The best classical music festivals and summer operas taking place in the UK this year

With the potential lifting of restrictions, a tranche of operas, festivals, venues and orchestras have announced their summer programmes – with or without social distancing. Paul Riley picks out some of the best classical music festivals to look out for in the UK in 2021

The classical music concerts and festivals going ahead this summer in the UK

It’s with a huge amount of pleasure that we welcome you to this year’s summer festival guide! The past year has been one of cancellations and heartbreak as grand, imaginative plans had to be dismantled while quick-thinking artistic directors dreamt up entirely re-imagined offerings in their new world of concert streaming.

Advertisement

This summer, many festivals have still been unable to offer their usual full programmes, if at all, but the future looks increasingly promising. Over the following 30 pages, we explore the events that are celebrating our new freedoms with exciting, innovative concerts against beautiful backdrops from country houses, churches and castles to purpose-built opera houses and concert halls. Do let us know about your experiences of this very special summer of music.

May

Brighton Festival

Brighton, 1-31 May
Tel: +44 (0)1273 709709
Web: www.brightonfestival.org

After last year’s cancelled festival, Brighton re-invites poet and playwright Lemn Sissay to curate a month-long celebration mustering over 90 events, live and digital. Brighton Dome resounds to Monteverdi’s Vespers with an added sensuously secular twist in La Nuova Musica’s adaptation. Light sculptures and Brighton Festival Chorus cohabit in Stanmer Woods at twilight; baritone Roderick Williams leads an innovative approach to Schubert’s Schwanengesang; and pianist Paul Lewis prefaces a stroll around Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition with Mozart and Scriabin.

Bath Festival

Bath, 17-24 May
Tel: +44 (0)1225 463362
Web: www.bathfestivals.org.uk

Shared between the Heath and Carducci string quartets, it will be third time lucky for Bath’s twice-postponed Beethoven quartet cycle. Also hoping for lift-off this May is a new incarnation of the long-discontinued Bath Festival Orchestra – originally the brainchild of Yehudi Menuhin back in 1959. It makes its debut in the newly restored Abbey, accompanying soprano Rowan Pierce in a selection of songs by Richard Strauss framed by Weber and Brahms. And in the nearby Roman Baths, the Gesualdo Six vocal ensemble offers a watery sequence flowing through nine centuries.

Norfolk and Norwich Festival

Norwich and surrounding area, 17-30 May
Tel: +44 (0)1603 531800
Web: www.nnfestival.org.uk

This year, Britten Sinfonia’s ‘Surround Sound’ invades Norwich Cathedral where, inspired by TS Eliot, the I Fagiolini choir is ‘Rewilding the Waste Land’. Harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani teams up with Manchester Collective for Bach, Górecki and the premiere of Laurence Osborn’s Coin Op Automata. Plus, the Elias String Quartet reaches Schumann by way of Haydn and Purcell.

Glyndebourne

Lewes, 20 May – 29 August
Tel: +44 (0)1273 815000
Web: www.glyndebourne.com

Fear not! There might be a trend elsewhere for interval-less nights at the theatre or concert hall, but summer opera is having none of it. On the manicured lawns of Glyndebourne champagne corks will be popped and hampers disgorged. Feasting abounds indoors, too, as the season launches with a new production by Damiano Michieletto of Janáček’s Kát’a KabanováKateřina Knežiková taking the title role. It is conducted by Robin Ticciati, who also presides over five semi-staged performances of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (Simon O’Neill and Miina-Liisa Värelä taking the roles of the ill-fated lovers). And Ticciati also bags the lion’s share of a toothsome orchestral series that straddles Purcell to Birtwistle via Berlioz and Mahler. Also on offer is a relatively rare outing for Verdi’s Luisa Miller (a Glyndebourne first), flanked by two comic masterpieces: Mozart’s Così fan tutte and Rossini’s Il turco in Italia.

Perth Arts Festival

Perth, 20-29 May
Web: www.perthfestival.co.uk

Aside from a Drive-in Cinema weekend at Scone Castle, Perth is heading online once more. Complementing a cross-genre ‘Scotland Trending’ series showcasing emerging talent, an eight-concert ‘as live’ classical strand opens with the Scottish Ensemble at the restored Inchyra Barn. Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason braves Barber’s Sonata alongside Chopin, Mozart and Gershwin; meanwhile, vocal music comes in solo (soprano Ilona Domnich), consort (The Gesualdo Six) and choral (The Sixteen) instalments.

London Festival of Baroque Music

St John’s Smith Square etc, 21-23 May
Tel: +44 (0)20 7222 1061
Web: www.lfbm.org.uk

‘Grounds for Optimism’ is the title this year. Wrapped around short online programmes by harpsichordist Stephen Devine and violinist Bojan Čičić, three concerts (also streamed) explore late 17th-century English music. Viol music performed by Newe Vialles paves the way to Tenebrae singing verse anthems by Boyce, Purcell and his contemporaries.

English Music Festival

Horsham, 28-31 May
Tel: +44 (0)7808 639424
Web: www.englishmusicfestival.org.uk

Horsham beckons as the festival renews its pact with the byways (and some highways) of English music. Vaughan Williams’s Concerto Accademico provides the centrepiece for Orchestra of the Swan’s opening concert, and by way of finale Ensemble Hesperi offers a Baroque perspective that ventures north of the border. In between, the New Foxtrot Serenaders propose a little light relief and, a Purcell digression aside, the Armonico Consort devotes itself exclusively to Handel.

June

Opera Holland Park

London, 1 June – 7 August
Tel: +44 (0)300 999 1000
Web: www.operahollandpark.com

With its canopied theatre reconfigured for social distancing, Opera Holland Park plunges enthusiastically into a full summer season bookended by two contrasted comedies: Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, conducted by George Jackson and Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. This year’s verismo rarity is Mascagni’s marital comedy L’amico Fritz which counterpoints Verdi’s tragic La traviata. Injecting a little feral Bohemian rhapsody is Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen, directed by Stephen Barlow and conducted by Jessica Cottis.

Longborough Festival Opera

Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire, 1 June – 3 August
Tel: +44 (0)1451 830292
Web: www.lfo.org.uk

The Cotswolds’ rustic answer to Bayreuth bears down on its 2024 Ring cycle with another link in the chain: Die Walküre, given in a concert production conducted by Longborough’s resident Wagnerian, Anthony Negus. A specially erected Big Top is home to three new stagings which include Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen and, accompanied by crack period instrument ensemble La Serenissima, Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses.

Garsington Opera

Wormsley Estate, Bucks., 2 June – 25 July
Tel: +44 (0)1865 361636
Web: www.garsingtonopera.org

Is it really ten years since Garsington Opera upped sticks and relocated to bucolic Buckinghamshire? As ever, the elegant Opera Pavilion corrals a well-contrasted operatic foursome. Handel’s Amadigi (inaugurating a five-year residency by The English Concert) and Rossini’s Le comte Ory together offset the full-blooded Romanticism of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Richard Strauss’s delectable Der Rosenkavalier – the latter returning Miah Persson to Wormsley as the Marschallin haunted by the passage of time.

Grange Park Opera

West Horsley Place, Surrey, 10 June – 18 July
Tel: +44 (0)1962 737373
Web: www.grangeparkopera.co.uk

Grange Park Opera didn’t let the grass grow under its feet during lockdown. It released a steady stream of on-line amuse bouches including Britten’s Owen Wingrave and Ravel’s L’heure espagnole – filmed in a Kensington clock shop! It kept things more than ticking over in readiness for a return to the company’s purpose-built theatre in the wood complete with colonnaded ‘passeggiato’ and picnics in the Crinkle-Crankle garden. Verdi’s Falstaff sets the ball rolling and stars Bryn Terfel as the irrepressible Sir John. Stephen Barlow and Stephen Medcalf are the creative team behind the world premiere of Anthony Bolton’s The Life and Death of Alexander Litvinenko; and, compounding the Russian skulduggery, David Pountney directs Rimsky-Korsakov’s Ivan the Terrible (aka The Maid of Pskov).

Festival of Chichester

Chichester, 12 June – 11 July
Tel: +44 (0)1243 816525
Web: www.festivalofchichester.co.uk

Heir to the Chichester Festivities, this festival has become a much-loved, month-long Sussex summer staple. All genres, from rock to world music, feature in its musically capacious big tent, and classical highlights include celebratory Bach from the Bach Players, South Korean pianist Young-Choon Park in Chichester Cathedral, and Beethoven and Brahms from the Castalian Quartet with pianist Daniel Lebhardt.

Summer Music in City Churches

London, 17-26 June
Web: www.summermusiccitychurches.com

A newbie to the London festival scene (it was founded in 2018), the Summer Music series confines itself to just two venues this summer: St Giles Cripplegate – where Milton was buried and Oliver Cromwell married – and majestic St Bartholomew-the-Great. The London Mozart Players open with British music for strings; pianist Lucy Parham’s I, Clara enlists actress Juliet Stevenson for a portrait of Schumann’s celebrated composer-pianist wife; and pianist Mark Bebbington joins wind players from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for playful Poulenc.

St Magnus Festival

Orkney, 18-23 June
Tel: +44 (0)1856 871445
Web: www.stmagnusfestival.com

2021 would have witnessed the 100th birthday of Orkney’s most celebrated literary son, and St Magnus pays fulsome tribute to the late George Mackay Brown in words and music. Much of it is free or pay-to-view on the festival’s website, which reinvents itself as a virtual arts centre. Concerts filmed in St Magnus Cathedral include music by the poet’s great friend (and adopted Orcadian) Peter Maxwell Davies, and the Hebrides Ensemble premieres a new work by Tara Creme. There’s also new music by Sally Beamish and, conditions permitting, a series of live outdoor events feature the first performances of works by Karen Tweed and Lynda Nicholson.

Stour Music

Near Ashford, Kent, 18-27 June
Tel: +44 (0)333 666 3366
Web: www.stourmusic.org.uk

Founded by countertenor Alfred Deller and continued by his son Mark, Stour has been a family concern – until now! Conductor Robert Hollingworth assumed the helm last year and his vocal consort I Fagiolini inaugurates the first ‘live’ edition with a nod to the natural world. The Florilegium period ensemble celebrates its 30th birthday in the company of Haydn, and the London Handel Players take a walk on the wild side inspired by the notion of the savage. Each concert is performed twice: once to ‘early Byrds’ at 6pm with a repeat at 8pm for ‘night (H)owells’. Really seasoned night owls, meanwhile, can enjoy four late-nighters ranging from a Cuban-baroque fusion to violinist Rachel Podger’s Bach.

The Grange Festival

Alresford, Hampshire, 24 June – 24 July
Tel: +44 (0)1962 791020
Web: www.thegrangefestival.co.uk

Opera isn’t the only thing on the mind of a festival that intended to mark the 60th anniversary of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream last year (step forward 2021’s 61st-anniversary outing!). While Rossini’s Cinderella goes to the ball in a production by Stephen Barlow, and Francesco Cilluffo conducts Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, there’s also an eye-catching staging of King Lear with a twist: Sir John Tomlinson leads a cast of fellow singers enacting Shakespeare’s play as written.

Thaxted Festival

Thaxted, Essex, 24 June – 4 July
Tel: +44 (0)1371 831421
Web: www.thaxtedfestival.co.uk

Taking up residence in the town’s medieval parish church, the festival opens with Bach, as the Heath Quartet limbers up for Beethoven’s last string quartet with excerpts from JS’s Art of Fugue. And there’s more music for strings as it draws to a close in the company of the Covent Garden Soloists (who reel in pianist Christopher Weston for Schubert’s Trout Quintet). Kodály crowns a recital by cellist Laura van der Heijden; a new piece by Ben Palmer prefaces Walton’s Façade; and, heading up the London Mozart Players, pianist Howard Shelley directs chamber arrangements of Haydn’s Symphony No. 102 and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3.

Proms at St Jude’s

Hampstead, 26 June – 4 July
Tel: +44 (0)20 3322 8123
Web: www.promsatstjudes.org.uk

Baritone Roderick Williams is making for ‘The Great Outdoors’ in a programme of English song that takes place midway through Hampstead Garden Suburbs’ answer to South Kensington. A famous Lutyens church, St Jude’s boasts a particularly varied line-up this year, what with a family-friendly Roald Dahl Musical Extravaganza from the Magnard Ensemble and a Voces8 liaison with Finchley Children’s Music Group. Pianist Leon McCawley follows Haydn and Grieg with Schumann’s Davidsbündlertänze, while the ‘Last Night’ jollities fall to Fantasia Orchestra with violinist Thomas Gould.

July

East Neuk Festival

Fife, 1-4 July
Tel: +44 (0)33 022 11 093
Web: www.eastneukfestival.com

No one could accuse East Neuk of failing to respond creatively to the challenges of putting on a festival right now. In-person, online and recorded, it also takes to the road, with a ‘Band in a Van’ dispensing pop-up performances. But as ever, the ace up East Neuk’s sleeve is its top-drawer repository of artists: from Adès to Zacharias, literally an A-Z to savour. Guitarist Sean Shibe explores a new partnership with violinist Benjamin Baker; The Tallis Scholars remember Josquin’s quincentenary; and a slimmed down Scottish Chamber Orchestra gives the UK premiere of Francisco Coll’s Flamenco-imbued Turia. Fife fizzes!

Peasmarsh Chamber Music Festival

Peasmarsh, Sussex, 1 – 4 July
Tel: +44 (0)1797 253178
Web: www.peasmarshfestival.co.uk

Co-directed by violinist Anthony Marwood and cellist Richard Lester, Peasmarsh’s credentials are impeccable before a single guest is invited! Guests this year include the Navarra and Barbican string quartets, pianist Katya Apekisheva and horn-player Alec Frank-Gemmill, all at the service of a programme that ranges from solo Bach to Ligeti, and Richard Strauss to Mahler.

Manchester International Festival

Manchester, 1-18 July
Tel: +44 (0)333 322 8679
Web: www.mif.co.uk

Manchester’s biennial pact with the exclusively new manages to find a distinctive approach to its music programming. It launched in 2007 with Damon Albarn’s genre-bending Monkey: Journey to the West, and pianist Mikhail Rudy found himself playing in the attic of the Museum of Science and Industry. For 2021, the festival teams up with Manchester Camerata to commission an eco-concerto for strings and percussion by Dobrinka Tabakova. Violinist Hugo Ticciati is the soloist.

Deal Festival

Deal, 1-17 July
Tel: +44 (0)1304 370220
Web: www.dealmusicandarts.com

Seaside Deal has been enjoying an adroitly planned festival for nearly 40 years now, and 2021 understandably brings a greater emphasis on chamber music and al fresco events such as Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the grounds of Walmer Castle. Oboist Nicholas Daniel and the Academy of Ancient Music both forge collaborations with musical youth; violinist Michael Foyle and pianist Maksim Štšura survey the complete Beethoven violin sonatas; and soprano Anna Cavaliero and the Echea Quartet venture a scaled-down version of Britten’s Les Illuminations.

Cheltenham Festival

Cheltenham, 2-9 July
Tel: +44 (0)1242 850270
Web: www.cheltenhamfestivals.com

Propellor Ensemble’s evocation of Gloucestershire and a countryside tour ‘In the Footsteps of Hubert Parry’ speak to a festival rooted in its landscape, rural and Regency. But Cheltenham has always looked outwards, and this year’s line-up includes the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and BBC National Orchestra of Wales, mezzo Sarah Connolly with pianist Imogen Cooper, and pianist Steven Osborne. The Carice Singers address the plight of asylum seekers, while pianist Sarah Nicholls and cellist Maja Bugge grapple with climate change.

Buxton International Festival

Buxton, 8-25 July
Tel: +44 (0)1298 72190
Web: www.buxtonfestival.co.uk

With its operatic favours shared between Frank Matcham’s Edwardian Opera House and the Pavilion Arts Centre, Buxton is carving a conspicuously distinctive niche this summer. Malcolm Arnold’s The Dancing Master salutes a centenary that isn’t coming in for much attention at festivals elsewhere (Northampton’s October Arnold Festival apart); Pauline Viardot’s Cendrillon supplants the more familiar version by Massenet; and Errollyn Wallen’s Dido’s Ghost is woven around Purcell and conducted by John Butt. Adding extra lustre to an alluring music series are mezzo Sarah Connolly, bass John Tomlinson and The English Concert.

Lichfield Festival

Lichfield, 8-18 July
Tel: +44 (0)1543 306271
Web: www.lichfieldfestival.org

Lichfield’s triple-spired cathedral is at the heart of summer’s music-making. Pianist Danny Driver and violinist Chloë Hanslip are artists-in-residence and include a Beethoven sonata in each of three duo programmes. Driver also gives two solo recitals, spanning Musorgsky to Ligeti. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Ryan Bancroft frames Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks with Bach and Rameau; I Fagiolini is ‘Re-Wilding the Waste Land’; and Baroque violinist Rachel Podger combines JS Bach with Biber and Tartini.

JAM on the Marsh Festival

New Romney, Kent, 8-18 July
Tel: +44 (0)800 988 7984
Web: www.jamconcert.org

Over the past two decades, JAM has commissioned some 130 new works, and come July throws a big party across the medieval churches and open spaces of the Romney Marshes. Pianist Anna Tilbrook curates this year’s JAM-boree which marks the centenary of Saint-Saëns’s death (with Carnival of the Animals) and the 80th anniversary of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, and brings together tenor James Gilchrist, horn-player Ben Goldscheider and the London Mozart Players for Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings alongside a new piece by Cecilia McDowall.

York Early Music Festival

York, 12-16 July
Tel: +44 (0)1904 658338
Web: www.ncem.co.uk

Although it’s being distilled into just four days and two venues – historic St Margaret’s Church and St Lawrence’s – York isn’t relinquishing its penchant for an over-arching theme. After months of lockdown, ‘Encounters’ is the encouraging motto that brings together many old festival friends including The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments, violinist Rachel Podger, Ensemble Clement Janequin and the Monteverdi String Band. Full details will be made available in June.

Music at Paxton

Paxton House, Scottish Borders, 16-25 July
Tel: +44 (0)131 226 0009
Web: www.musicatpaxton.co.uk

Palladian Paxton’s summer series might be a Borders institution, but it doesn’t stand still. Four concerts will also be filmed and broadcast ‘as live’. And among Tweed-side visitors are pianists Steven Osborne and Imogen Cooper, the Maxwell Quartet and soprano Elizabeth Watts. There are some site-specific offerings too. The Brook Street Band shadows the Grand Tour undertaken by Patrick Home, who commissioned the house; Concerto Caledonia is inspired by the nearby Union Chain Bridge; and lutenist Alex McCartney ponders the Flodden Flag, a Paxton heirloom.

Ryedale Festival

North Yorkshire, 16 July – 1 August
Tel: +44 (0)1751 475777
Web: www.ryedalefestival.com

Vanbrugh’s stately Castle Howard was the focus of Ryedale’s online Spring mini-festival, but the July edition – a 40th-anniversary celebration – aims to be live, and director Christopher Glynn cautions not to expect a ‘big reveal of the programme’ but a ‘build-as-we-go 40-piece jigsaw that comes into view’. Forty headline events include violinist Nicola Benedetti as artist-in-residence alongside the likes of saxophonist Jess Gillam, pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason and, braving the bracing Yorkshire briny, the BBC Big Band at Scarborough Spa.

Cambridge Summer Music

Cambridge, 17-31 July
Web: www.cambridgesummermusic.co.uk

It started life as a series of organ recitals, but this festival has long slipped the leash to pursue broader pastures. Violinist Freya Goldmark, its artistic director, joins pianist Bengt Forsberg and Quatuor Confluence for Chausson’s voluptuous Concert. Other highlights include Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, the Gavin Bryars Ensemble, an anniversary evening of Josquin, and a new orchestral work by Charlotte Harding.

Dorset Opera Festival

Bryanston, 19-24 July
Tel: +44 (0)7570 366186
Web: www.dorsetopera.com

The Summer School might not be going ahead this year, but Dorset Opera is far from shutting up shop. Two of Mozart’s Da Ponte operas Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte – are presented alongside Handel’s pastoral ‘serenata’ Acis and Galatea performed in Mozart’s 1788 adaptation. Jeremy Carnall conducts, with Così shouldered by José Miguel Esandi.

Bampton Classical Opera

Bampton, Oxfordshire, 23 July – 30 August
Tel: +44 (0)1993 851142
Web: www.bamptonopera.org

Over the years, Bampton Classical Opera has performed The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni, but neither were by Mozart (Marcos Portugal and Giuseppe Gazzaniga, respectively, since you ask). Then again, championing the unfamiliar has always been at the heart of its mission. Gluck looms large this year with Paris and Helen cavorting al fresco in the Deanery Garden Bampton, and subsequently at Westonbirt’s Orangery Terrace. There’s a September repeat at St John’s Smith Square in London where, on 18 May, a Gluckian taster whets the appetite when Robert Howarth conducts a concert performance of La Corona.

Dartington Summer Music School and Festival

Dartington, Devon, 24 July – 21 August
Tel: +44 (0)1803 847070
Web: www.dartington.org

With over 70 concerts in prospect, those signed up to any of the Summer School’s myriad courses are taking the notion of the ‘busman’s holiday’ to the next level. From drumming in the shrubbery to Monteverdi in the medieval hall, Dartington’s breadth and depth inspires students and festival-goers alike. Choral music includes a new piece by Nico Muhly, and ensembles such as Stile Antico, Exaudi, Black Voices and The Dunedin Consort are among a strong cohort enlivened with jazz from the Nu Civilisation Orchestra and the long-awaited return of the Brodsky Quartet.

Three Choirs Festival

Worcester, 24 July-1 August
Tel: 01452 768 928
Web: www.3choirs.org/whats-on

This year’s Three Choirs Festival centres around themes of journeying, exploration and bold adventures, with premieres of works by Gabriel Jackson, Jonathan Dove and Roderick Williams, among others. As usual, the artists will be joined by the Philharmonia Orchestra, the festival’s orchestra in residence. The festival will include a blend of choral and orchestral concerts, recitals, talks, family events, cathedral services, theatre and exhibitions. Head to Worcester Cathedral on the evening of Tuesday 28 July for the revival of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Solemn Prelude, the second ever performance of this piece following its premiere at the Worcester Three Choirs Festival back in 1899.

BBC Proms

London, 30 July – 11 September
Web: www.bbc.co.uk/proms

There was no audience flag-waving on the Last Night in 2020, but the BBC Proms persevered. There are departures from tradition again this year, but with the hall it calls ‘home’ marking its 150th birthday, there are celebrations to be shared.

Lake District Summer Music

Cumbria, 30 July – 8 August
Tel: +44 (0)1539 266200
Web: www.ldsm.org.uk

It might be all change at the top, as founding director Renna Kellaway passes the reins to Stephen Threlfall, but, 35 years in the making, Lake District Summer Music’s individuality remains immutable. Artist James Mayhew gilds The Manchester Collective’s performance of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht with digital artwork, while dance illuminates music by Huw Watkins in a double bill with Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. Brahms and Walton receive special attention, and this year’s ‘northern lights’ include pianist Steven Osborne, cellist Robert Cohen and the Gould Piano Trio.

August

Nevill Holt Opera

Market Harborough, Leicestershire, 4-25 August
Tel: +44 (0)1858 437451
Web: www.nevillholtopera.co.uk

After its award-winning theatre opened in 2018, Nevill Holt probably thought that the ‘hard hat’ days were behind it. Not quite! To prepare for this summer, the hats have reappeared as construction began on outdoor stages for socially distanced orchestra and singers – making the most of the bucolic Welland Valley vistas. Chamber music and recitals are envisioned for the theatre itself, but out of doors there are rescheduled liaisons with last year’s casualties. Artistic director Nicholas Chalmers conducts Verdi’s La traviata in a production by Jamie Manton, and Irish baritone Seán Boylan takes the lascivious lead in Mozart’s Don Giovanni (a collaboration with Shadwell Opera).

Edinburgh International Festival

Edinburgh, 7-29 August
Tel: +44 (0)131 473 2000
Web: www.eif.co.uk

There’s no lack of transparency at this year’s Edinburgh Festival: three specially constructed open-air pavilions with socially-distanced seating will house its trademark opera, theatre, orchestral and chamber music. However, details of the programme remain a closely guarded secret until 2 June. Watch this space…

Clandeboye Festival

Bangor, County Down, 13-21 August
Tel: +44 (0)28 9042 7600
Web: www.camerata-ireland.com

The piano music of John Field, a Celtic musical lunchtime, a new work by Derry/Londonderry-born Seán Doherty: pianist Barry Douglas’s County Down festival might attract artists from across Europe, but it doesn’t forget its roots. There’s a 20th anniversary to be celebrated – hence the commission, premiered in a Gala with Camerata Ireland – and young musicians from past editions return to take part in a rich seam of chamber music that includes Schubert from soprano Ailish Tynan.

Iford Arts

Belcombe Court, Bradford-on-Avon, 21 August – 18 September
Tel: +44 (0)1225 463362
Web: www.ifordarts.org.uk

Bookended by a Prom saluting Latin America and Christian Curnyn’s Early Opera Company in a semi-staging of Handel’s Acis and Galatea, the main operatic business falls to a venerable double bill: Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. Directed by Christopher Luscombe, the cast includes Susan Bullock, Peter Auty and Robert Hayward. Iford artistic director Oliver Gooch conducts – having earlier dispatched two performances of Prokofiev’s family-friendly Peter and the Wolf.

Leeds Opera Festival

Leeds, 23-30 August
Web: www.northernoperagroup.co.uk

This year’s Leeds Opera Festival celebrates the operas of Holst, with performances of At the Boar’s Head and Savitri at Morley Town Hall. Holst’s chamber opera The Wandering Scholar will be toured around eight venues in Leeds and West Yorkshire. Alongside these works by Holst will be a world premiere created by Sarah Sayeed and Jaspreet Kaur in response to Holst’s Savitri. A free series of talks, workshops and events will be included in the line-up, as well as a new exhibition celebrating 300 years of Leeds’s operatic history.

Presteigne Festival

Presteigne, Powys, 26-31 August
Tel: +44 (0)1544 267800
Web: www.presteignefestival.com

Situated in the border country of the Welsh Marches, Presteigne’s late-summer festival has been criss-crossing musical borders for over 35 years. Cecilia McDowall is composer-in-residence and, alongside twin nods to Tippett and Ravel, the Malcolm Arnold centenary isn’t overlooked. Nova Music Opera sets the ball rolling with Luke Styles’s chamber opera Awakening Shadow, a re-imagining of his 2013 Glyndebourne commission. Other guests include the Heath Quartet and Ensemble Perpetuum.

English National Opera

Crystal Palace Bowl, 27-29 August
Web: www.southfacingfestival.com

ENO might not immediately be associated with al fresco summer opera but in the past it’s forsaken its Coliseum home for Britten’s The Turn of the Screw and Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel in the bosky setting of Regent’s Park; and last year rose to the Covid-19 challenge with a ‘Drive and Live’ La bohème at Alexandra Palace. This year there’s a change of palace as it brings Puccini’s Tosca to Crystal Palace as part of the South Facing Festival. Richard Farnes conducts a cast mustering Natalya Romaniw as Tosca, David Junghoon Kim as Cavaradossi and Roland Wood in the role of his nemesis, Scarpia.

September

Chipping Campden Festival

Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, 6-18 September
Tel: +44 (0)1386 849018
Web: www.campdenmusicfestival.co.uk

For understandable reasons, the jewel in the Cotswolds’ May diary has upped sticks to later in the year. And not every artist scheduled for May is able to make the new dates – not that anyone will quibble with a programme that includes pianists Paul Lewis and Elisabeth Leonskaja. A new work by Cecilia McDowall, who celebrates her 70th birthday this year, sits between Haydn and Mozart in the London Mozart Players’ concert, which also marks the centenary of the birth of horn legend Dennis Brain. Tenor Mark Padmore
will also be appearing to sing Schumann. To end, conductor Jeffrey Skidmore and Ex Cathedra perform Bach’s magnificent St John Passion.

Lammermuir Festival

East Lothian, 7-20 September
Tel: +44 (0)131 226 0004
Web: www.lammermuirfestival.co.uk

Resilient Lammermuir probably surprised itself last year in contriving to deliver a dozen live and as-live performances – several with festival regulars, some of whom now return to the East Lothian churches and stately homes that lend the festival its distinctive backdrop. Pianist Jeremy Denk is artist-in-residence; and with Tenebrae, The Gesualdo Six and Dunedin Consort, this year’s festival certainly has something to sing about!

Vale of Glamorgan Festival

South Wales, 11-17 September
Web: www.valeofglamorganfestival.org.uk

Five composer portraits are at the heart of a hybrid live and online festival, forsaking May for the hopefully calmer waters of September. Artistic director and composer John Metcalf shares his 75th birthday with Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks; fellow Welshman Guto Puw is a mere whippersnapper at 50; and completing the composerly quintet are Judith Weir and the BBC Young Composer 2017, Sarah Jenkins. The Solem Quartet and Magnard Ensemble take up residence.

London Festival of American Music

London, 12-18 September
Web: www.lontano.co.uk

With more world and UK premieres than you could shake a stick at, the eighth celebration of musical America returns composer-conductor Odaline de la Martinez and her ensemble Lontano to The Warehouse in Waterloo. A panel discussion on ‘The Black Renaissance in the US and Abroad’ sets the scene for a lively series that includes works by Florence Price and William Grant Still and culminates in Laura Kaminsky’s transgender chamber opera As One.

Investec International Music Festival

Surrey, 16-25 September
Web: www.iimf.co.uk

‘September is the new May’ declares the Surrey-based festival as it relocates its programme to later in the year. There are new locations too. The Tudor Stone Hall at West Horsley Place is at the disposal of lutenist Paula Chateauneuf, and in the new Hilltop Auditorium at RHS Wisley, saxophonist Jess Gillam and friends acknowledge Piazzolla’s centenary with the Argentinian composer’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. In Holy Trinity Guilford, meanwhile, The Tallis Scholars reprise favourite works by Allegri, Arvo Pärt and Nico Muhly.

The Cumnock Tryst

Cumnock, East Ayrshire, 30 September – 3 October
Tel: +44 (0)7958 748293
Web: www.thecumnocktryst.com

After a year of ‘diving into digital’ as well as establishing a centre for composition – it helps that the festival’s artistic director is composer James MacMillan – Cumnock hits the ‘live’ re-set button under the banner ‘Optimism and Renewal’. Those bringing both in plentiful supply to East Ayrshire include pianists Paul Lewis and Steven Osborne, the Hebrides Ensemble and Tenebrae with saxophonist Christian Forshaw.

October

London Piano Festival

London, 8-10 October
Tel: +44 (0)20 7520 1490
Web: www.londonpianofestival.com

Co-artistic directors Katya Apekisheva and Charles Owen muster no fewer than five pianists for the festival’s now-obligatory Two Piano Gala, which includes a new piece by Sally Beamish for six hands inspired by a Shakespearean love triangle. Gabriela Montero is first up, improvising a score to Chaplin’s film The Immigrant, following works by three displaced migrants: Prokofiev, Rachmaninov and Stravinsky. ‘Sounding Symmetry’ brings the festival to a close with Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

English Song Weekend

Ludlow, Shropshire, 29-30 October
Web: www.ludlowenglishsongweekend.com

Originally scheduled for April, Ludlow’s English Song Weekend lives to fight another day (albeit in slightly reduced form). Baritone Roderick Williams and mezzo Kathryn Rudge are among the singers gracing pianist Iain Burnside’s songful celebration that includes works by Finzi and Elgar’s Sea Pictures. Premieres include composer-in-residence Rhian Samuel, and Philip Lancaster’s cycle Fallen for tenor and violin.

November

Wimbledon Music Festival

When: 13-28 November
Tel: +44 (0)333 666 3366
Web: www.wimbledonmusicfestival.co.uk

Advertisement

Beethoven year might have come and gone, but Wimbledon isn’t letting go without making a stand. Pianist Nikolai Demidenko plays the Emperor Concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra, an all-star quartet joins the Academy Choir for the Missa solemnis, and there’s a new drama with music from the London Mozart Players. The Florilegium ensemble dispatches the complete Bach Brandenburg Concertos in a double-decker concert with dinner, and there’s more Bach from violinist Viktoria Mullova and cellist Matthew Barley. Willard White (see feature, p26) heads for the Deep South, while the Julian Bliss Septet salutes another barrier-blind clarinettist: Benny Goodman.