This summer offers a bounty of classical riches, but the crown jewel is unmistakable: Beginning July 13, the Lincoln Center Festival and Metropolitan Opera present the Kirov Opera's production of Richard Wagner's four-opera masterpiece "Der Ring des Nibelungen." The company has not mounted a production of the Ring Cycle in more than 90 years, and the work, under the direction of conductor Valery Gergiev, will feature nine Kirov soloists, including sopranos Mlada Khudolei, Olga Sergeyeva, and Svetlana Volkova; mezzo-soprano Larissa Diadkova; tenors Oleg Balashov, Viktor Lutsuik and Leonid Zhakhozhaev; baritone Viktor Chernomortsev; and bass Mikhail Kit.
Tickets for the Ring Cycle are hard to come by — and even diehard classical music listeners may be unwilling to devote the better part of two weekends to the production. Not to worry: The options are many. Interdisciplinary collaboration is hitting a high at Lincoln Center with "Book of Longing," a new concert work by Philip Glass based on Leonard Cohen's poetry. Michael Riesman will conduct the New York premiere of the work, and Mr. Glass himself will be behind the keyboard.
The collaborations continue when Hunan-born choreographer Shen Wei brings his version of "Second Visit to the Empress" to the stage, blending dance, theater, and music, and featuring four Beijing opera singers alongside 12 riveting Shen Wei Dance Arts dancers and 16 Chinese opera orchestra musicians. The opera, which tells the tale of the Empress Li's efforts to secure her infant son's position on the throne during the Ming Dynasty, begins performances July 24.
The Lincoln Center Festival also offers a site-specific presentation of Claudio Monteverdi's "Fourth Book of Madrigals" with "The Full Monteverdi." Presented by I Fagiolini, the British vocal ensemble, under the direction of Robert Hollingworth, the performance will take place amid the audience members. John La Bouchardière directs.
Composer George Benjamin's first opera, "Into the Little Hill," rounds out the festival's offerings. In its North American premiere, the work, based on "The Pied Piper of Hamelin," features soprano Anu Komsi and contralto Hilary Summers.
Summertime is also the season for taking advantage of free outdoor offerings, and the annual Met in the Parks concert series has a stellar lineup. On June 12, the opera presents "La Boheme," featuring sopranos Hei-Kyung Hong and Mary Dunleavy, tenor Roberto Aronica, baritone Dwayne Croft, baritone Jeff Mattsey, and bass Andrew Gangestad, on the Great Lawn in Central Park. Gareth Morrell conducts. The next evening offers "Faust" in the same location, featuring soprano Katie van Kooten, mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey, tenor David Pomeroy, baritone Hung Yun, and bass James Morris. Maurizio Benini conducts. The performances repeat in parks throughout the five boroughs through June 23.
The New York Philharmonic's parks concerts offer comparably enticing programs, bringing Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6, "Pathetique" and Mussorgsky/Ravel's "Pictures at an Exhibition" to parks around the city, including Central Park (July 11), Prospect Park (July 10), Cunningham Park (July 12), Snug Harbor (July 13), and Van Cortland Park (July 16). All concerts, featuring conductor Ludovic Morlot and violinist Stefan Jackiw, will be followed by fireworks.
But the hot months are also the perfect opportunity to escape the urban jungle and take advantage of the rich out-of-city offerings. The best two options are performances at Glimmerglass Opera and the Caramoor music festival. For those not yet satiated by Mark Morris's "Orfeo ed Euridice" at the Met earlier this year, Glimmerglass's fourcourse "Orpheus" menu is sure to satisfy. Beginning July 7, the Cooperstown-based institution offers an "Orpheus" overdose. First up is Jacques Offenbach's "Orpheus in the Underworld," conducted by Jean-Marie Zeitouni. On July 8, Julian Wachner conducts Christoph Willibald Gluck's "Orphée et Eurydice." On July 21, Philip Glass's "Orphée," based on the film by Jean Cocteau, makes its festival premiere. And Claudio Monteverdi's "L'Orfeo" begins performances on July 28.
The opening night of the Caramoor festival in Katonah, N.Y., on June 23 keeps the offerings familiar, as the festival's resident group, the Orchestra of St. Luke's, accompanied by pianist Helene Grimaud, will present Rossini's overture to "Il barbiere di Siviglia," Kodály's "Dances of Galanta," and Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83. Peter Oundjian conducts. Other highlights include young piano phenomenon Christopher Taylor's performance of Bach's "Goldberg Variations" on July 15 and an all-Mozart program featuring violinist Gil Shaham, violist Paul Neubauer, and conductor Roberto Abbado, along with the Orchestra of St. Luke's, on July 29. Finally, for some pomp and circumstance, head down to the South Street Seaport on July 16, as the Brooklyn Philharmonic offers Handel's "Royal Fireworks Music," accompanied by a choreographed fireworks display launched from two barges.
Summer music never looked so good.
Correction from May 24, 2007:
"La Boheme" and "Faust" will be featured in rotation throughout parks in the five boroughs, beginning with "La Boheme" on the Great Lawn in Central Park on June 12, in the Met in the Parks series. The featured operas were misstated in an article on page 31 of yesterday's New York Sun.