live music. Below is our growing list of live concerts being planned as we hail the return of live music!
Please note: all festivals will be adhering to state and local safety protocols for COVID-19 safety. While these protocols may change throughout the summer, expect audience spacing that allows for social distancing, more distance between performers, masks, etc.
CMF was first out of the gate with their season announcement, announcing that their nearly six-week schedule will begin with violinist Augustin Hadelich and will end Aug. 7 with Beethoven’s victorious Symphony #5. In between we’ll see appearances by pianist Stewart Goodyear, Olga Kern and Conrad Tao. Cellist Alisa Weilerstein will premiere the new cello concerto composed for her by Joan Tower. And the famed Juilliard String Quartet will take the stage July 13. Concert goers can purchase tickets to see the performances live at Chautauqua Auditorium or via live stream.
Bravo! Vail is unique in that it doesn’t just bring in big name soloists to perform, it brings in four entire orchestras PLUS big name soloists. We weren’t sure how that would work this year, but Bravo! has announced that it’s back with three mainstay orchestras and a chamber orchestra. The Academy of St. Martin In the Fields with conductor/violinist Joshua Bell are back after a two-year hiatus from Bravo! Vail. They will open the festival on June 24 to be followed by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. Chamber music concerts, free concerts and immersive experiences are all on the lineup as well.
Last year, Bravo! had success with digital concerts and is planning for several streamed concerts in case you’re not ready for a crowd yet.
The Aspen Music Festival and School also opens July 1 and runs 52 days with nearly 150 live events. In addition, nearly 300 students will study in-person with artist-faculty members (approximately half of their regular attendance). The big new superstar this year is soprano Renée Fleming who will inaugurate the new Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS program, an event that was postponed from 2020. Fleming will also perform with the Aspen Chamber Symphony at the Benedict Music Tent on Friday, July 16.
A major first-timer to Aspen is cellist Sheku-Kanneh Mason, winner of the 2016 BBC Young Musician award and cellist at the 2018 royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Mason performs the Dvorak Cello Concerto with the Aspen Chamber Symphony on Aug. 20.
The Colorado Symphony played for thousands of grateful fans (and this enthusiastic Jedi) at Red Rocks in May for their "Music of John Williams" concerts. You have lots of opportunities to see the orchestra this summer including their chamber music concerts under the canopy at DCPA, at Red Rocks for Beethoven's 5th Symphony and their tribute to Aretha Franklin, and as the orchestra accompaniment for a number of headline artists at Red Rocks.
Last summer, Central City Opera innovated by turning their balcony at their famed opera house into a stage for solo performances. This summer the company is being even more creative by staging their postponed 2020 season outside. The full-length operas, Roger and Hammerstein’s “Carousel” and Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” will be performed at Hudson Gardens in Littleton. Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and the CCO Al Fresco concert series will be held in the Opera House Gardens in Central City.
Central City will contact anyone holding tickets from last summer.
Music in the Mountains is staying home AND hitting the road this summer with their new mobile stage. For two and a half weeks in July, the Durango-based music festival will have a mix of concerts at Ft. Lewis College's Community Concert Hall as well as concerts at various outdoor locales throughout southwest Colorado including "Burritos and Bach" at a ranch.
The final concert on August 1st features the premiere of a new piece commissioned to celebrate the resiliency of the community over this past year.
The NRO has been training young musicians for a career in music for over 60 years. Who you see on stage this year will likely be a member of a professional orchestra or ensemble in the next few years! The NRO has announced a six-week concert series that includes eight Masterworks concerts, a number of family friendly concerts and two Fourth of July concerts. Violin sensation Midori will join the NRO for one of the Masterworks concerts which will be conducted by the NRO's new Music Director, Michael Stern.
The Strings Music Festival in Steamboat Springs opens its doors to concert goers the last weekend in June with a performance of Vivaldi's Four Seasons featuring violinist Chee-Yun playing her "Ex Strauss" Stradivarius violin. Other classical offerings include the 2013 Van Cliburn Piano Competition Bronze Medalist Sean Chen and a night of tangos and world music with guitarist Jason Vieaux and bandoneónist Julien Labro. Steamboat's 10-week summer festival has something for just about every musical taste.
Breckenridge waits until Bravo Vail is wrapped up before it even gets started. Opening night is August 5th featuring the 2021 Schmitt Piano Competition Winners. The larger concerts are held in the Riverwalk Center in downtown Breckenridge, but the festival also offers unique porch concerts at various historic homes, and morning yoga with musicians!
We will update this webpage as other festivals across the state announce their summer plans.
You read another CPR classical story to the end. We have got just the thing for classical music lovers like you: a weekly email newsletter! Sign up here to stay up-to-date on CPR Classical programming, events and stories from the world of classical music.