Best Classical-Music Series 2018 | Colorado Music Festival | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Every summer, talented musicians from around the country and world gather in Boulder for a classical jam session, as it were. For six busy weeks, they become the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra, delivering a sizzling variety of offerings, from full orchestral evenings to chamber groups, experimental evenings and family-friendly concerts. Housed in the lovingly preserved all-wood Chautauqua Auditorium, the festival has been a welcome tradition for more than forty years. The friendly, informal atmosphere is infectious, and you can visit Chautauqua Park on a warm summer day and listen to the bands rehearse.

No regional opera company has worked harder than Opera Colorado to keep the art form vital. Since its birth 35 years ago, it has brought in vocal greats such as Placido Domingo, James McCracken and Denyce Graves. More important, Ari Pelto, Greg Carpenter and company judiciously balance the more crowd-pleasing performers, such as La Bohème and Aida, with exciting new work such as the innovative restaging of Nixon in China in 2008 and the world-premiere production of Lori Laitman's The Scarlet Letter in 2016. And Opera Colorado offers an array of enviable education and outreach programs, to boot.

Ellie Caulkins Opera House

Denver's old Auditorium Theater was a nightmare — atrocious acoustics, bad sight lines, and all the ambience of a dilapidated grange hall. The "Ellie" was literally carved out of the older, cavernous space, and since opening in 2005, it's been a wonder. The house's flowing, warm design can hold more than 2,000 people, and the back of each seat has a screen that translates shows for opera-goers. The acoustics are impeccable, and the versatile Ellie hosts a variety of arts events year-round. More than a decade in, it has become the go-to venue for top-of-the-line cultural events in Denver.

The Boulder Phil turned sixty this year, and it's more popular and innovative than ever, reaching deep into the community to share great music. Its programming is a bracing mix of familiar works and adventerous new compositions, all played with precision and energy. Under the baton of its music director and conductor for eleven years, Michael Butterman, the Philharmonic has chalked up collaborations with 45 local organizations that dabble in arts, science, nature, social services and more. And its educational and outreach programs are growing a new generation of music lovers.

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