Concert halls and opera houses across the U.S. are welcoming new audiences of all ages to an incredible, boundary-pushing season.
Whether your idea of “classical music” is a ferocious symphony by Beethoven, the pulsing minimalism of Philip Glass, or a brand-new opera adapted from a Hitchcock thriller (really), the 2018/19 classical music and opera calendar promises to be one of the richest, most diverse ever. Here, 10 noteworthy musical events in travel-worthy destinations across the U.S.
1. Opera Philadelphia’s O18 Festival
September 20 - 30, 2018
Opera Philadelphia showed themselves as one of the most interesting companies with last year’s O17 festival. This season’s 018 line-up features "Lucia di Lammermoor" and the world premiere of "Sky on Swings," which brings back the team of composer Lembit Beecher and librettist Hannah Moscovitch, plus a production of Poulenc’s "La Void Humaine" that will include star Patricia Racette singing French art songs. Performances are staged all over, including at the Barnes Foundation art museum and concert (operaphila.org).
2. Daniil Trifonov With the Chicago Symphony
October 18 - 20, 2018
Pianist Daniil Trifonov is a legend in the making, and his youth makes that even more exciting—there’s a sense he’s discovering new music and ideas at his every concert. Among many notable performances in North America this season, this appearance with the Chicago Symphony stands out for both his collaborators—the great Chicago Symphony and conductor Marin Alsop—and the material, Prokoviev’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Stick around for the entire concert to hear Copland’s mighty Symphony No. 3 (cso.org).
3. 'Marnie' at the Metropolitan Opera
October 19 - November 10, 2018
Five years after composer Nico Muhly’s opera "Two Boys" caused a considerable positive stir at the Met comes "Marnie." Best known as an Alfred Hitchcock film, "Marnie," adapted from a novel by Winston Graham, has the perfect operatic theme of a beautiful young woman who assumes multiple identities. It’s a star turn ripe for the taking by the great mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard. Michael Meyer, who produced the Met’s scintillating "Ratpack Rigoletto," promises an appropriately cinematic staging (metopera.org).
4. 'Satyagraha' at LA Opera
October 20 - November 11, 2018
Composer Philip Glass may be most widely known for his film scores, including most famously "The Hours," but his operas are uniquely beautiful and intriguing. Glass's opera "Satyagraha," about Gandhi, is probably his music beautiful, and for the LA Opera it is the final leg of their stagings of Glass’s opera trilogy on science, religion, and politics. This co-production with the English National Opera and Metropolitan Opera comes from director Phelim McDermott, who has triumphant stagings of Glass's "Einstein on the Beach" and "Akhnaten" under his belt. His "Satyagraha" is a stunning interweaving of evocative settings and history, and features tenor Sean Panikkar in the lead (laopera.org).
5. Yuja Wang Perspectives Series at Carnegie Hall, New York City
October 26, 2018 - May 2, 2019 (various dates)
The Perspectives Series hands over programming to selected artists, and pianist Yuja Wang’s choices mix expected pleasures with real surprises. Across six concerts, she’ll play Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 5 with the New World Symphony, and premiere a new work from Michael Tilson Thomas (May 1-2); she’ll play duos (Feb. 6 and April 10); and on February 11 she’ll perform with the classical music comedy duo Igudesman & Joo in a concert that will absolutely be something completely different (carnegiehall.org).
6. Celebrating MTT at the San Francisco Symphony
November 15, 2018 - June 22, 2019 (various dates)
Conductor Micheal Tilson Thomas (a.k.a. MTT) will not be leaving the San Francisco Symphony until the end of the 2020 season, but a long goodbye is in the works for this immensely important musician. Interspersed through the SFS season are signature concerts like MTT’s own "From the Diary of Anne Frank" (Nov 15-18), and ones that feature his special touch with Tchaikovsky, with Symphony No. 4, Feb. 7-9, and Mahler’s glorious Symphony No. 9, June 13-15 (sfsymphony.org).
7. 'Ariadne auf Naxos' at the Cleveland Orchestra
January 13, 17 and 19, 2019
The Cleveland Orchestra presents a staged opera performance annually, and for this season it’s "Ariadne auf Naxos," one of Richard Strauss’ most entertaining dramas, combining comedy with beautiful music. A new production made especially for the orchestra comes from opera director Frederic Wake-Walker, and consummate Straussian Franz Welser-Móst will conduct. The terrific young soprano Tamara Wilson, who has a shining, clarion-clear instrument, will sing the dual role of Ariadne and the Diva in the opera within the opera (clevelandorchestra.com).
8. Salonen’s Stravinsky at the Los Angele Philharmonic
April 12 - 20, 2019
Among many exciting musical events in Los Angeles, this one stands out for its balance of variety and compactness. Conductor Laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen brings his distinctive vitality and sense of color to three programs at the Los Angeles Philharmonic devoted to works of the titanic, indispensable 20th century composer Igor Stravinsky: Rituals, Faiths, and Myths. "The Rite of Spring" is there, of course, alongside the astonishing "Agon," there will be great choral works for the Faith program, and Myths presents two beautiful and infrequently heard ballet scores, "Orpheus" and "Perséphone" (laphil.com).
9. Music of Conscience at the New York Philharmonic
May 26 - June 8, 2019
Jaap van Zweden begins his first seasons as music director, thus already an exciting year for the New York Philharmonic. Their season culminates with the Music of Conscience festival, which explores composers’ responses to political and social turmoil. Opening with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, and featuring John Corigliano’s Symphony No. 1—his response to the AIDS epidemic—the two weeks end with the world premiere staging of David Lang’s opera "prisoner of the state," his updating of Beethoven's opera "Fidelio" for the 21st century (nyphil.org).
10. Cirque de la Symphonie at the Philadelphia Orchestra
June 13 - 14, 2019
Dance has been an intimate partner of classical music since before the courtly menuet and trio became permanently entwined into symphonic form. While that has developed since the 18th century, in 2014 the Philadelphia Orchestra took it a leap, literally, farther, with aerialists and acrobats performing in mid-air above the orchestra. This truly spectacular Cirque de la Symphonie program returns for the coming season, along with contortionists, strongmen, and of course dancers. It’s a singular meeting of music making, entertainment, and feats of daring (philorch.org).