Sounds of Summer

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The best musical performances this season take place in the great outdoors.

By Allison Hata

Whether under a blanket of stars or a sunny cloudless sky, audiences are captivated as resounding melodies and harmonies sweep them away to a world of music. This summer, jazz festivals, operas and classical orchestra performances are taking place on open-air stages across the country. From New York to California, there’s no better way to experience the sounds of violins, saxophones and lilting voices than in a wide-open space. As warm summer breezes carry the opening notes up and away, sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

parks summer recital at summerstage_9814a
Courtesy of Cory Weaver/Metropolitan Opera, 2010

The Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital Series

Music is a universal language, and in New York, the Metropolitan Opera speaks to people across the city’s five boroughs with its annual summer recital series. From July 16 to Aug. 1, the Metropolitan Opera hosts six summer performances featuring some of the genre’s most critically acclaimed stars. On July 16, the Central Park SummerStage is the venue for the powerhouse voices of soprano Erin Morley, mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard and tenor Stephen Costello as they perform accompanied by pianist Bradley Moore. For those who miss the first show, a second Manhattan recital takes place on July 30 featuring soprano Ying Fang, tenor Mario Chang and bass-baritone Brandon Cedel. One of New York’s most beloved summer traditions, these evening shows offer a glimpse into the majesty and talent of the Metropolitan Opera. (212-362-6000; metoperafamily.org)

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Philharmonic_fireworks 5
Courtesy of the LA Philharmonic.

Hollywood Bowl Summer Series

One of the country’s best outdoor concert venues, the Hollywood Bowl, is home to the celebrated Los Angeles Philharmonic annual summer concert series. For 14 weeks, from June through September, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association brings a diverse selection of musical talent to the famed stage. This year, some of the world’s greatest artists help celebrate the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 92nd season, including Willie Nelson, Tony Bennett, Kristin Chenoweth, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Josh Groban. A season highlight, the cast of “Chicago: The Musical” puts on a fully staged production on July 28. With jazz and classical nights, as well as Sunday Sunset concerts featuring everything from opera to Broadway, the Hollywood Bowl summer season offers a series of spectacular performances across the musical spectrum. (323-850-2000; hollywoodbowl.com)

SF Opera In Park 2012-1

Opera in the Park 

Following the opening gala and performance to begin its 91st season, San Francisco Opera hosts an outdoor daylight performance to showcase highlights from the upcoming year. The performance features artists from the company’s fall 2013 season, with accompaniment by the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. Master conductor Nicola Luisotti, music director for the San Francisco Opera, expertly guides the orchestra’s four instrumental families—strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion—as the music rises and swells to complement the piercing notes of a singer’s aria. Held on Sept. 8 at Sharon Meadow in Golden Gate Park, the 40th installment of this annual event welcomes thousands of opera enthusiasts as the company performs old favorites and debuts exciting new presentations. (415-864-3330; sfopera.com)

Atlanta-Chastain Park Amphitheater
Courtesy of Atlantic Symphony Orchestra

Delta Classic Chastain Concerts 

An Atlanta tradition, Delta Classic Chastain at Chastain Park Amphitheater has entertained locals and visitors alike since 1973. Presented by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, this 40th annual summer concert series begins in early June with musical performances spanning multiple genres, including adult contemporary, folk, soul, jazz and more. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra takes the stage twice, providing musical accompaniment to performances in tribute of Simon & Garfunkel and The Beatles’ John Lennon. Throughout the summer, enjoy a range of music from greats such as the Grammy Award-winning Anita Baker on July 19 and Eric Benet in the Sunset Jazz night on Aug. 17. The series concludes on Sept. 28 with a special performance by the award-winning country singer Martina McBride. (404-733-5012; deltaclassicchastain.com)

Chicago Jazz1

Chicago Jazz Festival 

A Labor Day weekend tradition in the Windy City, the Chicago Jazz Festival opens on Aug. 29 with four days of exciting performances at venues throughout the downtown area. On opening night, Jack DeJohnette leads a band in celebration of his 70th birthday, joining jazz legends Muhal Richard Abrams, Larry Gray, Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill for a special performance. The following day, three stages in Millenium Park offer music from 2 to 10 p.m., with headliner Charles Lloyd Quartet. Finishing out the weekend are shows from college and high school bands, artist-in-residence Hamid Drake and other special guest appearances. Packed full of performances from some of the most prominent names in jazz, as well as from locally known talent, the Chicago Jazz Festival promises to delight and surprise this summer. (312-427-1676; chicagojazzfestival.us)