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SAITO KINEN FESTIVAL

Soundtrack of the summer: Seiji Ozawa

by Benjamin Woodward

Under the baton of Seiji Ozawa, some of Japan’s top classical musicians gather each year for roughly a month of opera and orchestral concerts. The Saito Kinen Festival showcases an opera, usually something a little offbeat, and this year it’s Tchaikovsky’s “Pikovaya Dama” (“The Queen of Spades”), based loosely on Pushkin’s tale of greed, obsession and the supernatural. The opera, an uneasy mix of full-blooded romanticism and rococo pastiche, has long been overshadowed by the composer’s own “Eugene Onegin,” so this is a good chance to hear what is arguably the more sophisticated of the two operas.

Also check out: The main concert event, also conducted by Ozawa, features Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique” and Ravel’s crowd-pleaser “Pavane pour une infante defunte.” The big draw here, though, is the new song cycle by Henri Dutilleux written for the opulent voice of American soprano Rene Fleming. Consider also the Toru Takemitsu Memorial Concert, with works by Takemitsu and other less familiar local composers.

The setting: All venues are quickly and easily accessible from picturesque Matsumoto’s train station in Nagano Prefecture.