A quarter-century in, the Savannah Music Festival is still growing and evolving.
The recently announced 2015 fest, set for March 19 through April 4, will introduce the first full-scale opera in festival history, expand the number of programs and feature the most international acts to date.
Here’s a glance at the diverse 26th edition:
- Classical: On the opening weekend, the SMF will present, in co-production with with the Savannah Voice Festival, two Puccini operas, “Suor Angelica” and “Gianni Schicchi.” The one-acts will feature the Savannah Philharmonic under Eugene Kohn with baritone Mark Delavan and sopranos Verónica Villarroel and Micaëla Oeste.
In celebration of the 80th birthday of baritone and and Savannah Voice Festival co-founder Sherrill Milnes, the three music organizations join forces not only in presenting the two nights of opera but also a chamber orchestra concert with Daniel Hope & Friends and a concert with singers from the voice festival.
SMF Associate Artistic Director Hope has helped curate a 1o-concert chamber music series, including the Emerson String Quartet, the Brooklyn Rider string quartet and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Recitalists include pianists Murray Perahia, Stephen Hough, Paul Lewis and Nikolai Lugansky as well as guitarist Milos Karadaglić. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, conducted by music director Robert Spano, also will appear, with cellist Lynn Harrell performing the Dvorák Cello Concerto.
- Jazz: Highlights include the Marcus Roberts Trio; the Warren Vaché Quintet on a bill with the Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet; Dianne Reeves; trumpeter Sean Jones’ quartet sharing a bill with vibraphonist Warren Wolf and Wolfpack; the Julian Lage-Jorge Roeder duo; the annual late night jam, with the Sean Jones Quartet, Wycliffe Gordon and friends; and concerts celebrating the music of Bud Powell, Benny Carter and Louis Armstrong. Kurt Ollmann appears in the original cabaret production “Come Rain or Come Shine.”
Blues, gospel, R&B: Mavis Staples; Heritage Blues Orchestra; and Irma Thomas joins the Dirty Dozen Brass Band for a New Orleans Soul & Brass Party.
- Acoustic and rock: Bluegrass ensembles will include Balsam Range; the Boxcars; Jerry Douglas’ Flatt & Scruggs project the Earls of Leicester; and Hot Rize. The Band Courtbouillon (featuring Steve Riley, Wayne Toups and Wilson Savoy) hosts the Cajun Dance Party, while Buckwheat Zydeco and his group are featured at the Zydeco Dance Party. The McIntosh County Shouters perform slave shout songs from the Georgia coast. A three-night run of western swing features the Hot Club of Cowtown and Asleep at the Wheel. String music of the American South and South African string music meet when Dirk Powell and Riley Baugus share the stage with Vusi Mahlasela.
A “Southern Troubadours” program presents Joe Ely, Ruthie Foster and Paul Thorn. Songwriters Josh Ritter, Lucinda Williams and Rosanne Cash also play individual concerts. Folk-rock artists Shovels & Rope share a bill with one-man band Shakey Graves. The Barr Brothers perform alongside Apache Relay; and the Wood Brothers play an outdoor show with the AJcq, no periods Ghent Band.
- Global roots music: Mandolinist Mike Marshall performs Brazilian music with his group Choro Famoso, composer-jazz pianist Clarice Assad and her ensemble Off the Cliff. The Taiko drum troupe Kodo brings its “One Earth: Mystery” project. Persian spike-fiddle player Kayhan Kalhor and banjo ace Béla Fleck perform separate shows with Brooklyn Rider; Irish band Lúnasa returns; Adonis Puentes and the Voice of Cuba Orchestra host the Latin Dance Party; and Ukrainian drum and song ensemble DakhaBrakha closes out the festival.
More pop and rock concerts will be announced in early February. Tickets: 912-525-5050, www.savannahmusicfestival.org.