Forget the wintry chill; it's Tanglewood time

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LENOX — The spotlight for the 2019 Tanglewood season swings to the Tanglewood Music Center, the festival's world-renowned academy.

The parent Boston Symphony Orchestra plans big doings as usual, but two TMC events rank as biggest of the big. On July 27 and 28, BSO music director Andris Nelsons will lead the student orchestra and noted professional soloists in a three-part concert performance of Wagner's complete "Die Walkure," the second opera in his "Ring" Cycle.

The season will also see the launch of the Tanglewood Learning Institute, offering public as well as TMC educational programs. The center will be based in the newly opening Center for Music and Learning, a four-building, $40 million complex serving as a TMC rehearsal and performance venue and, year-round in the offseason, community use.

On the BSO side, the season, announced Thursday in Boston, features a Nelsons-led performance of the monumental Verdi Requiem. Nelsons will also conduct the BSO in the world premiere of Kevin Puts' "The Brightness of Light," a multimedia work based on letters between artist Georgia O'Keeffe and photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Soprano Renee Fleming and baritone Rod Gilfry, for whom the piece was written, will be the soloists. Video projections are by Wendell Harrington.

Fleming, a favorite at Tanglewood since her BSO debut there in 1991, has been named the Koussevitzky Artist for the season. The O'Keeffe-Stieglitz letters go from the pair's initial flirtations in 1915, when she was a young, aspiring artist, to his death in 1946.

Nelsons will be in residence during the month of July, leading 13 programs and taking part in Tanglewood on Parade. On July 5, he will open the BSO season with Mahler's Symphony No. 5 and Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 22, with Emanuel Ax — another Tanglewood favorite — as soloist. There will be 20 BSO programs in all.

The "Walkure" performance is an echo of the BSO's 2017 Tanglewood performance of "Das Rheingold," the introductory "Ring" opera. The only undertaking comparable to "Walkure" in recent Tanglewood history is James Levine's two-part BSO performance of Berlioz's huge opera "Les Troyens" in 2008. This year's focus on the school follows last year's centenary remembrances of Leonard Bernstein, its proudest graduate.

The student orchestra rather than BSO got the "Walkure" assignment because of "the long preparation time needed for such an undertaking and, above all, the tremendous training opportunity it offers the fellows," BSO artistic administrator and Tanglewood manager Anthony Fogg said in an email.

Recalling that Levine did various Wagner programs with the TMC Orchestra during his tenure as music director, Fogg said they "were always prized experiences for our young musicians. We're sure that this project will be the same, given Andris' credentials in Wagner," which has included the "Ring"Cycle.

The "Walkure" cast features Christine Goerke as Brunnhilde, a role she will sing at the Met in its performances of "Walkure" next year. Other soloists are James Rutherford as Wotan, Simon O'Neill as Siegmund, Amber Wagner as Sieglinde, and Ain Anger as Hunding. The performances - one act each - will take place in the Shed on Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon and evening, July 27 and 28.

On the popular side, James Taylor and his all-star band will return on July 3 and 4. American Public Media's popular "Live from Here" broadcast returns on June 15 with Chris Thile as host. Other Popular Artist programs will be announced in the new year.

Other season highlights include three Boston Pops programs celebrating the music of John Williams. Celebrity violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter will perform selections from her recent recording of Williams's music. Keith Lockhart will lead a film presentation of "Star Wars: A New Hope," and Williams will introduce Film Night, with David Newman conducting.

"I'm very happy with the balance of the 2019 Tanglewood season - there's a nice mix of familiar and new, I hope, with some debuts which will be well received," Fogg said. And yet to come, he added, is the "big announcement" about the Learning Institute programming.

In celebration of conductor-composer Andre Previn's 90th birthday year, the Emerson String Quartet and Renee Fleming will perform the world premiere of his and playwright Tom Stoppard's "Penelope." It is described as "an opera of sorts." With the BSO, Mutter will perform Previn's Violin Concerto, "Anne-Sophie," composed for her.

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma returns as BSO soloist and a chamber player (with Emanuel Ax and violinist Leonidas Kavakos). He ventures alone onto the stage of the 5,000-seat Shed on Sunday evening, Aug. 11, to perform Bach's six Suites for unaccompanied cello. The program is part of his "The Bach Project," in which he plays the six suites in one sitting in 36 locations on six continents. With the venture, he seeks "to put culture in action by bringing people and organizations together to address pressing social issues."

A range of BSO and Ozawa Hall soloists also includes violinist Joshua Bell, pianists Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Yefim Bronfman and Paul Lewis, and trumpeter Hakan Hardenberger, Nelsons' frequent collaborator. Among visiting ensembles are the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America (with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato), The Knights (with violinist Gil Shaham) and the Venice Baroque Orchestra.

Baritone Thomas Hampson and the Beyond Liberty Players will offer a program of song, poetry and narration about the founding and defining of America. The program originated at the Glimmerglass Festival,

In the Festival of Contemporary Music, a special program will feature works by TMC composers to accompany silent film presentations. BSO artistic partner Thomas Ades returns as festival director.

Public sale of tickets begins on Sunday, Feb. 10, at tanglewood.org and 888-266-1200.


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