Classical music flowers at Desert Song Festival
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Classical music flowers at Desert Song Festival

Collaboration by local groups with national guest artists in a celebration of opera & art song

Forget the monsoons - for the next few weeks, the desert will be bursting with song.

The Third Annual Tucson Desert Song Festival begins Thursday and continues through Feb. 1. The stated mission of the nationally recognized festival is “to elevate Tucson to a world class destination for classical voice and music lovers by presenting three weeks of performances and events celebrating classical voice at its highest level.”

The festival is a collaboration by multiple local performance groups and organizations with national guest artists in a celebration of opera and art song. Concert venues include the Tucson Music Hall and Leo Rich Theatre, Green Valley’s Valley Presbyterian Church, Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Catalina Foothills High School and the University of Arizona.

An exploration of vocal styles and settings

The Festival opens with a free program hosted by University of Arizona Associate Professor of Music Kristin Dauphinais and performances by UA vocal students. “Song: From Salon to Stage, the Journey of a Genre,” begins at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday in Crowder Hall at UA’s School of Music.

The festival then shifts downtown to the Tucson Music Hall for concerts Friday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. when the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and the TSO Chorus present Poulenc’s powerful “Gloria” and guest artists Katie Van Kooten, Heidi Grant Murphy and Angela Brower perform the final trio from the Richard Strauss opera “Der Rosenkavlier.” Individual tickets for this concert range from $28 to $84.

Sunday will also offer an art song concert sponsored by the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music at Leo Rich Hall at 3 p.m. It features soloists from the Ravinia Institute’s professional studies program performing Britten’s “A Charm of Lullabies,” as well as works by Liszt, Fauré, Mahler, and Copland. Individual tickets for this concert are $30; $10 for students.

More, more music

Other events in the Festival include the Tucson Guitar Society at UA’s Holsclaw Hall with guitarist David Leisner and tenor Rufus Müller on Jan. 22; Tucson Chamber Artists and soloists performing Orff’s popular “Carmina Burana” Jan. 23-25 at various locations; UA Presents’ concert with mezzo-soprano Susan Graham and pianist Malcolm Marineau featuring a rare performance of Berlioz’s “La Mort d’Ophélie” on Jan. 29; and Arizona Opera’s performances of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin,” Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. The Tucson Symphony also performs Mahler’s “Das Leid von der Erde” on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 to close out the Festival.

Tickets for individual concerts are available through the sponsoring organizations.

The University of Arizona’s School of Music will also conduct master classes with Festival guest artists, as well as lectures and recitals, free to the public.

The Festival also sponsors a songwriting competition and recital for K-12 students, with cash prizes to top winners. That free recital will be Saturday, Jan. 17 at 2:30 pm in Holsclaw Hall.

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Click image to enlarge

Nadine Sierra accompanied by Kevin Murphy at the TCC Leo Rich Theater during the 2014 Tucson Desert Song Festival.

If you go

  • What: The third annual Tucson Desert Song Festival
  • Where: Various locations
  • When: Jan. 15 through Feb. 1
  • Tickets: Available through individual sponsoring organizations. Visit Tucson Desert Song Festival for more information, including a complete list of performances, venues and links.