The stars shine at the OSM Classical Spree

Richard Burnett

Montréal’s sixth annual OSM Classical Spree Festival celebrates classical music in a festive and laid-back four-day marathon of more than thirty 45-minute concerts featuring great artists from Canada and around the world. The festival is great way to discover classical music and new talent at free and ticketed concerts from August 10 to 13.

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Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…

The OSM’s famed Grammy-winning artistic director, Maestro Kent Nagano, takes great pride in the big free outdoor concert that launches the OSM Classical Spree Festival (better known by locals by its French name, La Virée Classique).

This year’s August 10 opener on the Esplanade outside Olympic Stadium features Nagano conducting the OSM and charismatic Canadian soprano Marie-Josée Lord as Bess in a 90-minute concert version of the Porgy and Bess, Gershwin’s classic of American opera.

Tens of thousands of classical music lovers as well as those learning to appreciate the genre attend the opener each year, many bringing their lawn chairs to see a concert that truly reflects the festival’s spirit of democratization of classical music.


Free and Family-Oriented Concerts

There are many free activities scheduled throughout the festival, notably The Kora: Fascinating Instrument of the Mandinka (August 12), showcasing the 21-string lute-like instrument of the griots (poet-musicians or storytellers) of West Africa.

Another free show of note is the family-friendly musical tale of Peter and the Wolf (August 12). Follow the adventures of the different characters, each represented by a particular instrument. You’ll meet Peter (strings), the wolf (horns) and grandfather (bassoon).

Cinema Under the Stars

There will be free screenings on the Esplanade of Place des Arts of the classic films West Side Story (August 11 at 8 pm) –  in the 1980s Nagano was a student of the musical’s legendary American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein – and The Barber of Seville: The Opera (August 12 at 8 p.m.).


Constellation of International Stars

While La Virée Classique features many up-and-coming musicians, it also features marquee names, such as American Grammy Award-winning classical guitarist Sharon Isbin playing the famous Zorba’s Dance by composer Mikis Theodorakis, in the August 12 Journey to the Mediterannean concert that will  also feature Nagano conducting the OSM: and another Grammy winner, South Korean lyric coloratura soprano Sumi Jo, will sing celebrated arias in her August 12 concert From Puccini to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon at the Maison Symphonique.


Other highlights include Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy: A Hymn to Universal Brotherhood (August 12) and the much-anticipated closing concert A Chorus of Voices (August 13) with chorus master Kent Nagano conducting amateur choirs in the Maison Symphonique, performing works by Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn and Mozart, among others.

In all, Maestro Nagano will conduct a total of 10 concerts in 4 days – the outdoor opener Porgy and Bess, as well as nine indoor concerts at the Maison Symphonique.

OSM Classical Spree Festival / La Virée Classique ticket prices start as low as $10 (for youth). For more information, visit

Richard Burnett

Richard Burnett, blogger

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

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