Europe’s best classical music festivals
From lakeside castles to British country piles, experience the most unmissable moments in this year’s classical calendar
Savonlinna Opera Festival, Finland
Held in the Olavinlinna Castle, which sits alongside a beautiful lake, the Savonlinna Opera Festival boasts one of the most idyllic settings of any European cultural festival. The Opera Festival's new production for 2018 is Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades, which will be performed as part of a line-up including Madama Butterfly and Verdi's Otello, as well as two dramas staged by the Italian Puccini Festival. The Savonlinna Opera Festival also opens the stage for its own choir, mainly consisting of music students from across Europe training to be opera singers, as well as the Opera Festival Orchestra.
6 July–4 August; operafestival.fi
Istanbul Music Festival, Turkey
The most established classical music event in Turkey, the Istanbul Music Festival has been running for 45 years and, over the decades, has hosted a number of prestigious orchestras and ensembles. As well as offering plenty of opportunity for visitors to immerse themselves in the classics, it prides itself on commissioning new works from both internationally renowned composers and new talent. Highlights for 2018 include performances from the Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra, a series of chamber music concerts and the Women Stars of Tomorrow project, supporting young female musicians.
23 May–12 June; muzik.iksv.org
Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, France
First established in 1948, the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence gained national attention the following year when it put on a production of Don Giovanni, which was subsequently kept on the programme for the next 24 years. Since then it has offered a diverse range of events spanning opera, orchestral, chamber and vocal works. This year celebrating its 70th anniversary, performances to look forward to include Mozart's The Magic Flute and Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos among others. Free live screenings will also be broadcast outdoors and in several other cities in the surrounding region of France.
4–24 July; festival-aix.com
Glyndebourne Festival, UK
Glyndebourne's 1,200-seat indoor auditorium is set within a beautiful estate in the picturesque countryside of the South Downs. Established in 1934 by John Christie and his opera singer wife, Audrey Mildmay, it has since become one of the most celebrated opera houses in the world, commissioning new works and presenting high quality operatic performances. For 2018, six operas will run across the three months of the festival, including Madama Butterfly, Saul, Der Rosenkavalier and more.
Image by Sam Stephensen. 19 May–26 August; glyndebourne.com
Gottingen International Handel Festival, Germany
Founded in 1920, the Gottingen International Handel Festival is the world’s oldest festival for Baroque music. Addressing the works of George Frideric Handel each year under a different theme, the festival presents not only original works, but also modern ones. This year's edition is centred on the concept of 'conflicts', and includes a series of talks alongside recitals, sing-along services and family-friendly concerts.
10–21 May; haendel-festspiele.de
Innsbruck Festival of Early Music, Austria
Drawing on Innsbruck's rich history as the birthplace of German-speaking Europe's first operatic theatre, an early music concert was first performed in 1963 and continued annually until the Innsbruck Festival of Early Music was established in 1976. Naturally grown from the area's rich musical history, the festival puts on historically informed performances from the Renaissance, Baroque and early Classical periods. This year, Cavalli's Gli amori d'Apollo e di Dafne and Saverio Mercadante's Didonne abbandonata are must-sees, with various concerts taking place across the city's churches, town hall and Schloss Ambras castle.
Image by Thomas Schrott; 17 July–27 August; altemusik.at