The Lakes Area Music Festival will kick off its 11th season Friday, Aug. 2, a season in which more than 80 classical music performances, education programs and outreach activities will take place through Aug. 25 in the Brainerd lakes area.

A professional roster of 185 musicians from top ensembles and opera companies around the world will be featured in the season. Most concerts take place at Tornstrom Auditorium in Brainerd and are free to attend, with donations welcomed.

Coming Friday

The “Rhapsody in Blue Musicians’ Gala” will be 8 p.m. Friday at the Northern Pacific Center in Brainerd. The gala is a fundraising event designed to support the season’s 185 world-class artists, who will perform in this year’s festival.

A limited number of tickets are available for $75 per person at www.LakesAreaMusic.org/gershwin-gala.

Guests will travel back to an era of flappers, Jazz Age glitz and glamour and Gatsby-esque opulence as they step into the Roaring '20s, organizers stated in a news release. The celebration will begin with cocktails and feature a symphony orchestra performing George Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” and “Rhapsody in Blue” with pianist Tanya Gabrielian.

Vocalists Anna Dennis and John Taylor Ward will also perform well-known Gershwin standards. One of the festival’s most beloved performers, Ward also serves as co-founder and associate artistic director. Praised by The New York Times for his “impressive clarity and color” and “velvety suaveness,” Ward’s musical life fuses performance, scholarship and entrepreneurship in “intense and sincere” presentations, as stated by the New Haven Register in the release. He currently makes his home in Amsterdam.

Dennis studied at the Royal Academy of Music. Her concert performances have been worldwide. Future plans include performing at Opera de Lille, Göttingen Händel Festspiel, the new Zaradye concert hall in Moscow, and with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. She will play the title role in Offenbach’s “La Belle Helene” this season.

Coming Saturday-Sunday

The festival will open this weekend with two educational concerts scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Tornstrom Auditorium in Brainerd. Both concerts will feature Edwin Outwater, formerly of the San Francisco Symphony, who will lead the festival orchestra and guide the audience through the music.

Saturday night’s concert is geared toward adults and is titled “Brahms’ First.” Maestro Outwater will discuss Johannes Brahms’ 20-plus year journey to writing his first symphony and lead the orchestra in examples from pieces that influenced Brahms in his own work.

Sunday ‘s concert is geared for children of all ages to experience. Students of Explore Music! -- the music festival's kids day camp -- will offer an informal presentation of their musical skills at 1:30 p.m., followed by a mixed orchestral program titled “I Got Rhythm!” featuring works by Gershwin, Brahms and Beethoven.

Following the concert, an instrument petting zoo will take place on the lawn outside of Tornstrom, where children can try out orchestral instruments for the first time.

Milwaukee Symphony’s principal flautist Sonora Slocum will play Claude Debussy’s innovative flute solo “Syrinx,” in a Lakes Area Music Festival scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7, at Tornstrom Auditorium in Brainerd. Submitted Photo
Milwaukee Symphony’s principal flautist Sonora Slocum will play Claude Debussy’s innovative flute solo “Syrinx,” in a Lakes Area Music Festival scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7, at Tornstrom Auditorium in Brainerd. Submitted Photo

Coming Wednesday

The Lakes Area Music Festival will present “France Nouvelle,” featuring three internationally renowned soloists at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Tornstrom Auditorium.

Milwaukee Symphony’s principal flautist Sonora Slocum will play Claude Debussy’s innovative flute solo “Syrinx,” followed by tenor Zachary Wilder and pianist Carson Rose Schneider’s performance of Jules Massenet’s melodrama “Poèmes d’Avril.”

Kitty Cheung, a Hong Kong-based violinist, also will perform the “Meditation” from Jules Massenet’s Thaïs. Both Slocum and Cheung are longtime festival favorites, and this will be Wilder’s festival debut.

Paris-based tenor Zachary Wilder will perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug.  7, at Tornstrom Auditorium in a Lakes Area Music Festival concert. Submitted Photo
Paris-based tenor Zachary Wilder will perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7, at Tornstrom Auditorium in a Lakes Area Music Festival concert. Submitted Photo

Season schedule of concerts

Rising star conductor Gemma New will perform Aug. 10-11. Alongside Igor Stravinsky’s “Danses” concertante, the program will include the world-premiere of “Vestida de mar,” a violin concerto by Venezuelan-American composer Reinaldo Moya, with Francesca Anderegg of the St. Olaf College faculty as soloist. These performances will also feature the ballet premier of “Life After Human Life,” choreographed and devised by Amsterdam-based dance company House of Makers.

“A Journey to Bach” will be featured Aug. 14, which will trace the evolution of baroque music from Italy to Germany leading up to a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 4. Led by baroque violinist Chloe Fedor, the program will include selections by Claudio Monteverdi, Heinrich Biber, Dieterich Buxtehude and more.

The festival’s opera production is destined to again be a highlight of the season. Two performances will take place Aug. 17-18, each preceded by an interview with maestro Jonathan Brandani and stage director JJ Hudson, led by Steve Staruch of Minnesota Public Radio. Jacques Offenbach’s “The Beautiful Helen of Troy” will spotlight the lighter side of French operetta in a hysterical and absurd romp through ancient Greece. Anna Dennis will take the title role, with Zachary Wilder as Paris, Adriana Zabala as Orestes, Jason McStoots as Menelaus, John Taylor Ward as Calchas, Gary Moss as Agamemnon and Jordan Weatherston Pitts as Achilles.

“Beethoven’s Pastorale” will be presented Aug. 21, with a chamber orchestra conducted by Courtney Lewis of the Jacksonville Symphony. Besides Beethoven’s sixth symphony, the ensemble will perform Franz Shrecker’s Chamber Symphony and Maurice Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin.

The 2019 festival will come to a close Aug. 24-25 with a program of “Strauss and Tchaikovsky” performed by a symphony orchestra led by Courtney Lewis. Richard Strauss’ tone poem “Don Juan” and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 round out the program, with violinist Itamar Zorman, a winner of the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition, featured in the second violin concerto by Karol Szymanowski.

In addition to these concerts, festival activities include a musical theater cabaret, open rehearsal series, pre-concert lectures, outdoor public performances and other events. Outreach activities will also bring guest musicians throughout the community to perform in parks, schools, elder care facilities and the county jail.

The festival draws more than 14,000 audience members over the three weeks, a news release stated. For more information, visit www.lakesareamusic.org.