August 03, 1981 12:00 PM

The lazy, hazy days of culture unbuttoned

The U.S. is a summer arts festival. There is hardly any place in the country these days that doesn’t boast its own picnic of culture. For millions, warm weather means a rousing round of “Take me out to the bal-let,” or the symphony, or the theater

Some events have become institutions. In the Northeast that means Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony’s summer place in the Berkshires, in Lenox, Mass. The Boston’s 45th season is studded with standout programs including a powerhouse rendition of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony and performances of sellout soloists such as pianist Alicia de Larrocha and tenor Jon Vickers, plus a string of notable conductors to assist Boston maestro Seiji Ozawa. A few miles away, the perennial dancefest at Jacob’s Pillow flashes a highlight Aug. 4-8 with the on-point debut of Ballet Today, a new company of young international dance marvels such as 16-year-old Nancy Raffa. Farther north, there are more modest performing-arts festivals in Bretton Woods, N.H. (through Aug. 31), on the campus of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine (July 31-Aug. 2) and the fifth Down East Jazz Festival in Camden, Maine (Aug. 21-22) In Manhattan, the New York Philharmonic goes outdoors for its park concerts July 29-Aug. 15, and up in Westchester, on an estate in Katonah, the Caramoor Festival presents classical concerts through Aug. 23.

The Detroit Symphony continues its 17-year tradition of moving to its summer home in Rochester, where it will be performing in the Meadow Brook Festival through Aug. 23. The Chicago Symphony has moved also, but only as far as the lush suburb of Highland Park for the 46th Ravinia Festival, through Aug. 29. Special emphasis is being given this year to music of French Impressionism. Among the solo heavyweights: flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal. St. Louis residents can take their pick of four festivals, though almost everyone shows up for the three-day Frontier Folklife in late August, convening under Saarinen’s gleaming riverfront arch.

Moving West to the Colorado Rockies, the Aspen Music Festival is filling the mountains with melody through Aug. 23. There are concerts nightly in the amphitheater, and the resident Aspen Music School runs nonstop master classes and seminars with the likes of Misha Dichter

Does California have festivals? Does Ronald Reagan like jelly beans? To begin with, there are the Hollywood Bowl concerts in Los Angeles, which this year run through Sept. 12. The 17,000-seat amphitheater’s stage will accommodate visitors such as Zubin Mehta and Sherrill Milnes (and everything from Gershwin to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, complete with artillery) The L.A. Philharmonic will display pyrotechnics of its own with symphonies by Beethoven and Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks. In San Diego, the big news is the 32nd National Shakespeare Festival, through Oct. 4. Actors Cliff Robertson and Cleavon Little started here, in the old Globe Theater in Balboa Park that was modeled after London’s original. Besides performances of King Lear and Measure for Measure, there will also be a Restoration comedy, The Country Wife, with Tovah Feldshuh playing the title role. In Laguna Beach, everyone’s an actor during the Pageant of the Masters, a nightly sideline to the daytime Festival of Arts (through Aug. 24) that dares amateurs to pose in the outdoor Irvine Bowl as works of art, tableau vivant style. Masterpieces mimed in the past have included the Venus de Milo and the Dutch masters. The living “statuary” always must beware of the birds.

San Francisco, whose “summer” operafest was over before summer arrived, offers some one-of-a-kind events outside the city. At the Paul Masson winery in Saratoga, Ramsey Lewis, Carmen McRae and others fill the amphitheater with jazz and blues till September.

In the Northwest, Ashland, Oreg. is mounting its summer Shakespeare Festival as it has since 1935. The indoor-outdoor shows will continue through Halloween, and take in repertory by Harold Pinter, Arthur Miller and others, as well as the Bard. The Seattle Opera, meanwhile, is again staging the complete cycle of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen through Aug. 2. With performances in German and in English, this Ring is fit for a Douglas fir forest.

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