Three concerts in one weekend or how I almost fell asleep at the Opera (and it wasn’t frowned upon)

Tanglewood music center in Massachusetts Berkshires has been part of our summer weekends for over 10 years now.  This is as long as our younger kid Viv can remember!  We love everything about Tanglewood – diverse summer programming, that you can dress up or down, that you can enjoy the concerts while relaxing at the beautiful lawn with the mountains in the distance, and most importantly, that you are witnessing the world’s greatest musicians making music in front of you.

Tanglewood, located in Lenox, MA (in its 85th season in the summer of 2023), is summer home of Boston Symphony Orchestra.  It is also one of the major summer music festivals in the world – with Boston Pops and other popular artists complimenting Boston Symphony (and international guest star musicians)’ classical  pieces – in a variety of styles (see this year’s full line-up here). In addition, Tanglewood is world’s renown center for advanced musical studies.

There are concerts and talks happening almost every day during Tanglewood summer (June through August) and historic Koussevitsky Shed (erected in 1938) is hosting most weekend performances Friday through Sunday; adjacent famous Tanglewood LAWN is where we typically choose to enjoy the concerts during our weekend visits with family. (Ozawa Hall was added in 1994; there are other buildings on property housing welcome center, museum, restaurants and newly added (2019) Linde Center for Music and Learning).

Koussevitzky Shed

During our annual Tanglewood pilgrimage last weekend – the forecast did not look promising but we intended to make the most of the weekend (note that they rarely cancel the concerts entirely, but the Shed is not suited to protect against thunderstorms, so it may happen).   On our way to the Berkshires on Friday afternoon, we decided to purchase the Shed tickets for the group instead of our typical Lawn seating- for the evening performance of “Two Pianos: Who Could Ask for Anything More”? honoring Gershwin (and his era)  (tickets started at $44).  In fact $44 (plus fees) got us some decent seats in the Shed. The rain was in the air (and even announced) but never happened until later that night.  We were a little bit sad that we cancelled the picnic but oh so excited to be a part of the festive crowd in the Shed.

The mood in the Shed was even more elevated than usual- turns out it was due to the special pre-show benefit happening that night.  Note that evening show ticket holders could also attend the prelude concert in Ozawa hall that night (we were driving after work so were late for that).

You really could not ask for “more” last evening at the “Two Pianos” evening accompanied by Boston Pops (led by Keith Lockhart). The audience was treated not only to a great music by two extraordinary pianists-classically trained Jean-Yves Thibaudet and a master of American “Songbook” Michael Feinstein– but were made a part of a great conversation! There were stories and experiences and connections -we all felt like we were a part of! -contributing to a magical Tanglewood evening!

Two Pianos Evening honoring music of Gershwin (photo courtesy: BSO)
Koussevitzky Shed during evening performance last weekend

Children’s (under 18) tickets are free for the lawn (adult’s lawn tickets are $24 this summer for BSO concerts). Note that children 5 and under are not permitted inside the Koussevitzky Music Shed and Seiji Ozawa Hall during performances; there is NO age restriction for the lawn (see more Tips for attending Tanglewood with kids).

The next morning, our friend Tanya made second adjustment to the Plan- knowing that Sunday concert is probably out of the picture for us due to the impending heavy rain, she decided to attend a Saturday morning rehearsal  (usually at 10 30am) of the Sunday program.  It was Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3 and Orff’s cantata Carmina Burana (with Tanglewood Festival Chorus and Boston Children’s Chorus).

The rest of us enjoyed morning outing to Clark Art Institute in Williamstown.

We scheduled our “flagship” picnic concert (with kids in attendance) for Saturday evening’s 8 pm performance. Andris Nelson conducted Boston Symphony in Mozart’s opera Cosi fan Tutte (“Women are like that or the School for Lovers”).  It was sung in Italian with English supertitles.

For this performance, we decided to have a dual experience.   We enjoyed our picnic at the Lawn with family but then headed to the Shed for actual performance (we thank BSO for offering us the tickets).  Our friends were able to purchase the tickets on the day of the performance.  They stayed for second Act of the Opera as well, but Vit and I, still jetlegged from our trip to Israel a week prior, had to retire back to the lawn- for more comfortable sitting/lying down position.  Opera-going needs training and stamina – it was 3.5 hours long (including one intermission) and we did not make it home until after midnight. I am not very familiar with the genre, but Tanglewood lawn is a perfect place to be introduced to the opera (so come and bring your kids)!

Enjoying our pre-show picnic at Tanglewood

As to Cosi fan Tutte – the signing and music were mesmerizing, while the plot (arguably “misogynistic”) – not so much so although it encouraged further reading and good conversations and teaching moments in the car on the way back to our hotel- which make our Tanglewood experiences even more meaningful!

Cosi Fan Tutti by Boston Symphony (photo courtesy: BSO)

For Tips to attend Tanglewood concerts with family, check out my article.

For our other cultural picnics suggestions in the Berkshires, check this post.

Viv with friends at the Tanglewood picnic last year

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