Opening Night, July 31st: Fireworks at the Orchestra

The Philadelphia Orchestra is returning to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) for its 53rd season at the venue. July 31st, this year’s opening night, will be complete with fireworks.

One of new CEO Elizabeth Sobel’s first major decisions was to move the closing night fireworks and 1812 Overture based program from closing to opening night of the Philadelphia’s residence. This choice has helped their season lift off with energy and excitement, and allows conductor Stephane Deneve to lead the Tchaikovsky, a style in which he excels.

Conductor Stephane Deneve

This year, the program will open with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade, an epic programmatic symphonic suite based on One Thousand and One Nights. The piece is famous for its kaleidoscopic fairy-tale sounds painting the images of pirate ships, princes, princesses, and finally a dramatic shipwreck surrounded by a festival in Baghdad. The music is playful, engaging, and a longtime audience favorite.

This will be followed by the Sibelius/Ravel Valse triste/La Valse, a charming piece accompanied by the internationally acclaimed PHILADANCO – a dance group famed for its innovative choreography blending African American-based dance with ballet, jazz, and modern. This group replaces the usual pas-de-deux performed by remaining members of the New York City Ballet. Although it has been sad to see the NYCB’s involvement with SPAC shrink over the past decade, PHILADANCO is what pushes this program into “must-see” territory. The dance group brings much-needed energy and diversity to a night of celebration, and it will be interesting to see how their iconic style interacts with such traditional late romantic music.


Finally, the night will close with the great 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky. SPAC uses actual cannons, as specified by Tchaikovsky himself, to accent the closing melody. These cannons are historic replicas from Revolution-era America and are fired by reenactors in full costume. If you arrive early, be prepared to interact with some revolutionaries! Following the performance, there will be the annual fireworks provided by Price Chopper, and finally, live jazz and dancing at the Freihofer’s Live at the Jazz Bar series within the Hall of Springs. The jazz bar is entering its third year and is a great way to mingle and celebrate the triumphant return of the Philadelphia Orchestra while supporting local jazz musicians. Definitely, a fun way to end the night!

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