LENOX, Mass. — The Tanglewood Festival, which opens Wednesday with James Taylor and his All-Star Band in his annual two-night stay, has always been an all-encompassing musical experience that includes the top pop, opera, and chamber music artists.
But this season will be one of discovery and musical adventure. Not only will fans enjoy numerous premieres by American composers, a world premiere of a new opera, and a full length concert version of Wagner’s “Die Walkurie,” but the launching of the Tanglewood Learning Institute, which offers participants an expansive array of cross-cultural activities.
Housed in the new four-building Linde Center for Music and Learning — Tanglewood’s first year-round facility, the TLI will present such notable people as former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright (July 6), cellist Yo-Yo Ma (July 31), or composer Joan Tower (July 10) in talks that connect their expertise with the season’s musical offerings.
For instance, Albright will explore nation building in the 21st century with Verdi’s interests in the 19th century’s unification of Italy all tied to his Requiem (July 13).
Ma, who begins his two-year The Bach Project on Aug. 11 to perform Bach’s six suites for solo cello in 36 locations on six continents, will discuss culture’s role in society.
And Tower, whose “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman” will be performed July 6, will talk about her inspirations and the creative process.
The more than 140 TLI offerings also include weekends, such as the Wagner Weekend (July 26-28) or the Festival of Contemporary Music Weekend (Aug 8-12). These include conversations/lectures with soloists, rehearsals, a concert pass, and breakfasts, lunches or dinner. Check www.tli.org for details.
While all this is going on, the official opening of the season is July 5 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and music director Andris Nelsons in Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 and pianist Emanuel Ax in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major. Nelsons will be in residence throughout July and will lead 14 programs, including conducting the world premiere of Kevin Puts’ new opera “The Brightness of Light” sung by soprano Renee Fleming (for whom it was written) and baritone Rod Gilfry, which is based on letters written between iconic American artist Georgia O’Keefe and her husband photographer Alfred Stieglitz (July 20). Andris will also conduct the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra in Wagner’s opera (July 27-28), which also includes the Leonard Bernstein Memorial Concert night.
The Boston Pops will be featured in three concerts (July 7 and Aug. 24 in the music of John Williams) and Aug. 16 in film night with “Star Wars: A New Hope.” Four visiting orchestras will also perform: Venice Baroque Orchestra (July 11), the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America (Aug. 1), the Knights (Aug. 15) and the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra (Aug. 21).
Among the orchestral soloists are violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter (July 6), trumpeter Thomas Rolfs (July 8), trumpeter Hakan Hardenberger (July 14), cellist Gautier Capucon (Jul 19), pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet (July 21), pianist Paul Lewis (July 26), violinist Joshua Bell (Aug. 2), pianist Yefim Bronfman (Aug. 4), cellist Yo-Yo Ma (Aug. 6), pianist Nikolai Lugansky (Aug. 10), pianist Inon Barnatan (Aug. 11), pianist Kirill Gerstein (Aug. 17), and pianist Ingrid Fliter (Aug.23).
Several artists will give solo recitals; Tanglewood on Parade is July 23; the Festival of Contemporary Music is Aug. 8-12. Guest conductors include Ken-David Masur, Asher Fisch, Dima Slovodeniouk, Francois-Xavier Roth, Yu-An Chang, and Giancarlo Guerrero, who will also conduct the season’s finale Aug. 25 with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.
WHEN: July 3 – Aug. 25
WHERE: Between Lenox and Stockbridge, Mass.
HOW MUCH: $130 - $12; $20, under 40; free lawn, 17 and under
MORE INFO: 888-266-1200; www.tanglewood.org