Summer Times

Dressed-down concerts

With a winter that never seemed to end, it's only right that summer should start early. Classical music summer offerings continue to grow in Pittsburgh, as organizations use the "off-season" to dress down concerts, experiment with programming and offer performances in alternative venues. (And sometimes there's food, which is always a good thing.)

It heats up with the first Pittsburgh Festival of New Music, presented by Alia Musica and certain to challenge your notions of so-called classical music. The festival begins today with Robert Ashley's opera "Perfect Lives," being set in venues throughout the city (starting in Market Square at 11 a.m.). The composer and pianist Frederic Rzewski will give a recital 8 p.m. Saturday, following a concert of local ensembles at 2 p.m. Other performances are listed below.

Chamber Music Pittsburgh's casual concert series Just Summer lets down its hair for the second year at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. Performances feature string quartet ETHEL, pianist-composer David Cutler with the trio Project Pinata, and C Street Brass. ETHEL will take on adaptions of Ennio Morricone's score for the film "The Mission" and works in honor of the 20th anniversary of Jeff Buckley's album "Grace." Mr. Cutler and Project Pinata aren't to be pigeonholed, with a genre-fusing concert sure to offer a musical tour of the world. Finally, Carnegie Mellon University resident ensemble C Street Brass will offer everything from classical, gospel and jazz to tango and electronic music with DJ Jakeisrain. Admission includes one free drink and free food.

The Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble's season includes world premieres by composer Ted Hearne, Ryan Anthony Francis and University of Pittsburgh lecturer Roger Zahab. The four-concert series closes with a repeat performance of "Drunken Moon," which PNME describes as "one of the most popular programs in our history." It includes Schoenberg's "Pierrot Lunaire" and Kieren MacMillian's semi-staged piece "Drunken Moon." Violinist Nathalie Shaw will perform a recital of works by local composers and U.S. premieres.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra brings in some big names (or at least tributes to big names). Highlights include performances by crooners Ben Folds and Boyz II Men, tributes to music by Queen, Marvin Hamlisch and the Bee Gees, free concerts at Hartwood Acres and South Park, and more.

And Opera Theater SummerFest presents a recital with Pittsburgh native and mezzo-soprano Marianne Cornetti, full productions of "The Merry Widow," "The Fantasticks" and "Ariadne on Naxos" and several smaller events.

Chamber Music Pittsburgh “Just Summer” series: All events 7:30 p.m. with pre-concert mixer at 6:30 p.m. at Kelly Strayhorn Theater, East Liberty. $25 in advance, $28 at the door includes one drink and food. “Grace,” ETHEL (string quartet) and Q&A with musicians, June 19; “Swinging With a Blindfold,” David Cutler with Project Pinata and guest violinist Erika Cutler, July 17; “No Limits,” C Street Brass with Jakeisrain, July 24.

Opera Theater of Pittsburgh SummerFest: All events at Twentieth Century Club, Oakland. Prices vary, packages available. An Evening with Marianne Cornetti, July 10, 7:30 p.m.; Marianne Cornetti master class, July 15, 7:30 p.m.; “The Merry Widow,” July 11, 19, 27, times vary; Late-Night Cabaret, July 11-12, 17-19, 25, times vary; “The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” July 12, 19 and 26, 11 a.m.; “The Fantasticks,” July 12-13, 17, 25-26, times vary; Recital Series, July 13, 16, 20, 23-24, times vary; “Ariadne on Naxos,” July 18, 20, 26, times vary; “A New Kind of Fallout,” July 22, 7:30 p.m.; “Happy Hour!” July 26-27, 10 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. More at or 412-326-9687.

Pittsburgh Festival of New Music: All events at New Hazlett Theater, North Side, unless noted. Today: “Perfect Lives” (performed by Varispeed collective), episodes in surprise venues throughout the city, starting at 11 a.m. in Market Square, free; Bugallo-Willams piano duo, 7:30 p.m., music by Kurtag, Williams, and others, $10. Friday: Alia Music Pittsburgh, soprano Jamie Jordan, Duo Scordatura, 2 p.m., music by Berio, Heap, Moe, Haas, $15. Saturday: Pittsburgh Soundpike, Freya String Quartet, Trillium Ensemble, Black Orchid String Trio, Directions Duo, ELCO, Alia Musica, and members from CMU Contemporary Ensemble, $15; Rzewski plays Rzewski, 7:30 p.m., $15. Sunday: “Inuksuit” by John Luther Adams, Lake Elizabeth Park, North Side, 2 p.m., free; Duo Scordatura, Clocks in Motion, 5 p.m., free. Packages available. More at

Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble: All events at 8 p.m. at City Theatre, South Side, unless noted. “The Lost Traveler,” works by Bresnick, Puts, Xenakis, Globokar, July 11 and 12; bass-baritone Timothy Jones, works by Hearne, Clyne, Feldman, Kiersten and more, July 18 and 19; Wednesday showcase series with violinist Nathalie Shaw, works by Stock, Zahab, Celo and Beranger, July 23, 7:30 p.m.; guitarist Mattias Jacobsson, works by Francis and Cerrone, July 25 and 26; “Drunken Moon,” works by Schoenberg and MacMillian. Tickets, $12-$35, $40-$90 for subscriptions, free for first-time visitors. More at

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra: All events at Heinz Hall, Downtown, unless otherwise noted. Prices vary. “The Ben Folds Orchestral Experience,” June 17, 7:30 p.m.; “The Music of Queen” with conductor/arranger Brent Havens, June 24, 7:30 p.m.; “Play It Again, Marvin,” world-premiere Marvin Hamlisch tribute produced by Kevin Cole, June 28, 8 p.m.; free concerts conducted by Fawzi Haimor with American music and other classical favorites, July 5 at 8:05 p.m. at South Park and July 6 at 8:15 p.m. at Hartwood Acres; “Gladiator” live with Clara Sanabras, July 12, 7:30 p.m.; “Stayin’ Alive” Bee Gees tribute, July 17, 7:30 p.m.; Music of John Williams, July 19, 2:30 p.m.; Boyz II Men, July 23, 7:30 p.m.; A Symphonic Celebration, conducted by Larry Loh with music by Dvorak, Brahms and Rachmaninoff, July 25, 7 p.m.; “Triple Play!” with conductor Christian Capocaccia and pianist music by Ravel, Rossini, Williams and more, August 2, 7:30 p.m. More at or 412-392-4900.

Also of interest: Met Live in HD Summer Encores. “Rigoletto” June 18, “La Rondine” June 25, “Otello” July 19, “The Enchanted Island” July 26. Screenings at Cinemark Robinson Township and Cinemark 17 Pittsburgh Mills, Frazer.

Elizabeth Bloom: or 412-263-1750. Twitter: @BloomPG.

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