SPAC Announces Virtual Beethoven 2020 Festival

Saratoga Performing Arts Center announces the continuation of SPAC REIMAGINED with a virtual Beethoven 2020 festival, which will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Highlighting the virtual festival are special events including an exclusive Beethoven recital with pianist JONATHAN BISS (AUG 21), the World Premiere of TESTAMENT (AUG 22), a theatrical production in collaboration with Saratoga Shakespeare Company, and a Caffè Lena “Stay Home Sessions” concert with Philadelphia Orchestra musicians (AUG 15). Launching on August 5, what would have been opening night of The Philadelphia Orchestra at SPAC, is the Beethoven 2020 virtual platform featuring recordings of all nine Beethoven Symphonies, a lecture series on the Beethoven String Quartets by Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS) and additional curated content available for the month of August for free at  

Celebration highlighted by exclusive JONATHAN BISS virtual concert; World Premiere of TESTAMENT in Collaboration with Saratoga Shakespeare Company, and Caffè Lena “Stay Home Sessions” with PHILADELPHIA ORCHESTRA Musicians 

“SPAC’s planned presentation of the complete Beethoven symphony cycle with The Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin was slated to be some of our most important programming of the season. Instead, we are honoring the great composer with a season long virtual festival and a completely new online platform with all nine symphonies, an exclusive concert with Jonathan Biss, a special lecture series, our gorgeous SPAC REIMAGINED ballet shorts set to his music and much more. It is our hope that this curated collection will still provide a profound and deeply moving musical experience — just in a new format,” added Sobol. 

The reimagined 2020 season also includes previously announced community events such as SPAC’s partnership with COESA to present the healing arts with Tai Chi and guided Meditation classes, the SPAC REIMAGINED ballet shorts featuring New York City Ballet, The Philadelphia Orchestra and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the virtual Freihofer’s Jazz Fest Stay Home Sessions and the on-going SPAC Learning Library. In addition, the Center has opened up its campus to various arts-related activities for children and young people.  

All Beethoven festival events are free and will be accessible virtually on Select events will also be screened on SPAC’s grounds to members only (limited to 50 people). Visit for additional details.  

SPAC will launch NEW Beethoven online platform on August 5, coinciding with The Philadelphia Orchestra’s previously scheduled residency, with recordings of all nine Beethoven Symphonies, a lecture series by Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and much more 

Beethoven 2020 Festival Events:  

AUGUST 8 @ 8PM: CMS Front Row: Summer Evenings

The first “Summer Evenings” event of the season, this screening will feature HD performance videos from the CMS archive, introductory interviews offering a look into artists’ lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a live Q&A with the featured artist.  

AUGUST 14 @ 8PM: Beethoven Symphony Watch Party with The Philadelphia Orchestra * 

As The Philadelphia Orchestra suspended concerts and events in response to COVID-19, on Thursday, March 12 a special performance to an empty Verizon Hall was streamed live to audiences throughout the Philadelphia region and around the world. This program, featuring Beethoven’s fifth and sixth symphonies, was set to be featured at SPAC as part of the Beethoven2020 celebration on this date.  

AUGUST 15 @ 8PM: Caffè Lena “Stay Home Session” with Philadelphia Orchestra musicians 

This SPAC exclusive virtual concert, filmed at Caffè Lena, will feature Philadelphia Orchestra musicians Hai-Ye Ni (cello), Rachel Ku (viola) and Yu-Ting Chen (violin) with a special program dedicated to Beethoven. The performance will be available for free on Caffè Lena’s YouTube page.  

AUGUST 17 (Part I) & AUGUST 18 (Part II) @ 7PM: Symposium on Beethoven’s Fidelio, Presented by Opera Saratoga 

Beethoven’s only opera took ten years, inspired four different overtures, and underwent two major revisions and a name change before convincing Beethoven that he was not a man of the theater. Presented by Opera Saratoga, Fidelio is an extraordinary piece, and a testament to Beethoven’s core beliefs: liberty, justice, personal sacrifice, and heroism. This special two-part event will be led by Dramaturg Cori Ellison, who will guide an exploration of French rescue opera, Beethoven’s blueprint for Fidelio; and will also look at the recorded legacy of Fidelio, and the challenges of Beethoven’s vocal writing, in a panel with some of the most distinguished interpreters of the opera’s notoriously difficult roles, including soprano Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet and tenor Paul Groves. The symposium will also feature short performances by Opera Saratoga’s Festival Artists and alumni. Advance registration required:  

AUGUST 21 @ 8PM: Jonathan Biss: In Concert & Conversation

For the past decade, Jonathan Biss has immersed himself in the music of Beethoven, especially the piano sonatas, solidifying his place as one of the renowned interpreters of the composer’s music. With his original performance at SPAC having been curtailed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Biss has carefully curated a special program recorded live from his home in NYC that is exclusive to the Saratoga Springs audience. He will guide viewers through an exploration of Beethoven’s prolific sonatas for solo piano including a performance of two of his favorite works.  


Presented in collaboration with Saratoga Shakespeare Company
Holding its World Premiere on August 22, Testament is an audio, theatrical production that explores Ludwig van Beethoven as a young composer and his struggle and despair as he begins to lose his hearing. Testament follows Europe’s most famous composer as he leaves Vienna and plans his suicide, emerging with what is considered one of the greatest classical music pieces the world has ever known: the Eroica Symphony. A compelling and inspirational story of the healing power of art, this new work by British playwright Damian Lanigan is commissioned by Saratoga Shakespeare Company and co-presented by SPAC. The piece will be available on and also on 

*this event will also be held as a member-only lawn screening.  

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