SPAC plans performances from ballet to Dylan

The word being used to describe this season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in the Saratoga S

The word being used to describe this season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in the Saratoga Spa State Park is “magic.”

Whether it be the renowned Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of maestro Charles Dutoit or the return of folk and rock legend Bob Dylan, the amphitheater will be filled with a variety of magical musical performances.


The venue, which opened in 1966, is also being renovated inside and out. Last year, new seating and other amenities were added inside the amphitheater. This year, new lighting and a new sound system are being added.

This fall, work will also start on a new exterior to replace the aging wooden exterior that has weathered more than 40 seasons.

“In 2008, SPAC will offer more diversity, more excitement, and more opportunities than ever before,” said SPAC President and Executive Director Marcia White.

White said part of SPAC’s magic is in its setting, “in the stunning Spa State Park … with its majestic pines and sparkling streams. The park setting enhances the experience.”

The New York City Ballet is concluding its month-long residency in Saratoga. The ballet will perform tonight at 8 p.m. with a “Taste of Ballet” program.

On Saturday at 2 p.m. a matinee “Four Voices” will be performed and at 8 p.m. Saturday the All Robbins Ballet Gala will be held in the Hall of Springs with honorary chair, actress Rita Moreno who starred as “Anita” in West Side Story, in attendance.

Performances will continue through next week. A final matinee on July 26 will feature the work of some of the founding choreographers and at 8 p.m., “Finale Night” will feature “All Robbins,” including the West Side Story Suite.

The Philadelphia Orchestra returns to SPAC on Aug. 6 for its monthlong residency.

“One of the true highlights of my career has been the privilege of leading the Philadelphia Orchestra at SPAC for nearly two decades,” said Charles Dutoit, the orchestra’s chief conductor and artistic director in a prepared statement.

“Although the stage is very familiar to me, I am still thrilled by each experience,” Dutoit said. “The gorgeous setting, enthusiastic audiences and world-class artistry are incomparable.”

“SPAC is a true cultural treasure,” Dutoit said.

White said SPAC is a wonderful venue for families to get out of the house, away from the television and computers, and enjoy some world-class entertainment in the fresh air.

“We encourage people to have a ‘staycation,’ stay home and come to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center,” she said.

SPAC is featuring 20 promotion nights this season, including Ballet Behind the Curtain, Family Nights, and The Planets Night on Aug. 22 in conjunction with the Dudley Observatory in Schenectady. This evening coincides with the performance of composer Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” by the Philadelphia Orchestra.

This summer a new SPAC marketing campaign will feature 15 video screens located in businesses, restaurants and hotels in downtown Saratoga Springs giving the viewer a sampling of the artists, the works and the events that will be held in the Spa State Park.

For more than four decades SPAC has been a place of memories, both in the area of classical music and ballet and the world of rock and roll.

A dozen rock and contemporary music performances will be held in the amphitheater in late July and August, including the Saratoga Music Festival, featuring Dylan and his band, at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 17, The Allman Brothers Band on Aug. 19, John Mayer with special guest, One Republic, on Aug. 27 and the Crue Fest on Aug. 29, starring Motley Crue with Buckberry, Papa Roach and others.

For a full listing of all performances at SPAC this summer see the Web site:

Chamber Music

Turning to another type of music, The Saratoga Chamber Music Festival will be held this summer, with all performances in the Spa Little Theater on Roosevelt Avenue in the Saratoga Spa State Park.

The chamber festival runs from Aug. 5 through Aug. 24 with Andre Watts opening the performances and the group Time for Three closing out the six different performances on Aug. 24. The young Time for Three is described as a “ground-breaking, category-shattering trio” that incorporates elements of classical, country western, gypsy and jazz idioms “forming a blend of their own.”

The performing arts center hosted its first, non-classical musical performance in 1967 with Harry Belafonte entertaining with such songs as the Jamaican Farewell Song.

The largest crowd ever to attend SPAC was 40,231 in 1985 for the Grateful Dead. Artist James Taylor has performed the most times (19) at SPAC but the late Ray Charles and the group Chicago have the longest relationships with the performing arts center at 32 years. Chicago performed earlier this summer at SPAC.

The most expensive ticket for a rock concert, or any other performance at SPAC, was $200 for the 1994 performance by The Eagles, according to “SPAC Facts” on the performing center’s Web site (

The Dave Matthews Band, which played to sold out audiences June 20 and June 21, has the record of SPAC sellouts at seven.

When sitting on the lawn for performances, something many people enjoy, people can bring in their own food in a clear, one gallon plastic bag and factory-sealed water bottles up to one gallon, according to SPAC officials.

People can also bring blankets, strollers, binoculars, backpacks, purses and small lawn chairs.

SPAC asks people not to bring coolers, animals, laser pens, cooking equipment, bikes, roller blades, skateboards, glass of any kind, fireworks, weapons or knives.

Reach Gazette reporter Lee Coleman at 587-1780 or at [email protected]

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