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SPAC Cancels Its Classical Season For The First Time In Its 53-Year History

It was set to include performances by NYCB, Philadelphia Orchestra and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performing last summer. (Francesco D'Amico)

Even though the Capital Region is now on the cusp of reopening, that fact couldn’t save one of Saratoga Springs’ most iconic cultural events. On May 18, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) announced that, for the first time in the venue’s 53-year history, it would be cancelling its 2020 classical season because of concerns over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The news comes just two weeks after the performing arts center announced that it would be cancelling its annual Saratoga Jazz Fest—also a first in that festival’s 42-year history—and would be turning the two-day concert into a live-streamed event with the help of partner Caffè Lena.

The cancellation of SPAC’s classical season includes programming by its summer resident companies the New York City Ballet (NYCB); the Philadelphia Orchestra, which had a massive Beethoven 250th birthday bash planned, with performances of all nine symphonies; and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The venue’s summer season was also set to feature the popular “SPAC on Stage” concert series, as well as a special performance of Not Our First Goat Rodeo, a bluegrass/classical-inspired album with virtuoso, Grammy-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

“So much thought, care, heart and soul go into crafting and preparing for our summer season that we truly think of it as a love letter to our community,” says Elizabeth Sobol, SPAC’s president and CEO. “To find it necessary to cancel what would’ve been one of the most ambitious and artistically inspiring seasons to date is just gut-wrenching and inconceivable. But the indisputable truth is that even with our park setting and our 5,200 seats, it would be simply impossible to find a way to keep the artists and the community safe.”

To help cope with the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and a two-month, statewide lockdown, SPAC recently launched a virtual Learning Library, featuring original, digital content focused on arts and arts education. However, with the official cancellation of its summer season—effectively SPAC’s entire year of programming—the Spa City’s signature amphitheater faces losing millions in ticket sales and rental/sponsorship income. Sobol is encouraging those who already preordered tickets to consider donating all or a portion of their purchase. For fans who converts at least $25 of their ticket purchase into a tax-deductible donation, SPAC has pledged to donate two 2021 tickets to local first responders and healthcare workers. (Ticket donations can be made here.)

“SPAC’s leadership is committed to continuing to provide the kind of inspiring and transformative experiences for which SPAC is known and loved,” says Sobol. “Our dedication to art, artists and community is undimmed. If anything, we feel more galvanized than ever to serve as a sanctuary and cultural convener for our community during this time of uncertainty and darkness.”

SPAC also took the opportunity to announce dates for its 2021 summer schedule with the return of the NYCB, July 13-17; The Philadelphia Orchestra, August 4-21; and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, which will be coming back in August (dates to be determined).

Jeff Dingler
Jeff Dingler

Jeff Dingler is saratoga living's Senior Writer. He's a graduate of Skidmore College and a professional musician.

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