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Opera Festivals

Bayreuth Festspielhaus, Wilhelm Furtwangler, Santa Fe Opera, Ravinia festival, Glimmerglass

An important part of Wagner’s conception for his Bayreuth Festspielhaus was a summer pilgrimage to see opera. The idea caught on. In the 1920s Mozart’s birthplace of Salzburg, Austria, organized a yearly festival built around his operas and employed talents the likes of director Max Reinhardt and conductors Arturo Toscanini and Wilhelm Furtwangler. Mozart has also been the staple of the Glyndebourne Festival in England since the 1930s. After World War II (1939-1945) Munich organized a festival devoted chiefly to the works of Richard Strauss, who was born there. In Florence, the cradle of opera, Musical May features operas from the earliest to the most up-to-date. The Festival Weeks in Vienna, Austria, supplement the State Opera season and are a time for introducing important new productions.

The oldest summer opera season in the United States, dating from the 1920s, is in Cincinnati, Ohio. Upstate New York hosts adventuresome festivals at Chautauqua and near Cooperstown, at Glimmerglass; while concert opera (opera performed without staging) is usually presented at Tanglewood in Lenox, Massachusetts, and at the Ravinia festival near Chicago, Illinois. The Metropolitan Opera began offering free concerts in New York City parks in the mid-1960s. The Santa Fe Opera in New Mexico, during its prestigious summer season, regularly presents the works of Richard Strauss, Puccini, Rossini, and Mozart. It has also given the world or American premieres of works such as The Black Mask (1986) by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki and The English Cat (1983) by German composer Hans Werner Henze.

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