Aspen Music Festival announces ‘enchanted’ 2017 summer season

Aspen Music Festival and School music director Robert Spano, photographed last summer with the Aspen Festival Orchestra. The festival's 2017 season was announced Thursday.
Elie Logan/Courtesy photo |

For its 69th season, the Aspen Music Festival and School will host more than 400 events and concerts over eight weeks this summer.

The 2017 festival has been curated around the theme of “enchantment,” exploring myths, fairy tales, magic and what Music Festival President and CEO Alan Fletcher called “the transformative power of music.” Among the dozen-plus themed concerts are Ravel’s opera “L’enfant et les sortileges” on July 21, Zemlinsky’s “The Mermaid” on July 23 and Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” on July 5.

“There’s something about music that can particularly, powerfully portray mystery and magic,” Fletcher said Wednesday.

The festival also has deemed 2017 “The Year of the Concerto” and will explore the form over the course of the summer with performances and conversations about concertos new and old. The season will include the world premieres of new concertos by Fletcher, written for and performed by pianists Inon Barnatan on July 30 and Matthew Ricketts on Aug. 9. Jennifer Koh will perform a violin concerto July 19 written for her by Anna Clyne, followed two days later by Gil Shaham performing Jonathan Leshnoff’s violin concerto. The series also features Robert Levin performing a reconstructed version of Mozart’s unfinished concerto for violin and piano with Nicholas McGegan on July 7.

“I don’t think anyone will have previously heard this work, but it is a Mozart masterpiece,” Fletcher said.

The last week in July will feature a string of high-profile singers, including mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, soprano Renee Fleming and pop star and composer Rufus Wainwright.

The season will close Aug. 20 with an Aspen Festival Orchestra performance of Berlioz’s epic “The Damnation of Faust” in the Benedict Music Tent with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra Chorus and soloists Sasha Cooke, Bryan Hymel and John Relyea and conducted by Robert Spano, who returns this summer as the festival’s music director.

“It’s a work that’s not as well-known because it’s so hard to produce,” Fletcher said of the season closer. “That’s exactly the kind of thing we like to do, and that we can do.”

That dramatic finale will be followed by a three-concert post-season series of chamber music, curated and performed by pianist Conrad Tao and violinist Stefan Jackiw.

About 600 of the world’s most promising music students are expected for the season, along with a 200-member faculty of teaching artists.

Students from about 40 countries are expected in Aspen for the season. Fletcher said he does not expect President Donald Trump’s immigration ban to keep members of the class of 2017 out of the U.S., as no students are expected from the seven restricted countries. The controversial ban has, however, scuttled a Music Festival initiative that had been in the works to bring Iranian classical music students to Aspen.

“We had a lot of people who wanted to support us doing that, but it is now obviously gone,” Fletcher said.

The full season schedule is online at

Additional highlights:

• Aspen Opera Center presentations of two staged productions: Verdi’s “La Traviata” (July 15 to 18) and Mozart’s “La Clamenza di Tito” (Aug. 15 to 19) and a concert version of Bedford’s “Seven Angels” with the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble.

• Sarah Chang performing Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” at Harris Concert Hall (July 19).

• Rufus Wainwright performing an intimate concert featuring his music in new arrangements for string orchestra (July 24).

• Baritone Andre Schuen and pianist Andreas Haefliger performing a reimagined version of Schubert’s “Swan Song” (July 29).

• Soprano Renee Fleming returning to perform with the Aspen Festival Orchestra (July 30).

• Jonathan Biss returning for the second year in his three-year residency, performing the complete Beethoven sonatas (Aug. 1 and 8).

• Guitarist Sharon Isbin performing Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, a new concerto by Chris Brubeck and music from Howard Shore’s score for “The Departed” (Aug. 5).

• Premieres of Luke Bedford’s opera “Seven Angels” (Aug. 5) and Mohammed Fairouz’s song cycle for the American String Quartet (Aug. 10).

• A performance by the winner of the 2017 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition on Aug. 15 at Harris Concert Hall.

• Return performances by the Pacifica Quartet (July 26), Takacs Quartet (July 5) and American String Quartet (Aug. 10).

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