Newport Classical Goes Gilded for 2023 Festival
A world premiere at the Breakers, sunrise concerts and performance by "The Gilded Age" actress Kelli O'Hara are all in the lineup for the 2023 Newport Classical Music Festival.
The balmy weather has us dreaming of summer in the City by the Sea, and nothing says Newport quite like strolling the grounds of a historic mansion, cocktail in hand, while the sounds of music waft over Narragansett Bay.
Newport Classical has announced the lineup for its 2023 Classical Music Festival, running July 4 through 23 at venues around the city. There are formal evenings at the Breakers, a casual outdoor concert at King Park and even two sunrise concerts at the Chinese Tea House at Marble House. Even if you’re not a classical music aficionado, the varied program offers plenty of opportunities to brush up on your music culture while taking in the city’s most beautiful settings.
“When it comes to the music, there really is something for everyone,” says Newport Classical Executive Director Gillian Friedman Fox.
The organization was founded in 1969, when a group of classical music fans came together to organize performances in historic venues including the Elms and the Breakers. Previously known as the Newport Music Festival, in 2021, they rebranded as Newport Classical in part to recognize their role in sponsoring music year-round.
“In addition to the festival which is three weeks in July, we also have year-round programming through our chamber series at the Newport Classical Recital Hall located inside Emmanuel Church, and we also have a community concert series, which is free concerts in neighborhood-centered green spaces — parks, things like that,” says Friedman Fox.
Still, the organization is best known for its summer festival, which this year will include twenty-six performances spread out over three weeks. According to Friedman Fox, more than 6,000 patrons participated last year. More than one hundred volunteers help coordinate the events.
“It truly is a marathon concert festival. For three weeks, we’re having two concerts a day on average,” she says.
Among the highlights this year is the world premiere of The Gilded Cage by Grammy-nominated violinist and composer Curtis Stewart on July 22 at the Breakers. Newport Classical commissioned the piece for the festival, a yearly tradition started in 2021. Stewart was inspired by a quote from Vanderbilt descendant Jamie Wade Comstock, who referred to the family home as a “gilded cage.” Previous commissioned pieces have explored the Castle Hill Lighthouse and the life of Newport Gardner, a prominent musician in Newport who was previously enslaved.
“This was something that I brought to the organization as being really important,” Friedman Fox says. “Commissioning new work is core to how classical music evolved for centuries. Originally, political leaders — kings and queens — would commission work from Brahms and Beethoven and Mozart for various special occasions. To continue in that tradition of commissioning living composers to write works in honor of Newport has been a really great way to engage our patrons in the creation of classical music.”
Devotees of Newport’s Gilded era will also be pleased to learn that Kelli O’Hara, who plays Aurora Fane in the HBO show “The Gilded Age,” will perform on July 20. The evening will include works from throughout her career as an opera and Broadway singer.
Other highlights include the sunrise performances at the Chinese Tea House on July 14 and 21 and a concert with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra at the Breakers on July 15. The festival kicks off with a free, patriotic concert by Fenway Quintet preceding the fireworks at King Park on July 4.
“We’re really proud to have this festival that has been a part of Newport for over fifty years,” Friedman Fox says.
To view the full schedule for the festival, visit newportclassical.org.
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