7 Classical Music Festivals in Europe

  • Rinaldo is one of six operas to be performed at this year's Glyndebourne Festival.

    Rinaldo is one of six operas to be performed at this year's Glyndebourne Festival.

  • In Granada, performances are staged in settings such as the city's historic Alhambra gardens.

    In Granada, performances are staged in settings such as the city's historic Alhambra gardens.

  • The Stanislavsky Ballet performs in Granada.

    The Stanislavsky Ballet performs in Granada.

  • The Lucerne Festival has a Mozart-heavy program this year.

    The Lucerne Festival has a Mozart-heavy program this year.

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Europe’s summer music season will see a slew of festivals staged across the continent. Here are some of the best

By Gabrielle Lipton

Recognized as one of the world’s best opera festivals, the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence (through Jul. 24) fills its city’s most historic venues with performances, master classes, and recitals. Aria- philes will appreciate this year’s world premiere re-stagings of Handel’s Ariodante and Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia, along with Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Schubert’s Winterreisse.

Two and a half hours by train from London, the Glyndebourne Festival Opera (through Aug. 24) celebrates its 80th anniversary this year. Held in an intimate, lamp-lit theater on the grounds of an old manor in East Sussex, the festival’s line-up this year includes Mozart’s La finta giardiniera, Verdi’s La traviata, and Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier. In Wales, the Gregynog Festival (Jun. 13-29) explores music through history, reuniting pieces with the spaces for which they were written; expect performances by American lutist Paul O’Dette, harpist Sioned Williams, and the distinguished Flemish Radio Choir.

A mélange of the performing arts, the program this year at the Edinburgh International Festival (Aug. 8-31) runs the gamut from the Mariinsky opera singing Berlioz’s Les Troyens to the Kronos Quartet pairing Serbian composer Aleksandra Vrebalov’s music with archival footage of World War I. Inala—a ballet set to the music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo—makes its world premiere as well.

A plethora of interdisciplinary productions descend upon Amsterdam during the Holland Festival (Jun. 1-29). Napoléon, a silent film from 1927, is set to a live symphony soundtrack at the Ziggo Dome; Matthew Herbert plays the digitized sounds of 20 legendary pianos in the Bimhuis jazz hall; and living legends Philip Glass, Nico Muhly, and Oneohtrix Point Never exercise their masteries of the avant-garde.

One of Spain’s most spectacular annual traditions, the Granada International Festival of Music and Dance  (Jun. 20-Jul. 21) brings top-tier talent to the Andalusian city. See ballets and Bobby McFerrin in the gardens of the Alhambra, chamber music in monasteries, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra playing Mahler’s Fifth in the courtyard of the Palace of Charles V.

The Lucerne Festival (Aug. 15-Sep. 14) annually draws the world’s best orchestras to the shores of its namesake lake. This year’s program is Mozart-heavy with the Vienna Philharmonic performing his Symphony No. 39 in E-flat major; piano prodigy Lang Lang playing his sonatas; and soprano Barbara Hannigan singing three of his arias. History’s most daring composers are favored by the chic Verbier Festival (Jul. 18-Aug. 3) in the Swiss Alps. Pianist Martha Argerich and violinist Leonidas Kavakos will open and close the festival, respectively, with works of Ravel, Stravinsky, Schumann, and Rachmaninoff resounding in between.

In Romeo and Juliet’s hometown, the Arena di Verona Opera Festival (Jun. 20-Sep. 7) is remarkable as much for its lineup as for its setting—an ancient Roman amphitheater dating back to 30 A.D. This year’s edition will stage 54 performances of classics including Carmen, Turandot, and Madama Butterfly, as well as special events of Placido Domingo singing Verdi, la Scala Ballet’s principal dancer Roberto Bolle, and Carmina Burana—a love story as timeless as the amphitheater itself.

 This article originally appeared in the June/July 2014 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Agenda: Comparing Notes”).

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