Those Saratoga Performing Arts Center regulars who enjoy sitting on the lawn, sometimes with a glass of wine, and listening to the Philadelphia Orchestra said Thursday they will dearly miss principal conductor Charles Dutoit.
Dutoit, the world famous maestro, conducted his farewell concert Thursday evening at SPAC after being artistic director and principal conductor for the orchestra’s Saratoga season for two decades.
His wife, Chantal Juillet, performed a violin solo during the well-attended celebration that included a free sparkling wine toast and fireworks.
“We are going to miss him,” said Jim Calhoun of Clifton Park. “After 21 years he’s an institution. He has a good rapport with the orchestra.”
Calhoun has been coming to Philadelphia Orchestra performances with his wife for 20 years, sitting in lawn chairs and enjoying world class performances by the famous Swiss conductor. “We have always looked forward to him,” Calhoun said.
“I really like him, he’s absolutely great,” said Mike Brun of Charlton. “We come twice a week. It’s impressive to have world class music to listen to, it’s a privilege.”
“I think we will miss him more than he will miss us,” Brun joked.
Dutoit and Juillet, who were married early this year, said this spring that this will be their final season at SPAC.
Juillet, recognized as one of Canada’s most brilliant violinists, founded the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival in the Saratoga Spa State Park in 1991 and has been its music director ever since.
Both Dutoit, 73, and Juillet have other musical commitments in Europe and Asia that they will pursue.
“I love Charles Dutoit, he’s a spectacular conductor,” said Candace Wait of Saratoga Springs. She said she and a group of her friends have been coming to the performances for years, sitting on the lawn, and enjoying the classical music along with the beautiful summer weather.
Barbara Egan of Albany and Peggy Ryan of Clifton Park and their husbands have been coming every year for decades.
Egan said that Dutoit represents “a certain quality you expect.”
“He’s dynamic,” Egan said. “We’ve never been dissatisfied with the program. When we come we are always pleased.”
“It’s the best ticket in town,” Peggy Ryan said.
Samantha Craig, a high school student from Wilton and a viola player, said she has enjoyed coming to SPAC with her mother and sister the past few years to see Dutoit conduct.
“He really has the ability to get great performances out of his players,” Craig said.
Samantha’s mother, Roseanne Craig, said she and her daughters will miss Dutoit.
Members of the lawn audience are wondering what the Philadelphia Orchestra will do about conductors next year.
Marcia White, president and executive director of SPAC, introduced Dutoit at the start of Thursday’s concert as “the greatest conductor in the world.”
White said it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to replace him.
She said next year a number of guest conductors will be leading the summer concerts; there will be no artistic director and principal conductor, the titles Dutoit currently holds, next season.
The Philadelphia Orchestra will continue its performances through Aug. 21 but the orchestra will be led by guest conductors. Rossen Milanov, described as a sought-after guest conductor on the international scene, will conduct the orchestra tonight.