Aspen Music Festival delays season two weeks, will start July 16 |

Aspen Music Festival delays season two weeks, will start July 16

The cover of the recently printed 2020 Aspen Music Festival season guide. The start of the season has been delayed two weeks to July 16.
Laura Smith/Courtesy photo

The Aspen Music Festival and School has canceled the first two weeks of its summer season due to societal disruptions from the novel coronavirus, pushing the opening concert from July 2 to July 16.

The season is still scheduled to end Aug. 23.

The festival is expected to make an announcement about this shortened six-week season Wednesday.

“We want to do the very most we can do,” Alan Fletcher, music festival president and CEO, said Tuesday of retaining six weeks of concerts, education and events. “We are hopeful in both the correct and incorrect sense of the word.”

This is the latest in a cascade of Aspen-area event cancellations since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, with major cancellations now extending from mid-March to mid-July and also including Aspen Skiing Co.’s Spring Jam, the Food & Wine Classic and Aspen Ideas Festival.

The executive committee of the festival’s board of trustees made the decision Monday, Fletcher said. The rescheduled start date was set based on input from the festival’s global network along with its administration, with insights from public health experts, museum directors, operas and orchestras in Asia, Europe and North America, and from other summer music festivals.

“We are all talking to each other and all feeling like we are truly colleagues and not competitors,” Fletcher said of fellow summer presenting and performing festivals. “We will truly be together on this.”

Fletcher estimated the loss of earned income for the nonprofit from the cancellations to be in the range of $1 million. Total revenue for 2018 was $16.7 million, according to the festival’s 2019 annual report.

Fletcher expressed confidence in the institution’s ability to persevere.

“With the board’s support, we are feeling the public and donors will stay with us, and we will be OK,” Fletcher said.

While the Music Festival’s Roaring Fork Valley after-school music instruction programs all went virtual this week, the festival is not planning virtual curricula in place of the two canceled weeks of the season in July. Extending the end of the season for students is also difficult, as most students are returning to conservatory programs elsewhere in late August. Fletcher did leave open the door, however, to the possibility of some additional programming for students and the public on the tail end of the season.

The canceled first two weeks of the season were to include premier events from the season, themed to celebrate Beethoven and “Uncommon Women of Note,” including a July 5 performance by soprano Renée Fleming with the Aspen Festival Orchestra in the Benedict Music Tent and the launch of Fleming’s and Patrick Summers’ redesigned opera program.

But Fletcher said the extant July 16 to Aug. 23 season may include some concerts and educational programs rescheduled from the canceled portion of the season.

The delayed start, festival officials believe, will allow time for public health restrictions on travel and gatherings to loosen, and will allow for the season to proceed safely.

“While uncertainty still rules the day,” Fletcher said in a draft of the announcement, “this delay reflects our ability, nearly four months out, to plan effectively and remain flexible in a dynamic situation. We will be actively monitoring developments, and we will revisit this in mid-May to be more certain of the feasibility of this plan.”

The festival’s refund and exchange policy has been amended for the season, offering patrons refunds due to the changed schedule and other circumstances. Ticket and passholders for canceled events can donate tickets, receive full refunds or credit toward the 2021 season.

Since its founding in 1949, the Aspen Music Festival has never had a season cancelation or delay comparable to this one.

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