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An Unfamiliar Season Of Live Classical Music, Opera And Dance

SPAC venue for Chamber series & opera saratoga
SPAC venue for Chamber series & opera saratoga

With the summer arts scene almost upon us, I offer a word of advice. Buy your tickets early.

A second piece of advice is to learn to love your GPS, as most organizations are using new venues in order to perform outdoors.

This year, very little will be familiar to the audience.

To accommodate federal and state safety guidelines attendance at most venues will be extremely limited. It also appears that the number of performances will shrink as well. And, to find outdoor performance spaces there has been a lot of innovation.

As an example of adjusting spaces and how this affects ticket supply, Saratoga Performing Arts Center recently announced the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s season. The group will perform twice a day, almost every Sunday mid-June thru late-August at Pitney Meadows Community Farm in Saratoga. Seating is limited to 200 people a performance and tickets went on sale to the general public on April 6. The entire series is already sold out.

The rest of the SPAC season is also abbreviated. The New York City Ballet appears on the main stage of the amphitheater for 6 performances July 14-17.

Except it will not be the full company performing. “NYCB Onstage and Off” consists of 15 dancers who will be accompanied by company pianists. The approximately 75-minute performances will feature excerpts from the company’s repertoire. A company principle dancer will act as host, offering insights about the dance, its history and technical demands of the piece.

But even if this unique substitution doesn’t satisfy everyone, it is likely to sell out quickly. The amphitheater will be limited to 20% capacity, and the lawn will also be limited by socially distant pods.

COVID protocols will be in effect for all events. Masking is mandatory at all times and entrance will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72-hours of the performance.

This limited seating capacity will also affect other events at SPAC. The Freihofer Jazz Festival has been announced to take place June 26-27, but no other information is yet available. It is almost certain the Philadelphia Orchestra will be at SPAC this summer, but no official announcement has been made as to dates or programming. Both events are certain to be limited in audience capacity.

One area organization which will be affected is Opera Saratoga, who just announced their 2021 season this week. In a season based on the adventures of Don Quixote. One of the three events is a fully staged production of the musical “Man of La Mancha,” July 8-10. The three performances of the beloved musical will be offered at SPACs amphitheater and subject to its restrictions.

Another Opera Saratoga show in this season is “A Quixotic Opera.” It’s a concert using the talents of the artists from the company’s Young Artist Program. It consists of scenes from seven operas based on the story of the knight errant.

An outside, immersive event it will be performed at the Colombia Pavilion in Saratoga State Park. There are three performances each day, July 14-18.

The other event is the only opera on the schedule, “Don Quichotte at Camacho’s Wedding”. There will be only two performances of the short comic opera at the 200-seat High Tunnel Greenhouse at Pitney Meadows Community Farm, July 24 & 25.

Glimmerglass Opera has also scheduled a limited season performed outdoors in a newly designed limited-capacity performance space on the grounds of its Cooperstown facility. The season which runs July 15-August 17 consists of several classic and contemporary operas.. All have been reimagined to play at about 90-minutes without an intermission.

The seating arrangement is a combination of squares that seat 1-4 people and boxes or tables that can handle 1-6 people. Single ticket purchases are discouraged and strict COVID protocols are in effect, including proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. The Berkshires are also limiting their performance schedules. Tanglewood Music Festival has not announced its audience limits as the legal requirements are changing weekly. But social distancing requirements – which are unlikely to change- demand a reduction of capacity. The season will only run approximately six weeks, July 9 – August 24. All performances will be outdoors, and run 80-minutes or less, without intermission. They are only offered on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. Fridays will see performances by the Boston Pops or other special events. Jacob’s Pillow is trying to be innovative with its season that runs June 30–August 29. All performances will be held at outdoor site-specific locations on its Beckett, MA campus. All will be performed in less than an hour. However, because of the limited audience capacity, digital streaming of the performances will be available after the live performance has closed. Yes, there will be live classical music, opera and dance this summer. However, it will take planning and maybe luck to be in the audience.

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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