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When it comes to the summer sun, classical music is a delicate flower. Between seasons, it’s common for orchestras, chamber ensembles, conductors, and soloists to move into the shade of a well-developed network of barns, sheds, tents, and pavilions. If you’re a classical music fan, you’re probably also a seasoned festival fan, and if you’re new to the subject (or just curious about classical), the picnic approach at Very Serious Music can help level the playing field into something more like a lawn. What follows is a selection of summer festivals, ranked by proximity to the District of Columbia. Keep yourself hydrated and happy listening!

While nearly every other opera house is in full swing for its season, summer is showtime for Wolf Trap Opera, which splits its summer offerings between the acoustically cozy venue of The Barns and the grander outdoor setting of the Filene Center. Conductor Christine Brandes opens the season with director Dan Rigazzi’s “Così fan tutte” (June 21-29). In addition to an exclusive master class (July 10), mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton also gives a concert at the Barns with pianist Joseph Li (July 14). The National Symphony Orchestra accompanies a mainstage production of Puccini’s “La Bohème” (July 19), with soprano Amanda Batista as Mimi and tenor Eric Taylor as Rodolfo. The Pulitzer Prize-winning opera “Silent Night” by composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell closes the season at the Barns (August 9-17). The summer season also features three installments of the intimate, artist-curated Salon Series (June 23, 28 and July 1) and the return of WTO’s ever-popular Aria Jukebox, where audience members choose what Filene’s artists sing (July 7). June 21 – August 17 at Wolf Trap, 1551 Trap Rd., Vienna.

National Symphony Orchestra in Wolf Trap

In addition to performances with Wolf Trap Opera (see: “La Boheme” on July 19), the NSO has a busy summer schedule of high-profile guests and casual movie nights at the Filene Center. This summer’s guest list includes Phish frontman Trey Anastasio (June 25); rapper Nas, celebrating the 30th anniversary of his seminal album “Illmatic” (July 21); and Grammy-winning, genre-bending pop icon Beck, bringing orchestral brilliance to favorites from his catalog (July 27). Film fans who are also classical music fans shouldn’t miss the NSO’s live soundtracks of “Star Wars: A New Hope” (July 13), “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1” (July 24) and “Ghostbusters” (July 26). And for a real musical explosion, the Cathedral Choral Society joins conductor Ruth Reinhardt and the NSO in a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth. The programme also features Sphinx Concerto Competition winner Njioma Grevious performing Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Violin Concerto (12 July). June 25 – July 27, at Wolf Trap, 1515 Trap Rd., Vienna.

In Katonah, just north of New York City, the venerable summer classical music outpost is packed with highlights and waiting for your picnic blankets. A free, all-day Soundscapes event (June 9) kicks off the season, as does the Caramoor grounds—home to sound art by Stephan Moore, Senem Pirler, Liz Phillips, Taylor Deupree, Annea Lockwood, Bob Bielecki, and Ranjit Bhatnagar. Also on display will be Majel Connery’s “Rivers Are Our Brothers,” an electronic song cycle about environmental responsibility; a theremin workshop with Rob Schwimmer; and composer Darian Donovan Thomas’s installation “Safe Space.” Regular season concerts include performances by the Abeo Quartet (June 27), Roomful of Teeth (June 28), The Knights with Aaron Diehl (June 30), the Sphinx Virtuosi (July 7), Owls (July 11), Xian Zhang leads the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and guitarist Miloš (July 14), Sandbox Percussion’s world premiere of Douglas J. Cuomo’s “The Jump Up!” (July 21), “classically trained garage band” Time for Three (July 26), Silkroad’s Rhiannon Giddens (August 3) and more. Plus: Dance returns to Caramoor with a performance of Purcell’s “The Fairy Queen” (July 20) and a performance by the Mark Morris Dance Company (August 1). June 9 – August 16 at Caramoor, Katonah, New York.

The oldest summer chamber music festival still in operation returns to its woodland location in Hurley, NY, with Sunday classical concerts in its hand-built concert barn. This summer’s chamber music festival kicks off with the Manhattan Chamber Players and pianist David Fung (June 30) and continues into September with performances by the Escher String Quartet (July 7), the Four Nations Ensemble (July 13), Windsync with composer Viet Cuong (July 13 and 14), the Miró Quartet (July 21), Chelsea Guo (August 4), Margaret Leng Tan (August 24), and others. June 15 – September 14 at Maverick Concerts, Hurley, NY

Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood

Maestro Andris Nelsons opens the BSO’s season at its long-running summer campus with an all-Beethoven program, led by violinist Hilary Hahn performing the Violin Concerto (July 5), and an all-Strauss program featuring soprano and Kennedy Center Prize winner Renée Fleming (July 7). Also appearing in the Koussevitzky Music Shed are violinists Augustin Hadelich (July 14), Christine Goerke (July 20), Emanuel Ax (July 21), Jean-Yves Thibeaudet (July 27), Kirill Gerstein (Aug. 4 and 9), Midori (Aug. 16), and Yo-Yo Ma (Aug. 18). Artists performing this summer at Seiji Ozawa Hall include Yuja Wang (July 17), a special trio performance with Kirill Gerstein, Joshua Bell, and Steven Isserlis (July 31), and Paul Lewis (July 24). Danish String Quartet (August 1); and more. Newly appointed concertmaster Nathan Cole will also make his first appearance with the BSO at Tanglewood this summer. Book a few days so you can take part in afternoon master classes, open rehearsals, composer talks, and extraordinary views of the Berkshires. July 5 – August 25 at Tanglewood, Lenox, Mass.

Loud weekend at Mass MoCA

For lovers of new music and the avant-garde end of the classical spectrum, the secluded factory town of North Adams—and its massive contemporary arts center Mass MoCA—hosts this reliably deafening festival, presented by New York experimental greats Bang on a Can. This summer’s Loud Weekend (August 1-3) includes performances by Duet Behavior (with Meredith Monk and drummer John Hollenbeck); cellist Maya Beiser’s take on Terry Riley’s minimalist monument “In C”; a new work “for 1-bit electronics and harpsichord” by Tristan Perich; works by Huang Ruo, Marcos Balter, Mathew Rosenblum, Annika Socolofsky, Jeffery Brooks, and many, many more. 1.–3. August at Mass MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts.

A strong summer season awaits at the Cooperstown, NY, Opera Festival, currently directed by Robert Ainsley, former director of the Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program and the American Opera Initiative. In addition to artist talks, pre-show concerts, and festival dinners, Glimmerglass is presenting new productions of “The Pirates of Penzance,” directed and choreographed by Seán Curran; a “Pagliacci” that moves from a picnic to the stage by Brenna Corner; Francesco Cavalli’s “La Calisto,” directed by Mo Zhao and conducted by Ainsley; and Kevin Puts’ “Elizabeth Cree,” directed by Alison Moritz and starring Tara Erraught, the 2024 Glimmerglass Artist in Residence (who will also appear in a concert with Glimmerglass Young Artists on August 15). Don’t be afraid to bring the kids; There is plenty of lawn space and a family-friendly performance of “Rumpelstiltskin and the Unsympathetic Children” by Jens Ibsen and Cecelia Raker. July 22 – August 20 at Glimmerglass Festival, Cooperstown, NY

Washington National Opera’s incoming music director Robert Spano is also the director of the Aspen Music Festival, which is celebrating its 75th season with a busy summer of concerts. Highlights include Renée Fleming with Strauss (June 30); Daniil Trifonov plays Mozart’s “Jeunehomme” concerto (June 28); Joshua Bell, Steven Isserlis and Jeremy Denk play Beethoven’s “Triple Concerto” (July 14); Midori plays Bartók’s second concerto (August 4); and Matthew Aucoin conducts “The Marriage of Figaro” in a new production by Sara Erde (August 12). June 26 – August 18 at the Aspen Music Festival, Aspen, Colorado.

The country’s most spectacular (and surprisingly moderate) outdoor opera festival returns to the desert with five new productions (and if you go Aug. 5-9, you can see them all back to back). Louisa Muller’s “La Traviata” is billed as a “memorable piece” set in 1939 Paris. Stephen Barlow’s Victorian-tinged “Don Giovanni” sees the opera filter through Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Karina Canellakis makes her SFO debut conducting “Der Rosenkavalier” (with Ying Fang as Sophie!). Stephen Lawless directs a revival of the SFO’s 2009 production of Donizetti’s “The Elixir of Love.” And the powerful world premiere of Gregory Spears and Tracy K. Smith’s “The Righteous” stars Anthony Roth Costanzo, Michael Mayes, Elena Villalón, Jennifer Johnson Cano and Greer Grimsley. June 28 – August 24 at the Santa Fe Opera, Santa Fe, NM

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