TOP 7 Opera and Classical Music Summer Festivals July 22 2013

During the summer months in the northern hemisphere, most classical music organisms like theaters, orchestral groups, chamber music associations and opera companies take a few months of hiatus from their programmed seasons.

In these months European and American concertgoers, musicians and producers focus on the multiple exciting opportunities which festivals present. These festivals are normally of the highest musical and production quality with a special focus on entertainment and culture.

These festivals run for somewhere between one and two months and normally have some underlying topic or subject matter which gives focus and direction to the event.

Here we present 7 examples, in any given order:



Where: Bayreuth, Bavaria, southeast Germany. Duration: approximately 1 month

The Bayreuth Festival is entirely dedicated to representations

Hotter, Hans - Varnay, Astrid - Double Signed Photo in Parsifal at Bayreuth

of Richard Wagner´s works. The festival was conceived and promoted by the composer himself, opening its doors in 1876. The event takes place annually between July and August in the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, a theater specially designed for the occasion with the works at hand in mind.

Wagner’s conception of musical drama didn’t only involve his approach to music. On the contrary, he was also deeply involved in the composition of the libretto and even the scenery. His biggest project beyond the composition of his corpus of 10 mammoth musical dramas was the design and construction of the Bayreuth theater for the performance of his works.

After its foundation, Bayreuth gained cult status and it prompted “yearly pilgrimages” by musicians, concertgoers and composers to experience Wagner as it is supposed to be experienced.

Over the years, participating in the Bayreuth festival has become an important steppingstone in the careers of conductors and singers alike.

Important figures of the world of opera who have worked in the festival are Karl Bohm, Christian Thielemann, Hans Knappertsbusch and Wilhelm Furtwängler.

Bayreuth has become the central festival for Wagner fans worldwide, who must usually buy tickets several years in advance.

Demand for tickets usually exceeds around 10 times the ticket availability (58,000 per year), so waiting time to get tickets can be between 5 and 10 years.


See collectible Bayreuth Festival Programs and Bayreuth Festival Photographs.



Where: Most concerts at Royal Albert Hall, London. Duration: 8 weeks

BBC Proms

The Promenade Concerts were first started indoors in 1895, originally created to promote classical music among those that normally do not attend concert halls. English conductor Henry Wood was one of the founding figures. Wood directed the festival and conducted the orchestra for nearly half a century.

Nowadays the Proms concerts are organized, funded and broadcasted by the BBC, leading the concerts to be more universally known as the BBC Proms.

The Proms are universally known for their wide array of musical performances with performers of the highest quality presenting masterpieces of the classical music world in some of the most beautiful venues of the world.

Every year’s programming is adapted to that particular year’s composer anniversaries with a special emphasis on lesser-known composers and works normally being the norm.

Some of the most important performers in the world take part in the Proms and especially in the coveted last night of the proms concert which normally features an important conductor.

Past performers of international projection were, Sir Charles Mackerras, Leonard Slatkin, Sir Roger Norrington, Colin Davis and Sir Adrian Boult.

The BBC Proms includes over 70 concerts every year. Today this is the world´s largest and most popular classical music festival. Most concerts take place at the famous Royal Albert Hall.

Tickets are non-expensive since that is the festivals’ whole purpose, to take classical music to those who normally don’t consume it. However, being the world’s single most popular festival, these are not easy to acquire unless one buys them months ahead.



Where: Salzburg, Austria. Duration: 5 weeks July-August.

Started in 1920, this is certainly one of the most prominent

Salzburg Festspiele 1937 Guide

festivals that includes both opera and classical music.

Amongst the festival’s founding figures we can mention important artists such as Hugo von Hofmannsthal, composer Richard Strauss, scenic designer Alfred Roller, conductor Franz Schalk, and the director Max Reinhardt.

Over the next hundred years after its foundation, the Salzburg festival became a central attraction of the town and a of the European summer concert life.

The festival is mostly focused on presenting the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was born in the host town of Salzburg in 1756.

There is also a Salzburg Easter Festival since 1967, and a Salzburg Whitsun (Pentecost) Festival since 1973.

The venues employed for the festival are varied including the beautiful Salzburg State Theatre, the Haus für Mozart and the Grosses Festspielhaus.

The repertoire presented is vast although still highly centralized around Mozart’s figure and Austro-German composers. Other important works which are represented with regularity and are usually perceived as some of the festival’s highlights are Richard Strauss’ operas and Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s play Jedermann.

Important musical directors of the festival include central condcutors like Herbert Von Karajan, Ricardo Mutti, Arturo Toscanini and Bruno Walter. Furthermore, orchestras like the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Chicago Symphony normally appear programmed.

Just like with the other popular festivals, tickets are very sought-after and hard to find therefore they have to be reserved and purchased months ahead.

Vintage Salzburg Festival official guides are today highly collectible!



Where: Tanglewood, Massachusetts, USA. Duration: Around 10 weeks.

Tanglewood Music Festival

Started in 1937, the festival includes a wide array of concerts including symphonic music, chamber music, choral music, musical theater, contemporary music, jazz, and even pop music.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra, established in 1881, is in residence at the festival, which takes place in a relaxed, outdoorsy/countryside atmosphere. Very important soloists like Joshua Bell regularly participate and dictate masterclasses and lectures.

Tanglewood’s history is rich and a central part in the development of America’s most famous classical musician, legendary conductor, Leonard Bernstein.

Under the guidance of the late Sergei Kousseviztky, the festival came to be and gave a young Leonard Bernstein some early opportunities as a performer and later, as an educator.

Bernstein even became the festival’s director until 1973 when he passed the torch to Seiji Ozawa, a fellow Tanglewood alum.

Amongst the festival’s most important features is the Tanglewood Music Center Fellowship Program, an advanced musical study academy for young, emerging classical musicians to hone their skills alongside already established professionals.

Tanglewood is amongst the most relevant and popular summer classical music festivals in the US, attracting a yearly estimate of 350,000 spectators. Tickets are not expensive, but they are to be purchased months ahead since they are highly coveted.



Where: Torre del Lago, Italy. Duration: around 2 months.

Started in 1930, the festival is the only one of its kind since it

Festival Puccini - Torre del Lago

is the only summer festival in the world solely dedicated to the works of Giacomo Puccini.

 The festival is set in Torre del Lago Puccini, a region of the Viareggio municipality which changed its name in honor to the legendary composer.

The festival’s performances take place in the open-air theater located near the Massacciuccoli lake house where the composer lived. Over the twenty years Puccini spent in Torre del Lago he composed most of his core repertoire including Tosca (1900), Madama Butterfly (1904), La Fanciulla del West (1910), La Rondine (1917) and Il Trittico (1918).

The Great Open-Air Theatre contains 3400 seats which spread out over a dozen performances accommodates about 40,000 spectators every edition.

The festival of course solely focuses on Puccini´s vast repertoire. Since its inception it has hosted performances by some of the most famous names of the opera world in some of the public’s favorite works such as Tosca and Turandot.

Tickets can be acquired in the festival’s website and are readily available months ahead with multiple discounts and accessible pricing.



Where: Glyndebourne, South-east England. Duration: around 2 months.


The festival opened its doors in 1934 in an auditorium which could seat 300 people. However, this theater was constructed on a side of the owner’s house meaning that it had a humble scale.

Founders John Christie and his wife Audrey Mildmay, a professional opera singer, decided to contact conductor Fritz Busch and create a festival of the highest possible quality.

Glyndebourne’s main attraction is its 1200 seat theater which was built in 1994 to accommodate the festival’s larger audiences.

Another central feature of the festival are its numerous productions of Mozart’s operas which are usually considered to be amongst the best to take place anywhere in the world.

The festival’s repertoire is quite diverse, especially in recent years. Performances of Verdi, Wagner, Rossini and Janáček are commonplace alongside the traditional Mozartian repertoire.

Booking tickets for Glyndebourne festival is no easy feat and although there are abundant yearly performances of around 50 opera performances, these fly fast and are to be booked months in advance.



Where: Lincoln Center for the performing Arts, New York City. Duration: around 1 month.

The Mostly Mozart Festival was inaugurated in 1966 with the

Mostly Mozart Festival

goal of providing performance possibilities during the summertime for freelance musicians in New York.

The festival’s repertoire initially consisted exclusively of Mozart’s works and the resident orchestra was essentially constructed ad-hoc for every new edition.

Most performances take place in the David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center. Nevertheless, some concerts take place at other important New York venues like the Alice Tully Hall, the Rose Theater, the Merkin Concert Hall amongst others.

Starting in 1984, the festival fell under the directorship of American conductor Gerard Schwarz. Under Schwarz’s tenure the festival expanded its repertoire to other composers of the classical era like Beethoven and Haydn and even implemented a chamber music series.

The festival’s location and vast number of concerts makes it one of the most accessible of the list with tickets flying fast but normally being quite easy to gain access.


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