Classical Summer Music Comes to Life in the Bay Area

Opera music
Pianist Inon Barnatan will perform with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Photo: Marco Borggreve

Have things returned to anything like normality for the Bay Area classical music scene this summer? It’s hard to say.

At first glance, the upcoming activity looks a lot like it did before COVID-19 hit in 2020. The same familiar festivals are running full blast, while the sounds of opera, symphonies and la chamber music resonates both indoors and outdoors.

Yet it seems wrong to say, or even to imply, that the world is as it once was. All we can do is go ahead with comfortable seasonal routines, in the hope that they can offer some kind of comfort.

Tim Seelig is stepping down after a decade as artistic director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. Photo: Jessica Christian/The Chronicle

San Francisco Symphony Orchestra

Much like last year, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra’s summer schedule promises to split its time between indoor and outdoor offerings.

The orchestra’s ongoing concert series at the bucolic Frost Amphitheater in Stanford, combined with the traditional venues of Davies Symphony Hall and Sigmund Stern Grove in San Francisco as well as the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View will bring a wealth of pop and classical music . Highlights include the premiere of Bay Area composer Mason Bates’ spirited introduction to the orchestra, “Philharmonia Fantastique”; an appearance by Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan; concerts with actress and singer Bernadette Peters and multi-genre group Pink Martini; a tribute to Selena, the late “Queen of Tejano Music,” featuring the singer Isabelle Marie Sanchez; and the final local performance of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus with artistic director Timothy Seelig.

June 29-August. 7. $25 to $150. Various places.

Soprano Shana Blake Hill performs in Festival Opera‘s ‘Norma’. Photo: Shana Blake Hill

Opera festival

The Walnut Creek company dives back into full-scale presentation with a production of Bellini’s “Norma.”

Soprano Shana Blake Hill plays the title role of the amorous druid priestess, alongside mezzo-soprano Ashley Dixon, tenor Dane Suarez and bass Kevin Thompson. Bryan Nies directs, with direction by director Mark Foehringer.

July 8 and 10. $45 to $90. Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek.

Merola Opera Program

For the first time since before the pandemic, the program for young artists plans to present a fully staged operatic production, Mozart’s “Magic Flute” on August 4 and 6. Also on the program are a recital program devoted to American song (July 9), the Schwabacher Concert of Opera Extracts (July 14 and 16) and the traditional Grand Finale program on August 20.

July 9-August. 20. $25-$80. Various locations in San Francisco.

Violinist Joshua Bell will perform at the Napa Valley Festival. Photo: Chronicle Archive Photo

Napa Valley Festival

The annual summer music, wine and food festival returns to Wine Country, with events at the Culinary Institute of America in Copia in Napa and Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena.

Scheduled highlights include a production of Donizetti’s opera “The Elixir of Love” and appearances by cellist Sophia Bacelar and violinists Joshua Bell and Tessa Lark.

July 15-24. The festival runs between $1,250 and $10,000. Various locations in Napa Valley.

Parallel Opera

The San Francisco-based innovative company plans to present “Beauty and the Beast” (“Beauty and the Beast”), Philip Glass’ magical hybrid of opera and cinema based on Jean Cocteau’s classic 1946 film.

The production, which features soprano Vanessa Becerra and baritone Hadleigh Adams in the title roles, completes Glass’ trilogy of Cocteau operas.

Artistic director Nicole Payment directs, with staging by director Brian Staufenbiehl.

July 14-17. $55 to $125. SFJazz Center, 201 Franklin Street, SF

Cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han lead the chamber music festival [email protected] Photo: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

[email protected]

Each year, the Peninsula Chamber Music Festival, hosted by pianist Wu Han and cellist David Finckel explore the same musical theme that runs through the entire summer program. This year the festival celebrates its 20th anniversary with a focus on Haydn, featuring his music alongside works by Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and more.

July 16-August. 6.$20-$84. Locations in Atherton.

Moon Valley Music Festival

For its eighth season, the Sonoma Chamber Festival, devoted to music from the Romantic era played on period instruments, offers a program of works on the themes of nature and the elements.

This year’s concert program ranges from music by Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert to Charles Ives, Florence Price and Harry Burleigh.

July 16-31. $15 to $48. Hanna Boys Center, 17000 Arnold Drive, Sonoma.

Kendra Broom in the title role of “Coraline” by Mark-Anthony Turnage at the West Edge Opera. Photo: Cory Weaver

West Edge Opera House

It’s another summer for the wandering East Bay company, which means a new home for its inventive and dependable productions.

This season brings West Edge to the Scottish Rite Center in Oakland for a season that includes Handel’s ‘Julius Caesar’, Paul Dukas’ ‘Ariane et Barbe Bleue’ and ‘Coraline’, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s 2018 treatment of the children’s classic by Neil Gaiman.

July 23-August. 7. $10 to $140. Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeside Drive, Oakland.

American Bach Soloists

The group’s week-long celebration of Baroque music, led by artistic director Jeffrey Thomas, includes music by Bach, Rameau, Vivaldi and others, as well as later composers such as Mozart and Mendelssohn.

The festival culminates with a performance of Handel’s oratorio “Belshazzar,” with tenor Matthew Hill in the title role.

July 23-31. $25 to $125. Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness Ave, SF

Cristian Macelaru is musical director of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, which is back to live performances. Photo: Sorin Popa

Cabrillo Contemporary Music Festival

The annual Santa Cruz summer festival has been online longer than many. But now it’s back to live performances under the direction of musical director Cristian Macelaru, with a lineup that includes new and recent works by Paola Prestini, Scott Ordway, Stacy Garrop and more.

July 24-August. 7. $20 to $75. Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church Street, Santa Cruz.