Head west, classical music aficionados, for the foothills are alive with the sounds of the symphony all summer long. While the Colorado Symphony takes its annual warm weather hiatus, musical luminaries from all over the world descend (or rather ascend) upon the Centennial State to take part in a robust collection of classical music festivals and concerts. From the prestigious Bravo! Vail Music Festival to the freewheeling Music in the Mountains concert series, the weeks ahead are replete with performances suited to every taste. So don your coattails, Westword readers, and get ready to the ride the highway toward high culture. Keep reading to learn more about the ten best classical music concerts and festivals happening in Colorado this summer.
Bravo! Vail Music Festival
June 20 through August 4, showtimes vary
Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater (and more)
$5 to $228
Founded in 1987 as an effort to boost the ski-driven economy of the Alpine-inspired mountain town during the off season, the Bravo! Vail Music Festival evolved from a humble smattering of chamber music concerts to a summer-spanning extravaganza that repeatedly draws some of the world's finest orchestras. 2019's edition, which kicked off last night with the North American debut of Berlin's confusingly named Chamber Orchestra Vienna —don't worry, they'll be back for "An Evening of Mozart" on Saturday, June 22 — proudly continues the fest's tradition of excellence. This year's program also welcomes reprise performances from the members of the New York Philharmonic, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, who'll also provide the live score for the festival's operatic production of Giacomo Puccini's Tosca. While a majority of the big ticket concerts will be held at Vail's Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, the list of participating venues is too numerous to list here. Visit the Bravo! Vail events calendar for lawn passes (good for the entire festival), $76 to $228, individual tickets, $5 to $109, and further details. And if all this sounds a little too rich for your blood, don't worry; the festival also includes a free concert series.
Strings Music Festival
June 22 to 26, showtimes vary
Strings Music Pavilion
$10 to $125
Another mountain town concert series celebrates its thirty-second anniversary this summer when the Strings Music Festival returns to Steamboat Springs. Unlike its sprawling sister showcases, the Strings Music Festival unfolds briskly over four eventful days on the Strings Music Pavilion stage. From a festival-opening concert featuring an orchestra comprising players from symphonies all over the country, shows dedicated to Czech, Italian, and Viennese composers, to a closing recital of Johann Sebastian Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, Strings is positively brimming with delights for classical lovers. The sonic offerings aren't just limited to chamber music, however, this year's festival expands its programming purview with a performance from indie rockers Band of Horses. Find tickets, $10 to $125, and more information on the Strings Music Festival home page.
Flatirons Chamber Music Festival
June 22 to 29, showtimes vary
Dairy Arts Center (and more)
$15 to $40
Education and entertainment are the raisons d'etre for the Flatirons Chamber Music Festival, a conservatory and concert series that unites musicians from prestigious institutions all over the world. While the participating musicians have been ensconced in workshops and practice recitals since June 14, the general public is encouraged to join festival-goers for a quartet of festival-closing concerts. Beginning with a pair of "American Voices" concerts dedicated to works that evoke our national character, the programming spans eras and genres. Highlights include Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Souvenir of Florence and the world premiere of a new work written by Composer-in-Residence Benjamin Park. Participating venues include Ruby Red Farm, eTown Hall, and the Dairy Arts Center's Gordon Gamm Theater. Visit the Flatirons Chamber Music Festival events calendar to buy tickets, $15 to $40, and learn more.
Colorado Music Festival
June 27 to August 3, showtimes vary
$15 to $310
Keep on frolicking through the Flatirons as the Colorado Music Festival draws even more world-class musicians to the Boulder area. Under the guidance of Music Director Peter Oundjian, the festival presents twenty concerts at the historic – and majestically situated – Chautauqua Auditorium over six weeks. From Beethoven, Brahams, and Berlioz to Tchaikovsky, Mozart, and Mahler, the concert program resounds with some of the finest music ever composed. Admission to individual concerts costs between $15 and $70, and festival grand passes are available for $310. Buy tickets and find out more on the Colorado Music Festival home page.
Aspen Music Festival and School
June 27 to August 18, showtimes vary
Benedict Music Tent (and more)
$50 to $1,250
Another tony ski town cashes in on classical cachet when the Aspen Music Festival And School returns for its seventieth anniversary season. Originally founded in 1949, the festival has a long and star-studded history – Igor Stravinsky conducted his own works here in 1951 – and continues its proud legacy with over four hundred performances at venues across the Aspen area. The festival's 2019 edition is dedicated to the theme of "Being American," and therefore shines a symphonic spotlight on the works of great American composers such as Wynton Marsalis, Aaron Copland (who once served as the school's composer-in-residence), and George Gershwin. Minors can secure youth passes for $50; season passes for adults are available for $425 to $1,250. Many concerts offer free admission, and individual tickets for everything else range from $5 to $90. Get yours, and find out everything you need to know from the Aspen Music Festival and School home page.
Independence Eve With the Colorado Symphony
Wednesday, July 3, 4 p.m.
Civic Center Park
Gather in the heart of the Mile High City for a musical celebration of American democracy when Independence Eve with the Colorado Symphony returns for another night of patriotic fanfare. Come as early as 4 p.m. to secure a clear view of stage and skies alike, and then kick back for a grand blend of sight and spectacle. The program includes such stirring holiday favorites as "Stars and Stripes Forever," "God Bless America" and Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture." Each composition syncs up with a brilliant light show, and the entire affair concludes with a fireworks display set against the Denver skyline. You can bring a picnic, but beer, wine, and food-truck grub will all be available for purchase. Admission to Civic Center Park is free, and the show will proceed regardless of rain or shine. Find out more on the Colorado Symphony's events calendar.
Music in the Mountains
July 6 to 28, showtimes vary
Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College (and more)
$5 to $75
Spend the dog days of summer traversing through summits of sound at the thirty-second annual Music in the Mountains concert series. Based in and around Durango and primarily set on the stage of the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College, Music in the Mountains aims to delight your taste buds along with your eardrums this year with its family picnic and "Chocolate Indulgence" concerts. Respective Festival Music and Artistic Directors Guillermo Figueroa and Gregory Hustis proudly carry on the legacy of the festival's late founder Mischa Semanitzky with this year's programming, which contains tributes to jazz and the film scores of John Williams, alongside the usual array of classics. Visit the Music in the Mountains homepage to buy tickets, $5 to $75, and find more information.
Central City Opera Summer Festival
July 6 to August 4, showtimes vary
Central City Opera House
$31 to $173
Gamble on a good time when old world music and old west ambience collide once more for the Central City Opera Summer Festival. Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd and Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly co-headline a jam-packed and often family-friendly entertainment program that also devotes time to short works and rarely-performed gems such as Claude Debussy's The Blessed Damozel and Francis Poulenc's Litanies to the Black Virgin. Regardless of whether you decide to take in one or several of the festival's affiliated shows, there's no disputing that Central City is the ideal area for arias. Dial 303-292-6700 or visit the Central City Opera box-office page to buy tickets, $31 to $173, and learn more.
August 3 to 17, showtimes vary
Chief Theater (and more)
$10 to $85
Steamboat Springs can sing as well as it strings, and Opera Steamboat is here to prove it. Fairy tales and fine artists abound across the 2019 performance calendar, which consists of the triple bill featuring Rusalka by Antonín Dvorák, Hansel and Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck, and Frida by Robert Xavier Rodriguez. Treat yourself to an august August and return to Steamboat Springs, the humble mountain town that transforms into a living gift that keeps on giving to classical music lovers every summer. For tickets, $10 to $85, and further details, head over to the Opera Steamboat homepage.
Rick Steves' Europe: A Symphonic Journey with the Colorado Symphony
Sunday, September 15, 2 p.m.
Boettcher Concert Hall
Summer isn't technically over until September 21, so why not treat yourself to a symphonic staycation? Travel writer and public broadcaster Rick Steves – host of the eponymous series Rick Steves' Europe – alights upon the Mile High City to guide listeners through a cultural tour through the career highlights of the continent's greatest composers. Like taking a voyage through Europe without ever leaving the Denver metropolitan area, the concert wanders freely through the canonical works of composers hailing from France, Italy, Germany, Norway, Austria, and the Czech Republic, offering cultural insight into the histories and landscapes of imagination destinations on musical display. Tickets go on sale Thursday, August 1. Check the Colorado Symphony box-office page for updates and details.
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