The summer season in the region brings one of the highest concentrations of cultural activities and events between New York and Philadelphia. And the good news is that many of the offerings are free and open to the public.
So get ready to go formal or pull out a lawn chair because the summer arts season is in bloom.
The Princeton Festival is filling professional stages with two heavy-hitting musical works — one high drama and the other high comedy.
Giacomo Puccini’s famed 1903 opera “Madama Butterfly” arrives at McCarter Theater on Saturday, June 16, at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays, June 24 and July 1, at 3 p.m.
Festival founder and director Richard Tang Yuk conducts that cast featuring a busy international festival soprano Yulia Lysenko as the tragic Cio-Cio-San and international award-winning tenor Matthew White as her callous lover, Pinkerton. Tickets range from $45 to $150.
Meanwhile “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” with a score by Stephen Sondheim, brings comedy to Princeton University’s Matthews Acting Studio at 185 Nassau Street. A witty cocktail of ancient comedy (by the Roman writer Plautus) and American showbiz, the 1962 Broadway hit is under the helm of stage director, Broadway actor, and founder of the Dialect Lab of Princeton Michael Dean Morgan. Performances are Friday through Sunday, June 15 to 17, and then Thursdays through Sundays, June 21 to July 1. Tickets are $50 to $65.
Other more classically oriented Princeton Festival events include Princeton Festival Baroque Chamber Ensemble performances on Saturday, June 23, 5 p.m., at Princeton Abbey, 75 Mapleton Road; Princeton Festival Baroque Orchestra, Wednesday, June 27, at 7:30 p.m. at Miller Chapel, Princeton Theological Seminary, 64 Mercer Street ($15 to $40); and the Baroque Chorus and Orchestra, Saturday, June 30, at 7 p.m., Miller Chapel, Princeton Theological Seminary, 64 Mercer Street ($15 to $35). The festival also includes jazz with Peter and Will Anderson Quintet performing at McCarter Theater on Saturday, June 23, at 8 p.m. ($15 to $60).
And Japanese poet Mari Kashiwagi will present a free reading of her “butterfly” poems, new works created to complement the production of “Madama Butterfly.” The poet and her translator, Takako Lento, will also engage in a discussion. The program on Sunday, June 17, includes a light brunch at 11:30 a.m. and the reading and discussion from noon to 1 p.m. at the Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon Street.
For more information on the Princeton Festival: www.princetonfestival.org
McCarter Theater’s first Jazz in June series continues on Thursday, June 14, at 8 p.m., with Grammy-nominated pianist Christian Sands, bassist Eric Wheeler, percussionist Caio Afune, and drummer Jerome Jennings covering everything from swing to be-bop to Afro-Cuban. Then on Friday, June 15, at 8 p.m., look for the Fred Hersch Trio, featuring composer, bandleader, and innovator Hersch on piano, John Hebert on bass, and Eric McPherson on drums. Tickets range from $25 to $55.
For more on McCarter’s Jazz in June: www.mccarter.org/tickets-events/2017-2018-jazz-in-june/
The Princeton Chamber Concerts, one of the region’s longest-running summer musical traditions, returns with a four-part series of free events at Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium.
The Tuesday, June 26, opener (at 7:30 p.m.) features REBEL — Ensemble for Baroque Music. Formed in the Netherlands in 1991 and named in honor of the French Baroque composer Jean Fery Rebel (1666 to 1747), the quintet has attracted a following through public radio and its numerous recordings. The opening event is called “Irregular Pearls — Musical Treasures of the 17th and 18th Centuries.”
The other PCC events are Monday, July 2, at 7:30 p.m. with the Zora String Quartet, currently in residence at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and performing works by Haydn, Brahms, and contemporary Israeli composer Atar Arad; the Sunday, July 8, 3 p.m., appearance of the Poulenc Trio; and the Wednesday, July 25, 7:30 p.m., finale with the Daedalus String Quartet.
For more information: www.princetonsummerchamberconcerts.org
The Arts Council of Princeton is hosting a schedule of free Thursday night music events at the Princeton Shopping Center, 6 to 8 p.m. The Summer Courtyard Concerts series gets started on June 21 with the Philadelphia-based funk jazz Dirk Quinn Band.
The list of regional and guest groups continues as follows: June 28, Blawenburg Band; July 5, Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba presenting West-African Dance; July 12, jazz with DC Fusion; July 19, the Philadelphia Caribbean fusion group Trinidelphia; July 26, the Princeton-based R&B band BRIZ and the Revival; August 2, the region’s gospel and R&B-infused Grace Little Band; August 9, Latin American and Andean music from Eco Del Sur; August 16, the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based Octavia Blues Band; and August 23, Baltimore soul jazz performer Michael Austin.
For more information: www.artscouncilofprinceton.org or 609-924-8777.
Palmer Square in Princeton is presenting free Saturday noon to 2 p.m. Concerts on The Green with the following schedule: July 7, Strictly 60s; July 14, SundDog; July 21: El Kabong; August 4, Strictly 60s; August 11, Deni Bonet; August 18, Mr. RAY; and August 25, The Shantys.
For more information: www.palmersquare.com
Princeton University Carillon’s “Tune The Sky” returns for its 26th year of free Sunday, 1 p.m., concerts. Listeners can picnic on the grounds outside Princeton University Graduate School’s Cleveland Tower at 88 College Road West or just listen anywhere within around a mile radius.
The region’s one-of-a-kind series gets on its way on July 1 with the Treblemakers, featuring the duo created by friends, colleagues, and carillon soloists Janet Tebbel and Lisa Lonie, the university’s carillon resident performer, instructor, and concert coordinator.
The summer schedule follows with: July 8, Geert D’hollander, the director of carillon services at Bok Tower Gardens and the carillon composition teacher at the Royal Carillon School in Mechelen, Belgium; July 15, Philippe Beullens, Belgium-based carillon performer; July 22, Joanna Stroz, guest performer from Denmark; July 29, Hylke Banning, Dutch carillon musician.
And August 5, Lisa Lonie & Sycamore Muse Guitar & Mandolin Duo from Lansdowne, Pennsylvania; August 12, Tom Gurin, a performer, composer, and chair the Yale University Guild of Carillonneurs; August 19, Robin Austin, former Princeton University carillonneur; August 26, Anton Fleissner, carillon performer and former student of Robin Austin and Princeton University Chapel organist Eric Plutz; and September 2, Doug Gefvert, carillonneur of the Washington Memorial National Carillon and a sales representative of the Verdin Bell Company of Cincinnati, Ohio.
For more information: 609-258-7989 or www.princeton.edu/gradschool/studentlife/residential/gradcollege/directions
The 2018 New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Edward T. Cone Composition Institute returns to Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University with “Scores: New Orchestral Works” — a Saturday, July 14, concert of new works by four contemporary composers selected to participate in this annual collaboration between the NJSO and Princeton University Department of Music.
Featured in the 8 p.m. presentation are New York-based American composer Jonathan Cziner’s “Resonant Bells”; Harleysville, Pennsylvania, native composer, vocalist, Bang on a Can Summer Institute fellow, and current Princeton University Ph.D. in composition student Natalie Dietterich’s “Aeolian Dusts”; Houston-based composer and pianist Aaron Hendrix’s “Night Train”; and New York State native and Juilliard-trained percussionist performer and composer Brian Shank’s “Into the Rose Garden.”
The program also includes a selection from “Mnemosyne’s Pool” by Princeton-based composer and institute director Steven Mackey. St. Louis Symphony Orchestra music director and frequent guest conductor David Robertson conducts.
Tickets are $15 and include a free reception, featuring a “cone-inspired” flavor of ice cream from Princeton’s The Bent Spoon.
For more information: www.njsymphony.org/scores
The Westminster CoOPERAtive program in Princeton is offering free recitals, concerts, and master classes featuring an international group of young opera singers and accompanists.
Events include operatic aria concerts on Wednesdays and Fridays, July 4, 6, 11, 13, 18, and 20, at 7:30 p.m. in Bristol Chapel; art song recitals on Saturdays, July 7 and 14, and Thursday, July 19, at 7:30 p.m. in Bristol Chapel; and open Sunday master classes with CoOPERAtive artistic advisor Susan Ashbaker on July 1; Metropolitan Opera assistant conductor Joan Dornemann, July 9; and CoOPERAtive director Laura Brooks Rice, July 16. Classes begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Robert L. Annis Playhouse.
CoOPERAtive alumni Scott Purcell, baritone, and Brent Funderburk, piano, will also present a recital on Thursday, July 12, at 7:30 p.m. in Bristol Chapel. Westminster Choir College of Rider University is located at 101 Walnut Lane in Princeton.
For more information: www.rider.edu/arts
The Levitt AMP Trenton Music Series once again will fill Trenton’s Mill Hill Park with the sound of music, Thursdays, 5 to 8 p.m. The free concerts feature a mixture of Trenton, New Jersey, and national talents.
The shows start June 28 with Deal Casino from Asbury Park along with the Southern California indie-rock and pop group the Brevet.
The remainder of the season is as follows: July 5, noted Trenton-based jazz artist Doris Spears and South Carolina soft jazz musician Marcus Anderson; July 12, New Jersey rock group Kicking Sunrise performing with Asbury Park indie pop/folk artist Quincy Mumford; July 19, the Trenton-band Ladibug with the Philadelphia hip-hop/neo-soul group Hardwork Movement; July 26, Trenton blues guitarist Ernie White with the Providence-based blues group The Silks;
August 2, Flemington-based soul-rockers Nalain & Sarina appearing with the Los Angeles world music group ADAAWE; August 9, Trenton Children’s Choir and Trenton’s celebrated soul/funk/disco artist Sarah Dash; August 16, Kansas city alternative Latin group Making Movies; August 23, Trenton Central High School Orchestra and the Capital Philharmonic of New Jersey; and August 30, the Philadelphia funk band Swift Technique and the Brooklyn neo-funk group Ikebe Shakedown.
Mill Hill Park is located at the intersection of South Broad and Front streets. Free parking will be offered by the Trenton Parking Authority in the Liberty Commons Parking garage located on Front Street, just a few hundred feet from Mill Hill Park.
For more information: www.levittamp.org/trenton
The Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope has already launched its fifth season of professional summer theater at the venerable landmark theater on the river. Currently concluding its production of “An Act of God” on June 16, the schedule follows with the hit lullaby-of-Broadway musical “42nd Street,” running June 29 through August 4.
The popular musical based on the 1956 get together of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins, “Million Dollar Quartet,” takes the stage from August 10 through September 15. And there’s even a post-summer presentation: American playwright Paul Rudnick’s hit comedy “I Hate Hamlet,” November 8 through December 1.
Bristol Riverside Theater kicks off its annual Summer Music Fest series with “Unforgettable: A Tribute to America’s Greatest Songwriters,” June 14 through 24. The show features hits from radio, stage, and film, such as “Night & Day,” “Summertime,” and “The Pink Panther Theme.” Keith Baker leads the BRT Band and soloists Demetria Joyce Bailey, Philip Chaffin, Derrick Cobey, Elyse Langley, and Keith Spencer.
Next up are “Time in a Bottle,” July 12 through 22, featuring songs of the 60s and 70s, and “Broadway Summer Spectacular,” August 9 through 19), featuring hits from Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jerry Herman, and Leonard Bernstein. Wednesdays through Sundays, $30 to $87.
For more information: 215-785-0100 or www.brtstage.org
Princeton Summer Theater, a Princeton University regional summer theater tradition that started in 1968, is presenting four plays touching the human response to adversity and change.
The season opens with “Tick, Tick…Boom,” “Rent” creator Jonathan Larson’s pop rock autobiographical exploration of creating a hit play, June 21 through July 8. It’s followed by noted American playwright Wendy Wasserstein’s “Uncommon Women and Others,” July 12 through 22; Lillian Hellman’s “The Children’s Hour,” July 26 through August 5; and Paula Vogel’s “The Baltimore Waltz,” August 9 through 19.
Performances at the Murray Dodge Theater run Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m., and on select Wednesdays at 8 p.m. $24.50 to $29.50
For more information: 732-997-0205 or www.princetonsummertheater.org