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Vienna may be the first Austrian city that comes to mind where classical music is concerned, but its neighbor to the west–Germany-bordering, river-straddling Salzburg–that, for a little over a month each summer, becomes the real center of the international music scene. When the Salzburg Festival takes over the city’s cultural institutions, hundreds of thousands of lovers of the symphony, opera, chamber music, theater and more descend to see some of the most prominent soloists and ensembles in the world taking the stage.
The lineup for this summer’s festival is enough to boggle the mind of any aesthete: 38 opera performances including 5 new productions; 82 concerts; 206 performances overall at 18 different venues across the city. If there’s a unifying spirit connecting all this, it’s one of passion and ecstasy, as expressed across centuries and styles by various composers. The operas presented include new approaches to classics like Mozart’s Die Zauberflote and Strauss’ Salome, along with innovative interpretations of less often-seen works like Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea (from Jan Lauwers and Needcompany along with William Christie and Les Arts Florrisants) and Hans Werner Henze’s seminal 20th-century work The Bassarids. In the realm of drama, a revival of Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Jedermann is especially highly-anticipated. And the concert roster is a whos-who of the world’s foremost ensembles: Jordi Savall’s Capella Reial de Catalunya and Hesperion XXI, the Orlando Consort, the Vienna Philharmonic and Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra are just a few of the storied groups stopping by Salzburg. July 20-Aug. 30.
“Echoes” in San Francisco
For an ordinary museum- or gallery-goer, it can prove challenging to appreciate a solo show dedicated to even the most iconic of artists: So much of what makes the most trailblazing art is about context and relationships to colleagues and competitors, and that narrative is one difficult to appreciate and engage with based on gallery wall cards alone. So it’s encouraging to see how many new shows at the most prominent galleries encourage dialogue between artworks. The new exhibition “Echoes” at Gagosian’s San Francisco outpost is a prime example of that approach, pairing works by the gallery’s artists according to generative relevance. So, for instance, pieces by Adriana Varejao and Richard Artschwager, two artists exploring both painting and sculpture in different decades, but united in their exploration of the combative nature of painterly discourse, are juxtaposed. A new painting by Los Angeles artist Mary Weatherford–known for electrifying her works with cool neon–is paired with the dynamic, crumpled metal assemblage of New York renegade John Chamberlain. And a large-scale color photograph by Canadian artist Jeff Wall–a cinematic portrait of two young men boxing in a modern home–finds similar interest in innovative ways of looking at human drama with Cy Twombly, whose Death of Pompey (Rome) translates an epic historic event into schematic notation. No artist is an island–a fact this show makes vividly clear. July 19 - Aug. 31; 657 Howard St.
Detroit Art Week
In recent years, the exploding art and cultural scene in Detroit has proven one of the country’s most exciting, making now the perfect time for the inaugural Detroit Art Week: A three-day event providing a platform for the city’s up and coming artists, veteran creators, and many galleries and museums. Consider these few days an opportunity for a self-guided tour of what makes Detroit art so thrilling today, with a few notable highlights. At the Detroit Institute of Arts–one of the country’s most notably forward-looking art institutions–the two-person exhibition Rhythm, Repetition and Vocab will showcase the work of local stars Carole Harris, a fiber artist known for her blend of traditional and unorthodox quilting techniques, and Allie McGhee, a painter and mixed media artist whose bust of Barack Obama is part of the “Visions of Our 44th President” project. On closing night, Detroit Bureau of Sound, architect Aaron Jones, and composer-performer-artists Pamela Z will collaborate on Rejecting Reality, an avant-garde music and architectural installation. In between, the rest of the celebration offers visitors open studios, gallery and museum tours, parties, music performances, and more experiences highlighting Detroit’s vibrant culture right now. July 20-22.
Festival Napa Valley
Northern California’s beautiful Napa Valley is already well-established as a destination for those who appreciate fine wine and cuisine–so it perhaps wasn’t a big stretch to surmise that that same audience might appreciate performing arts of the same quality. Enter the Festival Napa Valley, now in its 13th season of presenting renowned performers alongside the region’s already world-class libations.
This summer’s festival is an especially significant one, as it’s dedicated to the firefighters, police, EMTs and other emergency workers who saved so many lives, homes and more during the horrific wildfires of the past year. But as always, the variety and high-level of work on offer will be consistently great, and low to no cost to audiences. Tony-winner Kristin Chenoweth will bring her sprightly soprano to the opening night gala, which benefits varied arts education programs. Highlights of the following days include a special performance of the music from The Red Violin, with soloist Joshua Bell and composer John Corigliano reunited for the first time onstage since the movie’s 1999 release; a performance by San Francisco Ballet; an opera evening with the rising young soprano Nadine Sierra, making her only U.S. appearance of this year; the excellent Cuban Grupo Compay Segundo, performing in the U.S. for the first time in 18 years; and a cabaret concert by Broadway star Lea Salonga at Raymond Vineyards. July 20-29.
Mostly Mozart Festival in New York City
For most classical musicians, one composer is the fount from which all other technique and style arise: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. A Mozart concerto is at once basic and endlessly complicated, a constant teacher and test of a player–or another composer’s–abilities and interpretive evolution. For 52 years now, Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival has been driven by that idea, presenting world-class ensembles playing Mozart’s music and works by other composers related in some way to his genius.
Increasingly, though, the festival has in recent years admirably broadened its scope. While the “mostly” preface to Mozart’s inclusion is still accurate, the companies and works highlighted at the festival have grown more interdisciplinary and open-minded in their relation to Mozart’s spark of inspiration. This year’s festival is perhaps the most wide-ranging yet, with Mozart’s works providing the backbone of programming but focus on extending to contemporary and local talent as well as landmark international productions. A new staging of Leonard Bernstein’s MASS, commemorating the composer’s centennial year, will open the festival, employing two choruses, dancers, vocalists, and the festival orchestra under the baton of the vibrant Louis Langree. Artists-in-residence the International Contemporary Ensemble will stage the New York premiere of the immersive Ashley and Adam Fure installation The Force of Things: An Opera For Objects. Festival mainstay the Mark Morris Dance Group will perform the world premiere of The Trout, set to Schubert’s eponymous quintet, on a program with works spanning almost 30 years of Morris’ storied career. And a hundreds-strong chorus, comprised of both professional and amateur singers, will take to Central Park’s Harlem Meer for the world premiere of John Luther Adams’ In the Name of the Earth. It’s an astoundingly diverse festival lineup of which Mozart, a pioneer if ever there was any, would surely approve. Through Aug. 12.