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A classic road trip


If you are hoping to get out of the house while the weather is warm, the summer provides a multitude of classical music events that can all be reached by car in a day's travel. Some are only an hour away or less, and others: with a little more motivation you can leave home in the early hours and return in the late evening.

City took a look at several classical music festivals worth the drive this summer. And of course, for those who might want an over-night trip, keep in mind the Berkshire Choral International Festival, the programming at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and the Tanglewood summer season offer quality excuses to hit the road.

Prices for these events range from the inexpensive, $10 and free for children, to $120 for best seating. It is always good practice to get tickets early, but you would be surprised at how much availability there is up until the last moment. Summer crowds for classical music festivals tend to be last minute buyers — except for the truly major festivals in Saratoga, Tanglewood, and Glimmerglass where there are special international artists, programming, and conductors with world class orchestras.

Are you planning any getaways centered on classical music this summer? Let us know in the comment section below this article at rochestercitynewspaper.com.

The world of the "chamber music festival" is sprinkled all over the scenic hillsides and villages of the Finger Lakes. I have counted five in the vicinity of Rochester — all of which are anywhere from 45 to 75 minutes away — including The Geneva Music Festival, The Finger Lakes Chamber Music Festival, Finger Lakes Opera, The Skaneateles Festival, and the Canandaigua Lake Music Festival. All have unique programs and venues (and often multiple venues).

This will be the 5th Anniversary concert season for the Geneva Music Festival which will have concerts in Geneva, Auburn, Skaneateles, and Canandaigua, June 5 through June 21. Performances will include string chamber music, bluegrass, New Morse Code (a new group with cellist Hannah Collins and percussionist Michael Compitello), and Thomas Bergeron and his hybrid jazz ensemble. For tickets and information, visit genevamusicfestival.com.


The Finger Lakes Chamber Music Festival, which runs June 13 through August 1, supports the artists in residence from the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra. Seven performances — not counting a spring fundraiser and a post-season fall performance — all very different, will take place at six different locations in the Finger Lakes region: Glenn Curtiss Museum, Kueka College, Penn Yan Courthouse Lawn, Penn Yan Academy, Ravines Winery, and Hunt Country Vineyards. Most destinations are within an hour's drive, are children friendly venues, and have access to several camping venues throughout the Finger Lakes making good tie-ins for vacationing families. All concerts free to students; adults are $25. Concert packages are available. Check fingerlakes-music.org for more information.

The 11th season of the Canandaigua Lake Music Festival runs for 10 days from July 16 through July 26. The series of four ticketed concerts are held at the Finger Lakes Community College, with an additional Special Event at Geva Theatre, and a Classical Blue Jeans event at Bristol Harbour Resort. The festival will feature the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Brass Quintet, pianist Audrey Andrist, and performances of chamber music by Brahms and Beethoven. There is also a free festival kick-off preview concert on July 16 at the Granger Homestead & Carriage Museum (295 North Main Street) and a free family concert on July 23 at the Wood Library in Canandaigua. Tickets are $10-$60, and can be purchased online at lakemusicfestival.org.

The Finger Lakes Opera Company, hosted at SUNY Geneseo, is now in its second year of productions. This year, the company will perform the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical revue, "A Grand Night for Singing," on August 6 and August 8, and Donizetti's "The Elixir of Love" on August 7 and August 9. "The Elixir of Love" is reset to Chicago in the roaring 1920's, where Nemorino, a newspaper photographer, is forlorn but yet deeply in love with Adina, the owner of the newspaper by day and a speakeasy at night. A love potion will bring them together, but in a way you would not expect in this comedic opera. Tickets for "A Grand Night for Singing" are $25-$40, and are $25-$50 for "The Elixir of Love." For more information, check geneseo.edu/fingerlakesopera.

Both the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra have summer programming at various venues. The Rochester Orchestra performs its annual Patriotic Salute concert, concluding with fireworks in Canandaigua, on July 3 at CMAC amphitheater. Programming for the Buffalo Philharmonic at Artpark (about two hours away) has not yet been set, but is worth keeping an eye out for. Look to rpo.org and bpo.org for more information.

The areas around the theater at the Glimmerglass Opera Festival offers scenic spaces for relaxing between productions. - PHOTO BY CLAIRE MCADAMS
  • The areas around the theater at the Glimmerglass Opera Festival offers scenic spaces for relaxing between productions.

As you drive farther east down the thruway you can reach the Skaneateles Festival, still thriving after 35 years. The town located at the tip of the lake, with several fine restaurants and boutique shopping also has a boat ride on the lake. The chamber music is of high quality in performances supported by quality guest artists. The festival runs Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from August 13 through September 5. Programs include the Claremont Trio (piano, cello violin), the Now Ensemble (new music for the 21st Century), Roomful of Teeth (contemporary vocal ensemble), and an acoustic Klezmer Quartet. The festival has a stunning variety of musical offerings and the prices are friendly. Children under 13 are free and ticket prices range from $22-$28. The concerts are held at First Presbyterian Church and Brook Farm. For more information, visit skanfest.org.

Cooperstown is a great family destination for those who love to have a little bit of everything in their summer diets — especially baseball and opera. You can find the family-friendly Farmers Museum across from the luxurious Hotel Otesaga, the Baseball Hall of Fame downtown and of course the Glimmerglass Opera Festival which produces four productions each summer at the highest standards one could wish for outside of New York City. This year's programs include Bernstein's "Candide" (July 19-August 21), Verdi's "Macbeth" (July 11-August 22), Vivaldi's "Cato in Utica" (July 18-August 22), and Mozart's "The Magic Flute" (July 10-August 23). This is an intimate hall of 900 seats, and early ticket purchasing is suggested. Packaging allows you to see all four operas in one weekend. Several events are supported by the festival, including backstage tours, pre-talks, master classes by Deborah Vogt and Frederica von Stade, and a lecture by Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg on law and the arts. Ticket prices: $10-$25 for youth (12 and under); adults: $26-$144. For more information, check out glimmerglass.org.

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