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Concerts and Special Events

After last year’s SPAC concert season—rife with noodle-dancing jam bands, ’80s hair bands and “oldies but goodies”—we could have jumped for joy when we heard the announcement that there was to be some much-needed diversity in this summer’s concert schedule. Think more modern rock acts, a splash of hiphop, a rockabilly blues fest and even some operatic vocalists from across the pond.

For those of you who missed the Channel 103.1 (WHRL-FM)’s Big Day Out on June 4, featuring blink-182, Green Day and Saves the Day, don’t fret: There is still another modern-rawk show scheduled at SPAC this summer. Canadian metal band Nickelback, touring in support of their second album, Silver Side Up, will rock the amphitheatre on June 22. And if you are still pining for the days when grunge and dirty flannel were all the rage, this will be a must-see show: Joining the Nickelback boys will be melancholy rocker Jerry Cantrell, former Alice in Chains guitarist and songwriter. Believe us when we tell you that Cantrell has not strayed far from his Seattle-circa-1995 roots. Pretty much everything we’ve heard on his solo albums sounds like classic AIC, only more moody and depressing. Bet you didn’t think that was even possible.

For those of you who complain that SPAC could use a little more soul—and perhaps even some sexing up—SFX has heard your plea. The “Queen of Hiphop/Soul,” Mary J. Blige and Refugee Camp Allstar Wyclef Jean promise to get it crunk (which we think translates roughly to “party their asses off”) on the SPAC stage on Aug. 6. Blige, a celebrated veteran of the urban-music scene, has actually been rocking the pop charts these days with her 2001 release, No More Drama. She will be joined by the rough-and-ready, politically conscious Jean, who, as you may recall, rose to fame as a Fugee with Lauryn Hill. There will be no lawn seats for the Blige/Jean show, and tickets go on sale on June 8; we recommend that you get yours early, as this show is likely to sell out fast.

The hills around SPAC will be alive with the sound of music, as they say, when the Irish Tenors stop into the venue on Aug. 25. Bring some extra tissues for this show, because there’s not likely to be a dry eye in the audience when the celebrated trio of Finbar Wright, Anthony Kearns and Ronan Tynan break into such heart-rending Irish ballads as “Town That I Loved So Well” and “Danny Boy.”

As of press time, other highlights of the season included: July 6, An Evening with Rush; July 14, Melissa Etheridge; and on Aug. 30, B.B. King will haul his sweet Lucille onto the SPAC stage for the B.B. King Blues Festival with the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Susan Tedeschi and Albert Cummings.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a true SPAC season without a couple of the usual suspects who seem to gravitate to the venue every year: Expect performances from Tom Petty, the Dave Matthews Band (two nights!), the Allman Brothers and the Oldies 98.3 (WTRY-FM) Annual Oldies Show.

The following is an up-to-date listing of the SPAC summer concert schedule. But don’t forget to check our club and concert listings regularly—as summer wears on, we’ll fill you in on all the last-minute additions.

—Erin Sullivan


Ticket prices vary, so see the “SPAC Facts” box at the end of this section for information. All shows begin at 7:30 PM unless otherwise noted, but times and dates are subject to change.

  • June 14: Harry Connick Jr. (amphitheatre only).
  • June 15: Bad Company, Foreigner, Joe Bonamasso (7 PM).
  • June 22: Nickelback, Jerry Cantrell (amphitheatre only).
  • June 23: Chicago.
  • July 5: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
  • July 6: Rush.
  • July 7: Dick Fox’s Doo Wop Extravaganza with Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge, the Tokens, the Shangri-la’s, the Del-Vikings, the Jive Five, Frankie Lyman’s Teenagers, the Harptones, the Brooklyn Reunion (amphitheatre only).
  • July 14: Melissa Etheridge.
  • July 21: Barry Manilow, Curtis Stigers.
  • July 28-29: Dave Matthews Band (7 PM).
  • Aug. 4: Bonnie Raitt & Lyle Lovett.
  • Aug. 6: Mary J. Blige, Wyclef Jean (amphitheatre only).
  • Aug. 11: Santana, Rusted Root.
  • Aug. 20: the Allman Brothers, Galactic.
  • Aug. 25: the Irish Tenors.
  • Aug. 30: B.B. King Blues Festival with B.B. King, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Susan Tedeschi, Albert Cummings (6:30 PM).

Freihofer’s Jazz Festival

Tickets for the Jazz Fest are available directly from SPAC. Prices for the June 29 show are $50 for adults, $42.50 for kids under 12 (amphitheatre); $35 for adults, $15 for kids under 12 (lawn). Advance adult lawn seats for June 29 are $32.50, and they are available until June 28. Prices for the June 30 show are $45 for adults, $40 for kids under 12 (amphitheatre); $33.20 for adults, $15 for kids under 12 (lawn). Advance adult lawns seats for July 1 are $30, and they are available until June 28. Kids under 2 are allowed on the lawn free of charge for both days.

  • June 29 (noon-midnight)—Amphitheatre: Manhattan Transfer’s 30th Anniversary Tour; Directions in Music: the Music of Miles Davis and John Coltrane featuring Herbie Hancock, Michael Brecker and Roy Hargrove; Dave Koz & Friends—A Smooth Summer Night featuring Norman Brown & Brian Culbertson with special guest James Ingram; War; Regina Carter Quintet; Dave Holland Quintet; Kurt Elling Quartet; Soulive; Gerald Veasley. Gazebo: Gerald Veasley, Sunny Sumter, Roni Ben-Hur Quintet, Cole Broderick, Bern Nix Trio.
  • June 30 (noon-10:30 PM)—Amphitheatre: Natalie Cole, Wynton Marsalis Septet, FourPlay, Cassandra Wilson, Roy Haynes Quartet, Angelique Kidjo, Steve Turre Quintet, Moutin Reunion Quartet. Gazebo: Moutin Reunion Quartet, Living Daylights, Onaje Allan Gumbs Group, Vijay Iyer Quartet, Ray Vega Latin Jazz Sextet.


The New York City Ballet returns to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center for its 37th season, July 9-27, with the friendliest season in many a summer. Reprise performances of popular favorites Vienna Waltzes, Fancy Free, Who Cares? and In G Major, all of which were last shown at SPAC in 1996, should bring audiences back for a fresh look.

Above all, this is a season of welcoming, easy-to-read ballets, the kind that make your heart glow on a summer night. Jerome Robbin’s Fancy Free, set to Leonard Bernstein’s music, is a romp by three sailors out on the town. Who Cares? is Balanchine’s tip of the hat to Gershwin show tunes, including a sultry duet to The Man I Love; and Robbins’ In G Major is Ravel playing at Gershwin while the dancers in Art Deco sundresses play at the beach.

Then, there’s Balanchine’s rollicking Tarantella and his expressionistic Bible story, Prodigal Son, with music by Prokofiev and décor by Georges Rouault.

For family audiences, Firebird is just the ticket, filled with Russian princesses, a brave prince, fabulous leaping monsters, in costumes designed by Marc Chagall, and a magical, glittering red bird who dances so fast, she almost flies. Plus, there’s a lovely wedding at the end in which local youngsters who were chosen in competitive auditions will get to pass the pastries. The flashing Stravinsky music makes Firebird exciting for children, beautiful for grownups.

All these dances have color and snap to catch the novice’s eye; yet, they’re ingeniously structured and require great skill and commitment from the dancers. They should hold the interest of knowledgeable ballet fans while bringing a smile to first-time balletgoers.

Music director Andrea Quinn, who zipped in and out of SPAC last year to conduct a couple of performances of Midsummer Night’s Dream, should stay a little longer this summer. The NYCB Orchestra is said to love her. New York critics say the orchestra has gained new life under her baton.

This season also marks the fifth dip into the treasure chest of ballets known as the Diamond Project, named for its chief funder, Irene Diamond. A forum for new choreographers, the Diamond Project has given NYCB dancers including Christopher Wheeldon and Miriam Mahdaviani the chance to walk a new path as choreographers. Previous Diamond years (1992, 1994, 1997 and 2000) have yielded “keeper” dances that are still in the NYCB repertory.

The company is honoring the 10th season of the Diamond Project by bringing back several gems from past seasons. SPAC audiences will see three of these: Ancient Airs and Dances (1992) by Richard Tanner, to music of Resphigi; Peter Martins’ Jeu de Cartes (1992), to Stravinsky; and Concerto in Five Movements (1997) by principal dancer Robert LaFosse, to music of Prokofiev.

While the spring season in New York City will premiere seven new Diamonds, SPAC will present only three. Since some have yet to debut in the city, we can only guess which three will come north. However, I’ll bet that the dances made by NYCB dancers have an edge. These are Haiku by Albert Evans, to piano and percussion pieces of John Cage; a work by corps member Melissa Barak, to a sonata by Shostakovich; and ballet’s veteran Diamond-cutters Wheeldon and Mahdaviani. Of course, ballet master in chief Peter Martins has contributed a Diamond, as well.

The final two Diamonds come from outside NYCB. Stephen Baynes, resident choreographer for the Australian Ballet, made Twilight Courante, a lavender and wine romance, to Handel’s keyboard suites, and Mauro Bigonzetti, artistic director of Italy’s Aterballetto, has made Vespro, which features the high-flying Benjamin Millepied at the center of a large cast of witty couples.

For those who like to keep score, the SPAC season includes 26 ballets in all: 11 by Balanchine, six by Jerome Robbins, three by Martins, and five by Diamond choreographers, old and new. Firebird, that rich, red Russian folktale, to music of Stravinsky and décor by Chagall, is a collaboration between Balanchine and Robbins.

Saratoga premieres, besides the three Diamond Project ballets, include Martins’ Hallelujah Junction, a black-and-white affair, to choppy piano music of John Adams, plus an unnamed new ballet that will be performed only once at the Gala, July 20.

Forty-eight young dancers, at least half of them from this region, will perform in Robbins’ Circus Polka, which was first made by Balanchine, to music of Stravinksy, for a corps of young elephants from the Ringling Bros. Circus. Now, it’s danced by groups of “yellow girls, pink girls, green girls and blue girls,” who step to the count of a Ringmaster. The dance is short, but quite demanding, and should be fun for youngsters to watch.

Serious balletgoers who favor the spare, mathematical dances that Balanchine did so brilliantly will be happy to see Agon and the traditional coupling of Monumentum pro Gesualdo and Movements for Piano and Orchestra, all Stravinsky, bone-colored and tight as a drum.

Finally, balletic glory, thrilling to novice and veteran audiences alike, is to be found in the midnight sky look of Serenade, set to Tchaikovsky, and the dazzling white satin of Bizet’s Symphony in C with its haunting French horn in the adagio movement.

—Mae G. Banner

New York City Ballet

New York City Ballet performs Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8:15 PM, with matinees at 2 PM on Thursdays and Saturdays. For in-depth information on the season, visit and

  • July 9: All-Balanchine program, with Serenade, Agon, Who Cares?
  • July 10: Raymonda Variations, New Diamond Project Ballet No. 1, Fancy Free.
  • July 11: Matinee—all-American program, with Interplay, Fancy Free, Who Cares? Evening—Serenade, New Diamond Project Ballet No. 1, In G Major.
  • July 12: All-Stravinsky program, with Jeu de Cartes, Agon, Firebird.
  • July 13: Matinee—Raymonda Variations, Interplay, Firebird. Evening—Serenade, Fancy Free, Jeu de Cartes.
  • July 16: Ancient Airs and Dances, New Diamond Project No. 2, Firebird.
  • July 17: All-Robbins program, with Circus Polka, Interplay, Opus 19/The Dreamer, I’m Old Fashioned.
  • July 18: Matinee—Raymonda Variations, In G Major, Who Cares? Evening—Agon, New Diamond Project Ballet No. 2, I’m Old Fashioned.
  • July 19: All-Robbins program, with Monumentum/Movements, Tarantella, Opus 19/The Dreamer, Jeu de Cartes.
  • July 20: Matinee—Circus Polka, Monumentum/Movements, Ancient Airs and Dances, In G Major. Evening Gala Performance—Hallelujah Junction, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, New Ballet (performed tonight only), Vienna Waltzes (25th Anniversary).
  • July 23: Concerto in Five Movements, Opus 19/The Dreamer, Vienna Waltzes.
  • July 24: All-Diamond Project program, with Ancient Airs and Dances, New Diamond Project Ballet No. 3, Concerto in Five Movements.
  • July 25: Matinee—Circus Polka, Hallelujah Junction, Prodigal Son, Symphony in C. Evening—all-Balanchine program, with Prodigal Son, Monumentum/Movements, Tarantella, Vienna Waltzes.
  • July 26: Symphony in C, New Diamond Project Ballet No. 3, I’m Old Fashioned.
  • July 27: Matinee—Concerto in Five Movements, Prodigal Son, Symphony in C. Evening—Hallelujah Junction, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, New Diamond Project Ballet No. 2, Symphony in C.


The Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s classical music offerings have settled, over the years, into three complementary programs. First are the Philadelphia Orchestra’s August amphitheatre concerts. These provide the warhorses, the crowd pleasers, music familiar enough that it fades comfortably into the background, music played courageously enough that it can thrill the aficionado.

Then there’s the chamber music festival, drawing on main-theater musicians, but in a more intimate setting and with more adventurous programming. Nothing controversial, of course, but at least it’s a chance to have your ears bent a little by extremely skilled musicians.

And the opera lovers get the Lake George Opera for two productions in the Spa Little Theatre—this year it’s Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment, sung in French with projected supertitles, but with spoken dialogue in English. This is because the opera company has lost its courage in the face of opera snobs who realize that having a foreign language involved helps keep their club exclusive (why else have a club?). Anyway, it will be presented at a gala opening party at on July 6, with performances July 9, 11 and 13. Mozart’s Abduction From the Seraglio gets a similar treatment (songs in German, dialogue in English, for a composer who turned away from snob-appeal Italian so his audiences would understand his operas) with performances July 7, 10, 12 and 14

The orchestra’s grand opening is July 31 with Yo-Yo Ma playing the world’s most popular cello concerto; other soloists that week include violinist Sarah Chang with the Brahms concerto and Kathleen Battle with favorite opera arias.

Week number two is all Beethoven, a highlight of which is two Martha Argerich appearances: First the Piano Concerto No. 1, then the tough-to-program Triple Concerto. Powerhouse pianist Yefim Bronfman plays the Emperor that Saturday, followed by the Ninth Symphony.

The final week is big on pops—an all-Tchaikovsky program, Erich Kunzel conducts music by Richard Rodgers—but in the midst of it, percussionist Evelyn Glennie and violinist Joshua Bell headline a bang-up concert that includes James MacMillan’s Veni, Veni, Emmanuel.

MacMillan has gained a reputation as a fiery young composer whose passions are expressed in exciting musical scores, and he is composer-in-residence for this year’s Chamber Music program, with starts July 30 with guest Sarah Chang. Aug. 6 sees a tribute to Ned Rorem, featuring the world premiere of his Trio for Oboe, Violin and Piano (Commissioned by SPAC to mark Rorem’s 80th birthday), and Martha Argerich takes the stage on Aug. 11 with cellist Mischa Maisky and violinist Vadim Repin in music by Schumann and Shostakovich.

More by MacMillan on Aug. 12, with guest violinist Ida Haendel joining music director Chantal Juillet, and Aug. 13, when pianist Bronfman also plays Schumann’s Quintet.

—B.A. Nilsson

The Philadelphia Orchestra

The Philadelphia Orchestra is in residence July 31-Aug. 17. Performances take place at 8:15 PM in the amphitheatre with artistic director Charles Dutoit conducting unless otherwise noted. Tickets are $20-$52.50, $14.50 lawn. The following listings include highlights of each program; for full details, visit or contact SPAC for a written schedule.

  • July 31: Grand Opening with Yo-Yo Ma on cello, featuring Berlioz’s Overture, Roman Carnival, Stravinsky’s Petrushka and Dvorák’s Cello Concerto.
  • Aug 1: A Hero’s Life with Sarah Chang on violin, featuring Brahms’ Violin Concerto and Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life).
  • Aug. 2: Bel Canto with soprano Kathleen Battle singing Bellini’s Overture to Norma, Rossini’s “Pas de Six” from William Tell and Overture to Semiramide, Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours” from La Gioconda and Respighi’s The Pines of Rome.
  • Aug. 3: All-French Program with Jean-Yves Thibaudet on piano, featuring Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun, Saint-Saëns’ “Egyptian” Piano Concerto No. 5 and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.
  • Aug. 7: Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, Symphony No. 7 with Gil Shaham on violin.
  • Aug. 8: Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”) with Martha Argerich on piano.
  • Aug. 9: Martha Argerich on piano, Ida Haendel on violin and Mischa Maisky on cello featuring Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3, Triple Concerto and Symphony No. 5.
  • Aug. 10: The Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia with music director Alan Harler and Yefim Bronfman on piano, featuring Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 (“Emperor”) and Symphony No. 9 (“Choral”).
  • Aug. 14: A Tchaikovsky Spectacular with Vadim Repin on violin and Mischa Maisky on cello, featuring Marche Slave, Violin Concerto, Variations on a Rococo Theme (for cello and orchestra) and 1812 Overture.
  • Aug. 15: A Celebration of the 100th Birthday of Richard Rodgers with conductor Erich Kunzel, featuring works by Rodgers.
  • Aug 16: Veni, Veni, Emmanuel with Evelyn Glennie on percussion and Joshua Bell on violin featuring Mozart’s Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, MacMillan’s Veni, Veni, Emmanuel (for percussion and orchestra), Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, and Ravel’s “Suite No. 2” from the ballet Daphnis and Cloé.
  • Aug. 17: Those Fabulous Philadelphians with David Kim on violin, featuring Strauss’ Don Juan, Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4.

Saratoga Chamber Music Festival

The Saratoga Chamber Music Festival takes place July 30-Aug. 18. Performances (in the Spa Little Theater) are 2:15 PM on Sundays and 8:15 PM on Mondays and Tuesdays. Tickets are $27.50 and $32.50. The music director is Chantal Juillet and the 2002 composer-in-residence is James MacMillan.

  • July 30: Fantasia with special guest Sarah Chang featuring Caplet’s Fantastique (for harp and string quartet), Saint-Saëns’ Fantaisie for harp and violin, Scloenberg’s Fantasy opus 47 for violin and piano and Bizet-Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy.
  • Aug. 5: Songs with Kathleen Battle and Jean-Yves Thibaudet with Chantel Juillet on violin featuring Fauré’s Piano Quartet No. 1 in C minor and Sonata No. 1 in A major for violin and piano, and Liszt’s Songs.
  • Aug. 6: A Tribute to Ned Rorem and Return of Special Guest Gil Shaham with Chantel Juillet and Gil Shaham on violin and Richard Woodhams on oboe featuring Brahm’s String Quintet in F major.
  • Aug. 11: First Encounter: Martha Argerich, Vadim Repin and Mischa Maisky together on stage featuring Schumann’s Sonata for violin and piano in A minor, opus 105 and Phantasiestücke for piano, violin and cello, opus 88, Shostakovich’s Sonata for cello and piano in d minor, opus 40, and Piano trio #2in e minor, opus 67.
  • Aug. 12: MacMillan, Brahms and Legendary Violinist Ida Haendel featuring MacMillan’s 14 Little Pictures for piano trio, Brahms’ Sonata No. 3 for violin and piano in d minor, opus 108, and Ravel’s Tzigane.
  • Aug. 13: Bronfman and Schumann with Yefim Bronfman on piano, Chantal Juillet on violin and members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, featuring works by MacMillan and Schumann.
  • Aug. 18: Young Artists Concert featuring young American students to perform one of Beethoven’s masterpieces and MacMillan String Quartet. Students were recruited by Chantal Juillet.

Lake George Opera

Two Lake George Opera prod-uctions will be presented in the Spa Little Theater. Tickets are $38-$58 adults, $33-$53 seniors and students (evenings) and $33-$48 adults, $28-$43 seniors and students (matinees). The shows are Donizetti’s The Daughter of the Regiment (July 6, 6 PM; July 9, 11, 7:30 PM and July 13, 2 PM) and Mozart’s The Abduction From the Seraglio (July 7, 14, 2 PM and July 10, 12, 7:30 PM).

SPAC Facts

Saratoga Performing Arts Center is in Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs, and is accessible from routes 9 and 50. Tickets for all SPAC events may be purchased through Ticketmaster (476-1000, or the SPAC Box Office (587-3330). The SPAC box office is located by the Route 50 parking lot, and is open Monday through Saturday, 10 AM-6 PM. It is closed Sunday unless there is a performance, in which case it opens at 1 PM. On event days, the box office is open till showtime. The Hall of Springs box office opens two hours before each performance.

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