The stars shine at the OSM Classical Spree

Richard Burnett

Montréal’s seventh annual OSM Classical Spree celebrates classical music in a festive and laid-back five-day marathon of more than 30 affordable concerts lasting from 45 to 60 minutes, featuring 500 artists from 10 different nations around the world. The festival is a great way to discover classical music and new talent at free and ticketed concerts from August 29 to September 2, 2018.

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The Arabian Nights

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 29 opener on the Esplanade Financière Sun Life outside Olympic Stadium features Nagano conducting the OSM performing Rimski-Korsakov’s 1888 symphonic suite Scheherazade, which is based on One Thousand and One Nights, also known as The Arabian Nights. The OSM will be joined by Cirque Éloize to interpret this journey to the heart of Middle-Eastern legends.

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.


Family-Oriented Concerts

The OSM Classical Spree Festival is a great way for parents to introduce children to classical music and the concert hall experience.

Fourteen-year-old Alexandra Sicard plays Little Red Riding Hood in the intergenerational classic performed by Kent Nagano and the OSM at the Maison symphonique de Montréal on September 1. The concert will feature works by Bartók, Beethoven, Bizet, Gounod, Messiaen, Prokofiev, Ravel, Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky.

Children will also enjoy Opera Candy: The Delicious Adventures of Hansel and Gretel, the French musical version of the story of Hansel and Gretel that is ideal for children aged 3 to 5.


Chamber Music Concerts

The festival’s chamber music series is an opportunity to discover musicians in a more intimate setting, such as Grammy-winning violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja who will perform the poetic Pierrot Lunaire for voice and small ensemble – a work that had a profound influence on the history of music – on September 1 in the Cinquième Salle at Place des Arts.

World-music lovers will enjoy the sounds and virtuosity of Alexandru Sura on the cimbalom—the “gypsy piano”—typical of Eastern European music, in The King of Cimbalom, September 1 in the Piano Nobile.

Another discovery for music-lovers will be the Classical Music of the Middle East concert given by three internationally-acclaimed masters of their instruments, Nazih Borish on the oud, Didem Basar on the kanun, and Joseph Khoury on the darbuka, on August 31 in the Piano Nobile.

Free at the Classical Spree

The OSM Classical Spree has a full slate of free programming to help bring classical music to the masses.

Free activities, workshops and concerts at Place des Arts and neighbouring Complexe Desjardins include screenings of the family-friendly musical tale of Peter and the Wolf, as well as a Metropolitan Opera broadcast performance of Madame Butterfly by Puccini, both at Théâtre Maisonneuve, Argentinian tango with École Las Piernas and the ParaTango Quartet, performances by Architek Percussion, Ensemble Saxologie, Blù Bambù, Katcor Quartet and Les Petits chanteurs du Mont-Royal as well as several youth orchestras.

Click here for a full listing of all the free programming.

OSM Classical Spree Festival runs from August 29 to September 2, 2018. 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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