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Minnesota Orchestra Announces Plans for Sommerfest 2016, Presented by U.S. Bank


Summer programs at Orchestra Hall include classical concerts led by Sommerfest Artistic Director Andrew Litton, spotlighting several world-renowned soloists; chamber music; Verdi’s opera Otello; and Live at Orchestra Hall events

Sommerfest 2016 at Orchestra Hall runs from July 8 to July 23

Click here for a complete schedule of Sommerfest 2016 (PDF)  /  Browse online schedule

The Minnesota Orchestra today unveiled the lineup for summer concerts which includes Sommerfest 2016, the beloved urban summer music festival, running from July 8 to July 23 and presented by U.S. Bank. Multi-talented Sommerfest Artistic Director Andrew Litton reunites with the Orchestra for their 13th Sommerfest together in a series that offers performances by internationally-acclaimed soloists including pianist André Watts, a program inspired by dance and a complete concert performance of Verdi’s opera Otello. Litton will appear on the podium or at the piano in all but one of the festival’s classical programs, including concerts that showcase a variety of chamber ensembles from within the Orchestra. In addition to the newly-announced events of Sommerfest, the Orchestra’s year-round series Live at Orchestra Hall features five previously-announced programs that fall during the summer months.

Guest soloists for Sommerfest classical concerts include Chinese pianist Zhang Zuo, who makes her Minnesota Orchestra debut performing the music of Liszt, and piano legend André Watts, an audience favorite who returns to Minneapolis to perform Edwin MacDowell’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Accomplished violinist Nicola Benedetti and cellist Leonard Elschenbroich star together in two different programs—first performing Brahms’ Double Concerto for both a Thursday Symphony in 60 concert and a Friday evening concert; and one day later presenting Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, which also features Litton at the piano.

New this season is a concert exploring music originally composed for use with choreography, comprising works by Copland, Liszt, Saint-Saëns, Ginastera and Ravel, all of which were inspired by or created for the art of dance. Additional Sommerfest programs feature musicians from every section of the Orchestra in one Sunday afternoon Chamber Concert and two “6 O’Clock Serenade” concerts—each of these including some of the finest chamber repertoire from European and American composers. Near the end of the festival, Orchestra trumpet player Charles Lazarus takes the stage along with the full Orchestra to perform his own music and some tropical favorites in a concert called A Night in the Tropics. The traditional finale will be a complete concert performance of Verdi’s tragic opera Otello, with a cast that includes Barbara Shirvis, Carl Tanner, Stephen Powell and Eric Barry.

Sommerfest is preceded by four Symphony for the Cities concerts from June 27 to June 30, 2016. These performances, which are free and open to the public, feature the Minnesota Orchestra performing at outdoor venues in Hudson (Wisc.), Minneapolis, Plymouth and Winona.

Live at Orchestra Hall events on the summer 2016 calendar include a jazz-filled evening with The Duke Ellington Orchestra and vocalist Patti Austin, who sings a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald; the Orchestra Hall debut of The New Standards trio with the Minnesota Orchestra; vocalists Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana, who sing a selection of Broadway love songs; and singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III.

"Sommerfest provides another musical hit-packed summer," says Litton. "Brahms, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky played by the Minnesota Orchestra with world class soloists, a night of popular ballet music, wonderfully eclectic chamber music programs and ending with the greatest opera Verdi ever wrote, Otello. Please join us for our best summer yet."

Sommerfest tickets are available in advance for current Minnesota Orchestra subscribers, groups of 10 or more, or when purchased in a Create Your Own Series package starting on March 11, 2016. Individual tickets go on sale beginning on April 6, 2016. Packages and tickets are available via the Orchestra’s website at, at the Orchestra Hall Box Office, at the Minnesota Orchestra Administrative Office, and by phone at (612) 371-5656; for hours and more information, refer to the section at the conclusion of this announcement.

"The Minnesota Orchestra is one of our state’s treasured traditions and Sommerfest is the highlight of the summer for many in our home market," says Phillip Trier, Twin Cities Market President for U.S. Bank. "We are once again proud to partner with the Orchestra to bring this year’s festival to life and to delight audiences all across our community."                

Over the course of the festival, audiences are invited to enjoy an array of food and beverage options, served outdoors on Peavey Plaza, while listening to free live music. Among the vendors participating in this year’s Sommerfest are Kramarczuk’s, Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream and Northern Fires Pizza.


  • Andrew Litton: Leading every step of Sommerfest

This summer, Andrew Litton is at the helm for his 13th season as artistic director of Minnesota Orchestra’s Sommerfest. Over the course of the festival’s concerts, Litton is either on the conductor’s podium or at the keys of the piano (or both) in all but one Sommerfest classical program. He conducts all of the full-Orchestra concerts, including the season finale concert performance of Verdi’s Otello. On piano, he performs chamber music by Brahms and Rachmaninoff on July 9; as part of Poulenc’s Sextet on July 10; and alongside soloists with full orchestra on July 16 for Beethoven’s Concerto for Piano, Violin, Cello and Orchestra.

  • Guest artists shine: Single, Double and Triple Concertos

Sommerfest 2016 brings some of the world’s finest concert artists, both new and seasoned, to the stage with the Minnesota Orchestra. First, on July 8, young Chinese pianist Zhang Zuo plays her Minnesota Orchestra debut in Liszt’s Totentanz for Piano and Orchestra. The next evening, July 9, piano superstar André Watts, who first soloed with the Orchestra in 1964, performs Edward MacDowell’s Second Piano Concerto. In one of the Orchestra’s casual Symphony in 60 concerts on July 14, violinist Nicola Benedetti, born in Scotland of Italian heritage, and German cellist Leonard Elschenbroich team up to play Brahms’ incredible Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra—they reprise their performance the next evening on a full concert and the following day return to take on another grand work, adding Andrew Litton on piano for Beethoven’s Triple Concerto.

  • Classical to contemporary: Chamber music for all ensembles

The Orchestra continues its tradition of Sommerfest chamber concerts, offering audiences three opportunities to hear Orchestra musicians perform together in smaller, more intimate ensembles. These performances include one Sunday afternoon Chamber Concert on July 10 and two evening “6 O’Clock Serenade” programs, offered as a prelude to 8pm performances—admission to 6pm concerts is free to patrons with a ticket to the 8pm performance on the same day. In the first evening program, on July 9, Litton performs the music of Brahms with Principal Cello Anthony Ross. The July 10 chamber concert features Poulenc’s Sextet for Piano and Winds, plus selections by American composers Miguel del Aguila and John Harbison. The second 6 O’Clock Serenade concert, held on July 16, will feature members from nearly every section of the Orchestra.

  • Opera finale: Verdi’s Otello in concert

On July 23, a performance of a treasured opera caps the festival, continuing a tradition popular among generations of Sommerfest audiences. Litton leads a stellar cast of singer-actors in a concert performance of Verdi’s Otello, which is based loosely on Shakespeare’s tragic play Othello. The complete opera was last performed by the Minnesota Orchestra more than two decades ago, led by then-music director Edo de Waart. Performers include tenor Carl Tanner as Otello, soprano Barbara Shirvis as Desdemona, baritone Stephen Powell as Iago and tenor Eric Barry as Cassio.

  • Live at Orchestra Hall: Concerts continue throughout summer season

The Orchestra continues its Live at Orchestra Hall concert series through the summer season, bringing great artists to Minneapolis for performances at Orchestra Hall. On June 24, the Duke Ellington Orchestra pays tribute to the music of Duke Ellington for the first half of the evening; then vocalist Patti Austin joins them onstage to share the music made famous by the great Ella Fitzgerald. The New Standards, an eclectic trio based in Minneapolis, will debut at Orchestra Hall in a performance with the full Orchestra on July 2. Vocalists Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana sing the music of Broadway along with music director Ted Sperling at the piano in a cabaret-style program on July 10, in a concert that was rescheduled from earlier in the 2015-16 season. Closing out the summer season in his first-ever performance at Orchestra Hall is Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III, who gives a solo show on July 29.


Sommerfest tickets are available in advance for current Minnesota Orchestra subscribers, groups of 10 or more, or when purchased in a Create Your Own Series package starting on Friday, March 11, 2016. Individual tickets go on sale beginning on Wednesday, April 6, 2016, online at and by calling 612-371-5656 (612-371-5642 for subscriptions) or 800-292-4141. Packages and tickets can be purchased in person at the Orchestra Hall Box Office, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis (open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and beginning two hours before all ticketed performances); and at the Minnesota Orchestra Administrative Office, International Centre, 5th floor, 920 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis (open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). For more information, call 612-371-5656, or visit For packages, call 612-371-5642 or visit For groups of 10 or more, call 612-371-5662.

All programs, artists, dates, times and prices subject to change.

U.S. Bank is the sponsor of Sommerfest 2016.

The Star Tribune is the Minnesota Orchestra’s media partner for the 2015-16 season.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.



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Communications Office

Minnesota Orchestra
1111 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403
Phone: 612.371.5600
Fax: 612.371.7170

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