The season starts June 28th and includes more than 100 performances of live radio shows, orchestras, as well as popular artists like Josh Groban, Yo-Yo Ma and Tanglewood first-timer Jason Alexander. Mark Volpe is the BSO’s managing director. He says people will be surprised by the wide skill set of the well-known television sitcom actor.
“He’s a great song and dance man,” Volpe said. “Everyone knows him from Seinfeld, but he’s a big Broadway talent. He’s down a lot of shows and brings a lot of that presence to the stage at Tanglewood.”
The season marks the return of Tanglewood regular James Taylor for an Independence Day celebration on July 3rd and 4th. Taylor’s wife Kim, who performs with her husband on occasion and is a Trustee of the Boston Symphony, is also looking forward to her husband reclaiming his hometown stage.
“We are both so excited that he is going to be performing again,” Taylor said. “This past year he took it off. He took a kind of sabbatical to finish a record he’s writing. It’s his first studio album in over ten years.”
With the year hiatus from Tanglewood, Taylor may have some new songs to offer.
“That’s the idea,” Taylor said. “If he can get them in good shape and finish them by then, I hope he’ll not only perform them, but I hope they’ll be on a record by then.”
The season also marks the first for BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons. The summer lineup builds upon the success of last year’s orchestra-accompanied showing of West Side Story by offering the Boston Pops as accompaniment to The Wizard of Oz on the big screen in the shed. Volpe says modernized orchestra events like those featuring renowned film conductor and Tanglewood favorite John Williams bring in a younger audience.
“He is one of the voices of his generation,” Volpe said. “It’s fun to see all those young faces on the lawn. It’s a visual age so having them hear the Boston Pops and watch clips from some of the great movies of our time.”
“I’m always so happy to see 9,000 to 10,000 people buy tickets to a radio show,” Volpe said. “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! had their biggest paid audience in their history at Tanglewood last summer. Peter Sagal was sort of blown away by it. The show was fantastic and so I can only imagine the crowd will be bigger this year. Garrsion [Keillor] has been coming back to Tanglewood for 15 years. I think that’s one of the places he enjoys the most.”
Volpe says more than 300,000 people attended shows at Tanglewood last season. That included new faces and old friends both on the stage and in the audience.
“Part of the inspiration of Tanglewood is that you have people at Tanglewood who have been coming to concerts for 50, 60 years who are hyper-sophisticated and yet people getting exposed to classical music or an orchestra for the first time at Tanglewood,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a challenge to program for a variety of tastes, but ultimately that’s the joy of Tanglewood. You have different types of people, congregating and celebrating music and nature out in a place that’s unique in the world.”
As a long-time resident of the Berkshires, Taylor agrees Tanglewood has transformed in her lifetime and certainly since it became the summer home of the BSO in 1937.
“I’d like to think it’s a lot more accessible to young people,” Taylor said. “Many more families come to the lawn with young children. You can come on a Sunday and read The Berkshire Eagle, The New York Times or the Times Union and spread out on the lawn. It’s more relaxed. It’s not quite the event in terms of formality that it used to be.”
This season marks the 50th anniversary for the Boston Symphony Chamber Players and 20 years of Ozawa Hall. The season runs till the end of August. Tickets go on sale January 26th.