Aspen Music Festival And School


February 5th 20

Press Contacts: 

Laura E. Smith
VP for Marketing and Communications, 970 205 5070                   

Kristin Cleveland
Publications and PR Coordinator, 970 205 5073










Music Director Robert Spano leads a season with dual themes. “Beethoven’s Revolution” celebrates the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth and includes the re-creation—over two nights—of an historic 1808 performance of the Beethoven’s works.


The season’s parallel theme, “Uncommon Women of Note,” explores ambition, desire and identity through the presence of a much-needed female lens, presenting works by and about women, including Julia Wolfe’s Fountain of Youth; Joan Tower’s tribute to risk-taking, adventurous women—Fifth Fanfare to the Uncommon Woman; and two works by Sarah Kirkland Snider—Forward into the Light and the world premiere of an AMFS-commissioned work based on texts by prominent American suffragists. This musical exploration coincides with the centenary of the 19th Amendment in America.


Inaugural year of the AMFS’ new Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS (AOTVA) program, led by Renée Fleming and Patrick Summers. This educational performance program is uniquely designed for holistic training encompassing everything from staged performances and vocal technique to career development, donor relationships and financial planning for the self-employed. Staged productions will be Mozart’s The Magic Flute (July 16, 18 and 20) and Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath (Aug. 20 and 22). The AOTVA also presents a semi-staged performance of Thomson’s The Mother of Us All, an opera centered on the life’s work of Susan B. Anthony, with libretto by Gertrude Stein (Aug. 5).


Ms. Fleming also will perform Richard Strauss and Kevin Puts’ song cycle with the Aspen Festival Orchestra, conducted by Spano (July 5), and will present a Harris Concert Hall Master Class (July 14) and coach twoOpera Theater Master Classes (July 11 and 18).

Violinist Pinchas Zukerman returns to Aspen Aug. 12 with The Zukerman Trio, in his first regular-season appearance since 2005.

Beethoven cycle: James Ehnes will conclude his Aspen journey through the complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas with two recitals in Harris Concert Hall (Aug. 4 and 6).

Pianist Jeremy Denk leads a chamber music evening of “Heroic Beethoven” on Aug. 18, while
pianist John O’Conor presents an Aug. 20 program of Beethoven’s “named sonatas,” with the “Pathétique,” “Moonlight,” and “Appassionata.”

Alisa Weilerstein and Inon Barnatan survey Beethoven’s cello sonatas (July 23), and are joined by violinist Benjamin Beilman to present the composer’s “Triple” Concerto (July 19).

The AMFS and Theatre Aspen will once again collaborate to co-present iconic Rodgers and Hammerstein classic
The Sound of Music: In Concert, accompanied by an orchestra of AMFS students. (Aug. 3).

Members of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra will join AMFS artist-faculty for a special event
exploring the nuances of Beethoven on July 28.

The 71st season closes Aug. 23 with music director Robert Spano conducting the Aspen Festival Orchestra in Beethoven’s Ninth “Choral” Symphony.

Premieres include the world premiere of alumna Sarah Kirkland Snider’s AMFS-commissioned work spotlighting texts by American suffragists (Aug. 8), the U.S. premiere of Paul Dean’s Horn Concerto featuring AMFS artist-faculty member Andrew Bain as soloist (July 10); the world premiere of a new work by AMFS alumnus and 2019 Druckman Prize–winner Miles Walter, conducted by Benjamin Manis (July 29); the U.S. premiere of James MacMillan’s new Viola Concerto featuring Lawrence Power as soloist and conducted by Robert Spano (Aug. 5); and the U.S. premiere of Sebastian Fagerlund’s Nomade for Cello and Orchestra with soloist Nicolas Altstaedt (Aug. 16).

Visiting composers joining the AMFS composition faculty Stephen Hartke and Christopher Theofanidis, include Sebastian Fagerlund, Tania León, Missy Mazzoli, Kevin Puts, Laura Schwendinger, Sarah Kirkland Snider and Julia Wolfe.

What’s New in 2020: Deals and More

New Earlier Concert Times:  Enjoy more time for dinner after concerts on Wednesdays and Fridays with earlier start times of 5:30 pm and concerts played without intermission.

Introductory Deal:  To welcome new concert goers, the AMFS is extending a rare trial offer to first-time attendees with a 50 percent discount on concert tickets.

New “Concert Concierge” Service:  Not sure which concert to pick? Let us help! Our new Concert Concierge service helps you find the concert experience right for you. Whether you’re looking for something light and summery for a friend’s visit or want to take a step beyond the composers you know, we make recommendations based on your input. Look for the “Concert Concierge” button on the home page of the AMFS website.

ASPEN, COLORADO—The Aspen Music Festival and School’s 71st season in summer 2020 once again combines canonical genius and brilliant new voices, offering an incomparably deep and broad musical experience for audience members and music students alike.

This season, the Festival offers two themes: “Beethoven’s Revolution” includes a deep dive into Beethoven with some of the world’s foremost interpreters, while a parallel theme, “Uncommon Women of Note,” presents a powerful coming together of music and musical luminaries that looks at ambition, desire and identity through the presence of a much-needed female lens. Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in America, this musical exploration is anchored by a rarely heard Virgil Thomson/Gertrude Stein opera about Susan B. Anthony. In addition, Renée Fleming and Patrick Summers launch their unique new opera program.

“Beethoven’s Revolution”
Given that 2020 marks the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, it’s not surprising that Beethoven has a major presence at this year’s Festival. A host of leading pianists will be in Aspen to play all of Beethoven’s piano concertos and a good number of the piano sonatas. Among the pianists are Paul Lewis, John O’Conor, Andreas Haefliger, Vladimir Feltsman and Hung-Kuan Chen. James Ehnes continues his comprehensive multi-year exploration of the Beethoven violin sonatas over two evenings and adds the violin concerto for good measure (Aug. 4 and 6). Pianist Inon Barnatan and cellist Alisa Weilerstein join violinist Benjamin Beilman and the Aspen Festival Orchestra for the Beethoven “Triple” Concerto—under the baton of James Conlon (July 19); Barnatan and Weilerstein also survey the cello sonatas in a recital on July 23. Jeremy Denk leads a chamber music evening of “Heroic Beethoven” on Aug. 18.

There’s much more, including Beethoven’s symphonies and other works—conducted by Ludovic Morlot, Nicholas McGegan, Cristian Măcelaru and Patrick Summers—building to the Festival’s final week, when the composer’s works will be featured on every program. The season’s final Wednesday and Friday concerts (Aug. 19 and 21) recreate the singular historic evening of December 22, 1808, when a monumental, five-hour program was put on—without heat—in the Theater an der Wien in Vienna. It was the first public performance of Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, Fourth Piano Concerto, movements of the Mass in C, the concert aria, “Ah, Perfido!” and the Choral Fantasy. Beethoven also improvised on a tune of his own creation. These two AMFS concerts featuring the Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra and Aspen Chamber Symphony, and conducted by Jane Glover and Christian Arming, respectively, together comprise all of the works performed that historic evening.

As the grand finale of the Festival’s Beethoven offerings and of the season itself, music director Robert Spano conducts the composer’s great Choral symphony, No. 9, on Final Sunday (Aug. 23). Spano and the Aspen Festival Orchestra will be joined by the vocal power of singers from the Seraphic Fire Professional Choral Institute, Kantorei, and soloists.

“Uncommon Women of Note”
Given Beethoven’s allegiance to the revolutionary ideals of freedom and equality that emerged during the Age of Enlightenment, it seems only natural that the 2020 season’s parallel theme, “Uncommon Women of Note” presents a powerful coming together of music and musical luminaries that looks at ambition, desire and identity through the presence of a much-needed female lens, showcasing works by and about women, as well as musical works inspired by literary works of women writers. This musical celebration coincides with the centennial of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted voting rights to women.

Two significant performances feature works by critically acclaimed American composer and AMFS alumna Sarah Kirkland Snider, including Forward Into Light in only its second public performance (Aug. 9), and the world premiere of a new work commissioned by the AMFS for soprano and tenor voices, spotlighting texts by three prominent figures in the American suffrage movement (Aug. 8). Another thematic highlight will be a semi-staged concert performance of “The Mother of Us All”—Virgil Thomson’s rarely heard opera with libretto by Gertrude Stein—focusing on Susan B. Anthony’s career and her dedication to the 19th-century women’s rights movement (Aug. 5). Scott Terrell conducts.

Works by women composers also will feature throughout the season’s orchestral programming, including alumna Julia Wolfe’s Fountain of Youth (July 22), Kaija Saariaho’s Ciel d’hiver (July 31), Melody Eötvös’ The Saqqara Bird (Aug. 14); as well as works inspired by women authors, such as Kevin Puts’ Letters from Georgia, based on Georgia O’Keefe’s writings (AFO, July 5); Andre Previn’s Honey and Rue, based on Toni Morrison’s poetry (July 26); and John Williams’ Seven for Luck, based on the work of poet and essayist Rita Dove (date TBA).

This season’s chamber music also offers explorations into works composed and inspired by women, including alumna Joan Tower’s Fifth Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman (July 6), Maria Schneider’s Winter Morning Walks (July 6), Unsuk Chin’s Double Concerto (July 18), Missy Mazzoli’s Ecstatic Science (Aug. 1), Laura Schwendinger’s Nonet (Aug. 8), a spoken performance of Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise (Aug. 11), Tania León’s Ritmicas (Aug. 15), Rebecca Clarke’s Viola Sonata (Aug. 17) and many more.

Inaugural Year of Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS Program—designed and led by co-artistic directors Renée Fleming and Patrick Summers
The 2020 season also marks the inaugural season of the Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS program, designed and led by Renée Fleming and Patrick Summers, artistic and music director of the Houston Grand Opera.

Fleming and Summers designed and will co-direct this unique program, which will include not only vocal training but also vocational advice, deep knowledge about the music business, audition coaching, networking and even financial planning. Auditions have been ongoing across the United States throughout 2019 to select students, and of those who qualified, Fleming has personally hand-picked 14 as Renée Fleming Artists—with whom she will work closely and on an individual basis, giving advice on every aspect of a singer’s career. The program has been built on the previous platform of the Aspen Opera Center, led for more than 30 years by Edward Berkeley, who taught Fleming herself as a student and who continues on as stage director. It also includes on its faculty opera luminaries such as soprano Carol Vaness and tenor Vinson Cole among a world-class team, individually selected by Fleming and Summers.

In addition to its popular Saturday Opera Theater Master Classes (now coached variously by Fleming, Summers, Berkeley and others), AOTVA will present two fully staged opera productions in Aspen’s historic and intimate Wheeler Opera House: Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” conducted by Summers and directed by Berkeley (July 16, 18 and 20); and Ricky Ian Gordon’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” conducted by Andy Einhorn (returning after his Aspen debut last summer) and directed by Louisa Muller (Aug. 20 and 22). Building on the popularity of last season’s cabaret performance, this season’s AOTVA offerings also will include An Evening of Cabaret: I’m in the Mood for Love, featuring the lyrics of Dorothy Fields and AOTVA students delivering delightful renditions of gems from The Great American Songbook (July 27); and the semi-staged concert presentation of “The Mother of Us All,” Vigil Thomson’s opera based on the life of Susan B. Anthony (Aug. 5).

One of the core tenets of the Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS is that its directors and faculty are themselves in the midst of extremely busy performing careers—and therefore connected in terms of expertise to every aspect of that world. Indeed, Fleming performs with music director Robert Spano and the Aspen Festival Orchestra on opening Sunday, singing a new song cycle composed for her by Kevin Puts, as well as the Moonlight scene and final scene from Richard Strauss’ “Capriccio” (July 5). Summers will conduct “The Magic Flute” (July 16, 18 and 20), as well as a program of Brahms, Beethoven, Julia Wolfe and Wagner with renowned pianist Lise de la Salle and the Festival’s all-student orchestra, the Aspen Philharmonic (July 22).

In addition to these thematic and operatic highlights, the 2020 season will feature seminal classical works from the core repertoire as well as exciting new works, and many familiar faces. Nearly 900 musicians gather in Aspen each summer, as close to 690 of the world’s best music students from all over the world join to make music with more than 200 top professional performing and teaching classical artists.

Superstar violinist Pinchas Zukerman returns to Aspen this year for a special event featuring his Zukerman Trio, which also comprises his wife Amanda Forsyth on cello and Angela Cheng at the piano (Aug. 12). The program will include Beethoven’s “Kakadu Variations,” and piano trios by Mendelssohn and Brahms.

Alumnus Leonard Slatkin returns to the podium July 12 in a program featuring pianist Behzod Abduraimov; as does alumnus James Conlon, to conduct Beethoven’s “Triple” Concerto (July 19). Audiences also have the opportunity to see such alumni favorites as Sarah Chang violin (July 26), Tengku Irfan piano (Aug. 21), Robert McDuffie violin (Aug. 13), Gil Shaham violin (July 31), Golda Schultz soprano (July 24) and Joyce Yang piano (Aug. 12).

Musicians making their guest artist debuts in Aspen this summer include cellist Nicolas Altstaedt (Aug 16), violinist Benjamin Beilman (July 19), alumna and soprano Yelena Dyachek (Aug. 23), alumnus and 2019 Tchaikovsky International Cello Competition winner Zlatomir Fung (July 26), bass Soloman Howard (Aug. 23), violinist Alexi Kenney (Aug. 18) and 18-year-old Russian pianist Alexander Malofeev (July 26).

Aspen Conducting Academy alumnus Roderick Cox also returns to Aspen for the first time since he was a student, taking the podium to conduct the Aspen Chamber Symphony in a program of Brahms (July 24), and John Storgårds makes his Aspen conducting debut July 31 in a program featuring alumnus and violinist Gil Shaham.


The AMFS is the United States’ premier classical music festival, presenting more than 400 musical events during its eight-week summer season in Aspen. The organization draws top classical musicians from around the world to this Colorado mountain retreat for an unparalleled combination of performances and music education. Many events are free, and seating on the David Karetsky Music Lawn and in the Music Garden is always free.

Nearly 700 music students from 43 U.S. states and 33 countries come each summer to play in five orchestras, sing, conduct, compose and study with 200 renowned artist-faculty members. Students represent the field’s best young talent; many have already begun their professional careers, while others are on the cusp.

Renowned alumni include violinists Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, Cho-Liang Lin, Robert McDuffie, Midori, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Gil Shaham; pianists Ingrid Fliter, Orli Shaham, Conrad Tao, Yuja Wang, Wu Han and Joyce Yang; conductors Marin Alsop, James Conlon, Leonard Slatkin, Robert Trevino and Joshua Weilerstein; composers William Bolcom, Philip Glass, David Lang, Augusta Read Thomas, Bright Sheng and Joan Tower; vocalists Jamie Barton, Sasha Cooke, Renée Fleming, Dawn Upshaw and Tamara Wilson; cellists Lynn Harrell and Alisa Weilerstein; guitarist Sharon Isbin; performer Peter Schickele; and bassist Edgar Meyer.

Ticket information

The AMFS offers the ultimate in flexibility for patrons with passes, the most convenient way to attend concerts. Passes are available at a variety of levels from maximum access and convenience to the best bargain.
Buy tickets and passes through the following:

Phone: 970-925-9042 (M-F, 10-4)
Harris Concert Hall box office opens for walk-up business on May 26 and opens seven days a week starting June 15.
Wheeler Opera House box office opens for walk-up business on June 30.

Aspen Music Festival and School
225 Music School Road, Aspen, CO  81611
970-925-3254 (administrative offices)


Robert Spano, Music Director

Alan Fletcher, President and CEO