Lakes Area Music Festival announces 12th season

The festival is committed to enhancing understanding and appreciation of classical music.

Artistic Directors
Lakes Area Music Festival Artistic Directors John Taylor Ward (left) and Scott Lykins smile for a photo. Submitted photo

Two hundred professional artists from around the globe will gather in the Brainerd lakes area this summer for the 12th annual Lakes Area Music Festival.

Featuring performances of chamber and orchestral music, opera and ballet, the 2020 season will run July 31 through Aug. 23 with more than 60 public events.

The festival is committed to bringing artists out of the concert hall and into the community for a summer full of “inspiration, cultural exchange and world-class art,” according to festival organizers, beginning with the Musicians’ Gala.

In this opening celebration, themed “A Night in the Tropics,” maestro Steven Mulligan of the Atlanta Symphony and the festival orchestra will be joined by soprano Anna Dennis and baritone John Taylor Ward in everything from Rogers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” to the sweltering sounds of South American samba.

The opening weekend continues with educational concerts designed for adults and kids alike. Maestro Mulligan will lead an in-depth lecture Aug. 1 with orchestral excerpts on Claude Debussy’s life and career, followed by a performance of his symphonic poem "La Mer."


The orchestra will present a family-friendly, hour-long concert Aug. 2 featuring Paul Dukas’ "The Sorcerer’s Apprentice," made famous in Disney’s "Fantasia" that featured Mickey Mouse.

Minnesota-native pianist Kenny Broberg, prizewinner at both the Tchaikovsky and Van Cliburn competitions, will make his festival debut Aug. 5 with chamber music favorites, including Schubert’s “Trout Quintet.” Other works will include Beethoven’s "Octet for Winds" and select German lieder sung by British soprano Anna Dennis.

Avi Stein, professor of harpsichord at the Juilliard School, will lead an adaptation of Rameau’s 1743 opera-ballet, "Platée." The Aug. 8 and Aug. 9 performances will showcase choreography by Matthew Pawlicki-Sinclair with Oregon Ballet Theater dancers and the festival design team.

Queen Elizabeth Competition and Avery Fischer Career Grant winner, pianist Henry Kramer, will offer more chamber music Aug. 12. The first half will be a piano solo recital, featuring Maurice Ravel’s kaleidoscopic "Gaspard de la nuit," alongside works by Adams, Debussy, Janacek and Liszt. Kramer will be joined by flautist Emi Ferguson and cellist Austin Fisher in George Crumb’s "The Voice of the Whale."

Soprano Felicia Moore and bass-baritone Kyle Albertson, both of the Metropolitan Opera, will lead an all-star cast and join the festival orchestra under the baton of Christian Reif for Wagner's opera "Flying Dutchman" on Aug. 14 and 16.

Emily Levin
A chamber orchestra concert Aug. 19 features long-time festival favorite Emily Levin, a harpist of the Dallas Symphony. Submitted photo

A chamber orchestra concert Aug. 19 features long-time festival favorite Emily Levin, a harpist of the Dallas Symphony. In addition to the Glière Harp concerto featuring Levin, maestro Reif and the festival orchestra will present Mendelssohn’s "Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage" and Schumann’s "Rhenish Symphony No. 3."


The finale concerts of the festival will take place on Aug. 22 and 23, also under the leadership of Christian Reif. The program will consist of Richard Wagner’s "Forest Murmurs" and Benjamin Britten’s "Four Sea Interludes" and will culminate in Jean Sibelius’ second symphony.

In addition to the festival’s series of concerts, the Lakes Area Music Festival will host numerous social events where musicians and audience members can interact.

Cabernet and Cabaret will take place on Aug. 7 at Dennis Drummond Winery, featuring the opera cast in classic musical theater selections.

George Frideric Handel’s "Water Music" will be performed outdoors Aug. 15 at the Gull Lake Yacht Club. Accessible on the southeast side of Gull Lake, the concert will be accessible by boat and enjoyed from the dock or lawn.

Other events include the downtown Brainerd Block Party on Aug. 7 where festival musicians hit the streets with classical pops; Musician’s Night Out on Aug. 21 at Roundhouse Brewery features the festival roster sight-reading chamber music; and the Brewery Bash (also at Roundhouse) celebrates the close of the season.

Kyle Albertson
Bass-baritone Kyle Albertson of the Metropolitan Opera will lead an all-star cast and join the Lakes Area Music Festival orchestra under the baton of Christian Reif for Wagner's opera "Flying Dutchman" on Aug. 14 and 16. Submitted photo

Also, following each evening concert of the festival season, musicians and audience members will have the opportunity to gather at Prairie Bay in Baxter for a reception.


The festival is committed to enhancing understanding and appreciation of classical music. Explore Music! will again be a hands-on creative learning day camp for grades kindergarten through fifth grade July 27-31. At the end of the week, they’ll have a chance to share what they have discovered prior to an orchestral concert. Alexander Peña of Hawaii’s ‘Iolani Institute will lead a team of teaching artists from around the country.

Multiple open rehearsals are planned, inviting audiences to witness the first rehearsal of each performance, including an informal Q&A discussion with a featured musician. Most concerts are preceded by a 20-minute pre-concert lecture given by a conductor or festival artistic director.

In preparation for the festival production of "The Flying Dutchman," an Opera Talk and Tea lecture will feature a Wagner scholar discussing the legendary figure Richard Wagner and what led him to compose his first opera.

Festival programming also strives to make the arts accessible to everyone, regardless of economic status or previous experience with classical music.

An outreach initiative comprised of over 30 events will bring festival artists to communities that can benefit the most. These activities will include performances at senior living facilities, a creative songwriting workshop with victims of domestic abuse, concerts at the Crow Wing County Jail and more.

For more information about the upcoming season, visit

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