Named after Chautauqua Lake in New York State, where the first was held in 1874, Chautauqua adult education assemblies expanded and spread throughout rural America until the mid-1920s, when their popularity declined. Chautauquas brought entertainment and culture to a community with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day.
Chautauqua events are still going strong, and Mount Gretna, just east of Hershey, is the official home of Pennsylvania's own Chautauqua. Music at Gretna, established in 1977 primarily as a chamber music festival, also offers jazz and other non-classical fare in summer at the Mt. Gretna Playhouse.
Of interest to classical music lovers will be an all-Russian program Aug. 9, featuring pianist Joel Fan and the Russian Festival Chamber Orchestra. Fan is an American pianist known especially for his work with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road project, as well as his solo virtuosity and eclectic repertoire.
He'll solo in Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 35. Also on the program is Stravinsky's neo-classical Basel Concerto and Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings, among the most beloved and impassioned of all classical masterpieces.
A brunch at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 10 in the Mt. Gretna Hall of Philosophy will be followed by a concert by the Russian Festival Chamber Orchestra at noon. Tickets are $55, brunch and concert; $40, burnch only; $15 concert only.
•Music at Gretna, 7:30 p.m. Aug. 9, Mt. Gretna Playhouse, 200 Pennsylvania Ave, Mount Gretna (on Pennsylvania Route 117 off Exit 266 of the Pennsylvania Turnpike). Tickets: $23, $12; $10, ages 19-26; $1, 18 and under. 717-361-1508, http://www.gretnamusic.org
'Madame Butterfly' in Reading
On Friday and Sunday Aug, 8 and 10 at the Miller Center for the Arts in Reading, the Berks Opera Workshop will present a concert version of Puccini's "Madame Butterfly." The well-known opera, set in Nagasaki, Japan, in the early 20th century, premiered on Feb. 17, 1904 in Milan.
Although its opening night was a disaster because of insufficient rehearsal time, "Butterfly" since has become a staple in the repertoire and one of the most beloved of Puccini's works.
Berks Opera Workshop's presentation will be sung in Italian with English supertitles, and enhanced by projected scenery of original art. The opera workshop orchestra and chorus are conducted by Francine Black, who co-founded the company with her daughter Tamara in 2008. The opera workshop's mission is to bring live opera and opera education to Berks County and to provide young artists with training and performing opportunities.
The title role will be sung by soprano Tamara Black. Returning to the workshop is baritone Joshua Jeremiah, who brings experience from the New York City Opera, Seattle Opera, Glimmerglass and Wolf Trap Opera. Tenor Michael Morrow as Pinkerton, Kaitlin Bertenshaw as Suzuki and Jeremy Galyon as the Bonze round out the cast.
The opera workshop's featured young artist as Prince Yamadori is Zachary Luchette, who last year sang Amonasro in Verdi's "Aida" with the company. Others in the cast are Emma Henry, C.J. Hartung, Shannon Aloise and Catherine Miller.
•Berks Opera Workshop "Madame Butterfly," 7:30 p.m. Aug. 8, 3 p.m. Aug. 10, Miller Center for the Arts, 4 N. Second St., Reading. Tickets: $25, $35; $10, students with ID. 610-607-6270, http://www.berksopera.org
Allentown Band at Waldheim Park
On Aug. 12 the Allentown Band presents its 99th concert at Allentown's Waldheim Park. The band has performed at the park for more years in a row than any other venue, except West Park.
The concert, titled "Bands on Broadway," is full of popular classics from Broadway shows, musicals and movies. Conductor Ronald Demkee will lead the band through favorites that include "Phantom of the Opera," "Les Miserables," "Marry Poppins," "Porgy and Bess" and more.
Soloist is Jason Ham of the U.S. Military Academy Band and a Yamaha recording artist, on euphonium. He'll play "Harlequin" by Philip Spark and "Zorita" by James Burke.
The concert is rain or shine as the venue is a completely covered amphitheater. Homemade apple dumplings and ice cream will be available for donation.
•Allentown Band, 7 p.m. Aug. 12, Waldheim Park (off Emmaus Avenue on South Hall Street), Allentown. Free-will offering.
Philadelphia Orchestra at Saratoga
Since 1964, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in upstate New York has been the summer host for both the New York City Opera and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Its acoustically ideal amphitheater in the heart of Spa State Park has, for nearly 50 years, been the go-to location in the Hudson Valley for diverse artistry from chamber music and jazz to rock, pop, opera and even the acclaimed Saratoga Wine & Food Festival.
Enjoy the concerts in the comfortable amphitheater or on the center's sloping lawn, perfectly suited to fully view the stage. As at Tanglewood in the Berkshires, picnicking with friends while enjoying the show is a special part of the experience.
The Philadelphia Orchestra appears at Saratoga through Aug. 23 with some interesting programs on tap. On Aug. 7 Today it's "An Evening on the Rhine" when Bramwell Tovey conducts the orchestra in a program of Beethoven, Mahler and Strauss. Pianist Jeremy Denk is the soloist in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 in a program that also includes the Egmont Overture, Mahler's "Blumine" and Strauss' Suite from "Der Rosenkavalier."
Spend an evening with Yo-Yo Ma on Friday Aug. 8, when Tovey again leads the orchestra in a program featuring the renowned cellist in Tchaikovsky's "Variations on a Rococo Theme" and "Andante Cantabile." Also on the program is Delius' "A Song of Summer" and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5.
On Saturday August 9, the orchestra heads for the Big Top in "Cirque de la Symphonie," when aerial flyers, acrobats, contortionists, dancers and jugglers perform mind-bending feats over the heads of the musicians. It's all professionally choreographed to classical masterpieces and popular contemporary music.
Cristian Macelaru conducts a program that includes the "Carnival Overture," Spanish Dance No. 1 from "La vida breve," the "Ritual Fire Dance" from "El amor brujo," "Flight to Neverland" from "Hook," "Dance of the Tumblers" from "The Snow Maiden," and more.