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Summer Time Opera Festivals
By Mort Levine

All it seems to take is a patch of beautiful weather and a rising Dow Jones average to focus the mind on travels abroad, especially when looking over the riches of the many festivals that dot the continent. It brings back memories of memorable experiences that involved both performances, unique settings and the chance to interact with a widely diverse and opera-literate attendees from the world over.

The casual nature of summer festivals invite the interchange of experience, shared views of the operas, and even restaurant suggestions and other festivals to enjoy.

With some careful surfing of the web, one can now get the lineups of operas and other musical events at each festival. A starting point will be the imminent arrival of the May issue of Opera News which will feature these European festivals, but any search engine will provide dozens of entry points to get the information about what is on offer, what is sold out already, and even some tips on lodging and nearby attractions.

Among our all time favorites would be the following: Glydebourne Festival Opera runs this year from May 21 through August 30. It is on an estate in the sunny East Sussex countryside which is about a three hour drive south from London. Trains also serve the site. This festival lineup has six operas to mark their 75th anniversary. The Giulio Cesare by Handel should be a highlight, and it’s also Handel’s 250th birthday. Purcell’s Faerie Queen is another rarely performed gem. New productions of Rusalka and Falstaff, plus the Elixer and Tristan and Isolde round out the season.

Salzburg is the granddaddy of festivals where the entire town gets in the action. From July 25 through August 30 one can partake of the joys this festival offers. Available are six operas plus theatre pieces in several languages and dozens of chamber music, orchestral appearances and recitals. Mozart would be proud of his hometown.

Savonlinna is a very special place on an island castle converted to opera performances in midsummer. The opportunity to experience the wooded waterland of central Finland is a lifetime treat. The website for a full spectrum of useful information is and it’s truly extraordinary.

Italy, as the first home of opera, pays special homage to its foremost composers each summer with an array of operas in their hometowns. Among them are the Rossini festival in Pesaro which always offers some of the most obscure masterworks as well as the best known. It runs two weeks in August. Its website is Puccini is similarly honored at Torre del Lago from mid- July through much of August with four operas. And, while in Italy, one shouldn’t overlook the amazing Maggio Musicale Fiorentino which brings opera and music events from late April to July 1.

There are many, many others to provide a special remembrance to a European trip. Once at an opera festival, you find yourself among fellow enthusiasts who become friends.

(SJOG Newsletter May, 2009 Issue)


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