Gifted young violinists, an opera program and panoramic photography are among the highlights of the 2006 Britt Classical Festival at the Britt Gardens in Jacksonville. Also look for “Exotic Tales,” a family concert and a tribute to George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein.
Peter Bay, music director and conductor, and the Britt Festival Orchestra will open the season Friday, Aug. 4, with the “Exotic Tales” program. It begins with “Scheherazade,” described as “the haunting storytelling of the beautiful temptress Scheherazade, portrayed by the concertmaster’s solo violin, (to) give patrons a glimpse of 1,001 nights in a sultan’s harem.” Jon Nakamatsu will be featured soloist for the Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2 and the orchestra will also play the Dance of the Seven Veils by Richard Strauss. The 8 p.m. concert will be preceded by a champagne picnic at 6 p.m.
One of the young violin soloists appears on Saturday night, Aug. 5. Sarah Chang will perform Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” Chang began studying the violin at age 4 and was immediately enrolled at Juilliard. By age 8, she had performed with the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Now 25, she is considered one of the world’s great performers. Also on the program is Saint Saens’ Symphony No. 3, “Organ Symphony.”
The second weekend begins Friday, Aug. 11, with another gifted young violinist, Hilary Hahn. At 26, she is a Grammy Award-winning recording artist and a compelling artist on the international scene. She and the orchestra will offer Dvorak’s Violin Concerto. The orchestra will also play Mozart’s Symphony No. 35, “Haffner,” and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9.
On Saturday, Aug. 12, the Britt hill will be filled with the sound of singing as four vocalists join the orchestra for an evening of “Opera’s Greatest Hits.” Arias, duets and quartets will spotlight some favorite moments from the operatic stage and the Britt Orchestra will perform opera overtures to round out the evening. The vocalists are Mela Dailey, soprano; Jennifer Root, mezzo-soprano; Robert Breault, tenor, and Wayne Tigges, bass-baritone
A new kind of soloist will be featured on Friday, Aug. 18. Photochoreographer James Westwater brings his panoramic photography to Britt as he joins with the orchestra in a concert featuring this unique art form. Three giant screens will be suspended over the orchestra and Westwater will choreograph his images to the performance of the music, specifically Vaughn Williams’ “Serenade to Music” and Copland’s “Appalachian Spring Suite.” The orchestra will also play excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” and Wagner’s Siegfried’s Rhine Journey from “Gotterdammerung.”
Britt presents the annual Family Concert on Saturday, Aug. 19. The Magic Circle Mime Company returns for a special Mozart’s 250th Birthday Party. A program full of fun and musical adventure will be preceded by a birthday party on the hill complete with birthday cake and balloons. “Wolfie,” the birthday boy, will be on hand to greet admirers.
The festival closes on Sunday, Aug. 20, with “Rhapsody in Red, White & Blue,” a tribute to the music of American composers George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein. Selections will include Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and “Second Rhapsody” and Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story” and “Facsimile.”
The Family Concert begins at 7:30 p.m. All others will start at 8 p.m. Ticket prices range from a high of $39 for reserved to as little as $16 for lawn seating. Children get in for $13 at most events, or $6 for the Family Concert.
One other concert affiliated with the Classical Festival but at another site features the Arianna String Quartet at 8 p.m. Monday, July 31. This will be at the Southern Oregon University Music Recital Hall, with tickets from $22 to $15. The quartet will play selections by Mozart, Shostakovich and Debussy.
This is the 44th year for Britt, which was just the classical festival for about its first 15 years. The present pavilion was constructed in 1978 and this new facility helped enable expansion to the current format of jazz, folk, country and dance events along with classical.
For more information about the 2006 season, visit Britt on the web at brittfest.org, call 1-800-882-7488 or stop by the Britt offices at 216 W. Main St. in Medford.