2016 Season Reviews & Articles

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David Shengold, Opera News (or PDF), June 26, 2016

“… remarkably tight musical results under Richard Tang Yuk’s baton, and a largely strong cast that would have honored many larger venues.”

“Alex Richardson possesses a fine, attractive tenor, able to provide both ringing and floated tone as needed.”

“[Caroline] Worra is always a committed performer musically and dramatically…. Stephen Gaertner seemed ideally voiced for Balstrode…. Eve Gigliotti’s Auntie, as clear in diction and in theatrical intention as a good Broadway actress, with a striking, personal mezzo timbre.”

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OperaMetro.com, June 29, 2016

“Conspicuous in this Princeton Grimes is the meticulousness of the overall preparation.”

“[Alex] Richardson had heft of voice, technique and good range to handle the vocal demands and the dramatic expression as well to create a complex character. Bravo!”

“Caroline Worra[‘s] … clear and silvery voice shined throughout. Particularly lovely was the quartet ‘In the gutter’ in Act II with Worra, Eve Gigliotti (Auntie) and Jessica Beebe and Sharon Harms (the Nieces).”

“Kathryn Krasovec’s Sedley was appropriately tight, proper, and corporate … Krasovec was unbending in her pursuit of Grimes. Casey Finnigan as Boles was also monomaniacal as moral reformer, as vigilante, and as an amourous tippler who seeks to sip at the cups of the Nieces. Both were impressive characters.”

“Stephen Gaertner was first rate as Balstrode.”

“Ned Keene, sung by Sean Anderson. Keene is billed as ‘apothecary and quack,’ but as much to the point he’s a dandy, a flirt, an enabler, also charming. Anderson fit the role to perfection.”

“All singers were first rate and completely committed to their performances.”

“Tang Yuk’s tempi were measured, all instruments clearly articulated, and all entrances precise, all together. It was exhilarating to hear Britten’s score in such an acoustically alive theater as the Matthews.”

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Andrew Moravcsik, Opera Today, June 27, 2016

“… a very effective and moving production.”

“Stephen Gaertner …[brought] world-class vocal glamor and appropriately sober restraint…”

“Eve Gigliotti’s clear diction, resonant voice, and sympathetic manner brought Auntie, the madam with a heart of gold, to life before us.”

“Veteran mezzo Kathryn Krasove vivid[ly] caricatured the sleuthing laudanum-addicted busybody Mrs. Shepley.”

“[Caroline Worra’s] approach was as intensely expressive as any I have heard, an impression strengthened by fine diction and bright vocal timbre.”

“I have never heard [the chorus and orchestra] sound so good in this challenging venue. The orchestra played as if inspired….”

“Overall, this was one of the best productions I have heard at the Princeton Festival, which goes from operatic success to operatic success.”

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Toby Grace, Out in Jersey, June 27, 2016

“… the costumes by Marie Miller reproduced this era with the Festival’s usual meticulous attention to detail. The women’s costumes in particular hit just the right note of the style and quality….”

“… superbly atmospheric lighting design by Norman Coates….”

“With a primary cast of 15, backed up by a chorus of 35, this production could produce choral music of real power….”

“Particular mention must be made of the wonderful performance given to us by Caroline Worra as Ellen Orford. Ms. Worra’s clear and brilliant voice was given further life by her excellent acting in this role of sadness and defeated love. Alex Richardson in the title role not only sang magnificently but gave us a character who was obsessed – perhaps a bit insane but very believable.”

“… we do want to mention Stephen Gaertner as Balstrode, Joseph Barron as Swallow the lawyer, Kathryn Krasovec as Mrs. Sedley and Casey Finnigan as Bob Boles, all of whom gave exceptional performances.”

“Every year the festival is fresh, creative and offers unexpected marvels. … When it comes to the performing arts it is by far and away the best thing going in our part of this planet.”

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Bob Brown, Princeton Packet, June 23, 2016

“You don’t have to be an opera aficionado (I’m certainly not) to be profoundly moved by this powerful production.”

“The large, stellar cast performs brilliantly, one and all.”

“[Alex Richardson as Peter Grimes] has several sustained solos, varying from eerily lyrical to piercing and intense.”

“Like Mr. Richardson, [Caroline Worra] has an exceptionally secure vocal command, from pianissimo to a sustained forte at the top of her range.

“The Princeton Festival Orchestra, directed by Richard Tang Yuk, is tight and thrilling. All the colors in Britten’s score are there.”

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Robin Birkel, Princeton Found, June 23, 2016

“Opera fans will most likely purchase tickets because they know the quality of a Princeton Festival production, and for the opportunity to watch a quality opera locally. Those who are not fans of opera might want to reconsider this year for a few reasons …

– written in English … [so you] can concentrate on the story
– a full production … [to] satisfy your entertainment needs
– addresses our heartlessness towards human beings … which will resonate”

“[Director Steven] LaCosse continues to deliver a premium city experience in the suburbs. It’s no wonder The Princeton Festival won Discover New Jersey Arts’ 2016 People’s Choice Award for Favorite Opera Company (The Marriage of Figaro).”

“Conductor Richard Tang Yuk … communicated his interpretation of the music well to the audience. It stirred emotions from within – sometimes somber and other times uplifting….”

“Chorus Master Gregory Geehern enabled the chorus to reach their potential as their voices enveloped our souls and brought us into the story. Répétiteur/Coach Stanley Fink also did an amazing job ensuring all had perfect pitch and pronunciation. Set Designer Jonathan Dahm Robertson cleverly brought a fishing village to life in Princeton. The multiple levels of reconfigured ramps, fishing nets, and ropes just needed the scent of salty sea air to transform the audience to Suffolk. Costume Designer Marie Miller paid attention to detail from the fishermen and officers of the court, to the schoolmistress and Auntie’s ‘nieces’.”

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Ross Amico, The Times of Trenton, June 22, 2016

“The festival’s artistic director, Richard Tang Yuk, oversaw an orchestra that delineated every crystalline line of the composer’s lucid orchestration.”

“Steven LaCosse’s stage direction – which was at its most inventive in conveying and sustaining the action through the First Act storm – was owned and inhabited by an ensemble cast without a weak link.”

“Richardson and Worra head up a uniformly solid cast, many of them veterans of past festival undertakings.”

“On the one hand, there are quietly thrilling passages in which singers perform totally unsupported by the orchestra – they are left “out there” for a long time – and the listener is held rapt, as if witnessing a trapeze act. … On the other, there are moments when the principals join together with the chorus (excellent, as always) to blow the audience back on its heels.  Kudos to chorus master and assistant conductor Gregory Geehern.”

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Elaine Strauss, U.S.1, June 22, 2016

“‘Peter Grimes’ enveloped the audience, virtually transporting listeners to the stage and making them part of the community where Grimes lived. This was not just a presentation; it was an experience.”

“Conductor Richard Tang Yuk commanded both sound and silence to make the most of the tension between individual and community.”

“Director Steven LaCosse devised individual characterizations that performers realized both dramatically and vocally.

“All the vocalists, including the chorus, met the musical challenges of this demanding piece.”

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Nancy Plum, Town Topics, June 22, 2016

“With the lead character’s sanity always in question, Peter Grimes has a bit of Frankenstein, The Perfect Storm, a kangaroo court and a great deal of complexity, all of which was brought to life by the Princeton Festival in a production led by conductor Richard Tang Yuk….”

“Mr. Richardson (who will be appearing with the Metropolitan Opera next season) and Ms. Worra each did not miss a beat in vocal roles which required supreme confidence to sing either unaccompanied or against accompaniment that is deliberately of no help harmonically. … This couple was well matched, and at times controlled the score themselves without conductor or orchestral accompaniment.”

“Several very strong characters were found in mezzo-soprano Eve Gigliotti, singing the role of Auntie, and the two nieces, sung by Jessica Beebe and Sharon Harms.”

“Strong male secondary leads included Stephen Gaertner (Balstrode), Casey Finnigan (Bob Boles), and Joseph Barron (Swallow). Chorus master Gregory Geehern compiled a full-bodied chorus of strong operatic voices which was solid throughout, and added poignancy to an Act 2 beach scene and precision to a complex close to closing scenes in Acts 2 and 3.”

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David Patrick Stearns, The Inquirer, June 21, 2016

“… the Princeton Festival’s current production of Peter Grimes, one of the few seen outside major opera houses, shows that expensive stars and scenery aren’t necessary.”

“Unquestionably, this Peter Grimes, which is repeated Thursday and Sunday, is worth traveling for….”

“Physical and vocal gestures were all of a piece (important in Britten, more than high notes), with Alex Richardson coming into his own in the title role. … Particularly in his final mad scene, he forged his own realistic and utterly affecting way.”

“Eve Gigliotti (Auntie), Jessica Beebe (First Niece), and Sharon Harms (Second Niece) established themselves as important figures on the village landscape.”

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Linda Holt, Broad Street Review, June 20, 2016

“… Britten’s opera has not been performed professionally in our region [Philadelphia] since a 1987 production at the Opera Company of Philadelphia. (Most of this production’s musicians are drawn from Opera Philadelphia, as it’s now known, and from the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.) With few opportunities to see or hear this masterpiece, opera lovers have been warned: Do not miss it!”

“This production sets the action in the 1930s, with evocative costumes, often colorful and light, to offset the heaviness of the moral quandaries explored in Montagu Slater’s libretto.”

“Tang Yuk’s interpretation reminds us that opera is neither music nor stagecraft, theater nor performance, but a seamless integration of elements.”

“The work is rich with solos, duets, a female quartet, and of course a remarkable chorus….”

“[Alex] Richardson’s powerful, well-modulated voice owns the theater in this [Act III] soliloquy. Indeed, something dark, desperate, and driven in us is confronted and exorcised. I wonder that anyone could draw a breath in those spellbinding minutes.”

“This production is very well cast, including Kathryn Krasovec, as the busybody Mrs. Sedley, and Jessica Beebe and Sharon Harms as the pub’s irresistible eye candy.”

“[Caroline] Worra brings complexity and depth as Peter’s beloved [Ellen Orford]….”

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Cameron Kelsall, Talkin’ Broadway, June 20, 2016

“LaCosse’s production transports the opera … to the 1930s, a period in which Britain (and much of the western world) was fearful of communist expansion and the looming World War. Most productions present the town chorus as a unified, monochromatic mob bent on Grimes’ destruction; here, the townspeople are costumed (beautifully, by Marie Miller) to show differences in class and rank….”

“Caroline Worra deploys flawless technique and sureness of pitch as Ellen Orford…. Rarely have I heard ‘Embroidery in Childhood,’ Ellen’s haunting and difficult third-act aria, sung better.”

“The young American mezzo Eve Gigliotti makes a meal of the publican Auntie….”

“Fine work abounds from Jessica Beebe and Sharon Harms (as Auntie’s “nieces”), Joseph Barron (as Swallow, the town lawyer), and Sean Anderson (as Ned Keene, the apothecary).”

“Princeton Festival artistic director Richard Tang Yuk leads an assured, dramatic reading of the score from the pit…. He deserves special praise … for the brilliantly cohesive work of the large chorus, which is so important to the success of this particular opera.”

“Grimes the man may meet a dark end, but Peter Grimes the opera has rarely shone so brightly.”

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John Yohalem, Parterre Box, June 20, 2016

“… it is a surprise and a pleasure, for New Yorkers who love the work, to have Grimes undertaken as by the Princeton Festival at the McCarter Theater, and to have the orchestra and chorus perform it with elegance and precision, to have the complement of the opera’s many solo roles largely well taken.”

“New to me, and worth keeping an eye out for in the future, were mellifluous baritone Casey Finnigan, having a high old time as Bob Boles, Joseph Barron as the pompous mayor, Swallow … and Sean Anderson, a sturdy Ned Keene. The entire cast were impressively in tune on Britten’s tricky but rewarding harmonies, and Gregory Geehern’s Festival Opera Chorus sang with enthusiasm and beauty.”

Alex Richardson possesses a very pretty tenor indeed, beautifully produced and even throughout its compass.”

“The heroes of the performance were Richard Tang Yuk and the Princeton Festival Orchestra, who completely appreciated the dramatic rise and fall, the dynamism, the vivid nautical imagery of this magnificent score. The Sea Interludes may sound more lush from the top-rank orchestras who love to perform them, but the elegant give and take of instruments with singers was skillfully and beautifully managed.”

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Toby Grace, Out in Jersey, June 17, 2016

“Similar to the New York production at the Walter Kerr Theater, the set was dominated by tall, northern birch trees but … [Princeton Festival set designer] Diana Basmajian gave us a far more lovely and graceful interpretation which, combined with masterful lighting effects, evoked a genuine feeling of walking on a bed of leaves through a real forest.”

“Given the talent of this ensemble, it would have been a great show had they been wearing only flour sacks. Costume designer Marie Miller clearly had far grander ambitions and she certainly achieved them. Set in the circa 1900 era, the costumes, correct in even the most meticulous period detail including even sock garters, were gorgeous.”

“… every member of the cast without exception was superb, combining wonderful singing voices with excellent acting skills.”

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Anthony Stoeckert, The Princeton Packet, June 15, 2016

“The Princeton Festival’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical is sure to put a smile on the face of everyone who’s lucky enough to see it.”

“Mr. [Wayne] Hu’s voice … is strong and expressive.”

“Ms. [Jessica Medoff as Desirée] Armfeldt gives one of the best performances in the show. She takes over the stage during ‘The Glamorous Life,’ and she and Mr. Hu [as Fredrik Egerman] are wonderful together singing the sarcastic and touching, ‘You Must Meet My Wife.’ She is a wonder during the show’s most famous song, ‘Send in the Clowns.’ ”

“As the Count, Jesse Malgieri gives one of the night’s funniest performances, and he’s a terrific singer as well.”

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Neal Zoren, U.S. 1, June 15, 2016

“Jesse Malgieri (Count Malcolm) finds true power and sensitivity to material when he launches into the Count’s clever songs. Jami Leonard’s operetta-ish Anne takes on some luster when her beautiful, effortless soprano is heard. The chorus, which serves as commentators, onlookers, and an extra character here and there, is uniformly excellent. Michael Kuhn’s magnificent and distinct tenor voice is especially welcome in solo lines.”

“… Wayne Hu (Fredrik) brings some clever irony to his performance that shows Fredrik is aware he’s been an old fool in some of his choices….”

“The single best scene in Basmajian’s production is the most important, the one in which Desiree embraces her folly at trying to snare her bygone lover, Fredrik…. Medoff suddenly shows you a woman with her blinders off and her scheming over.”

“Other fine moments in Basmajian’s staging include Lara Treacy’s singing of “The Miller’s Son”; Camella Clark’s arch readings and self-deprecation …; the brilliant way in which a table cloth is spread for the dinner scene; the equally creative use of traveling trunks as automobiles; and any moment that includes the production’s youngest cast member, Anastasia Zeiler.”

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Nancy Plum, Town Topics, June 15, 2016

“Concordia Chamber Players … showed what chamber music can be. With just five musicians, the Concordia Players held the audience in rapt attention with works of the 19th and 20th centuries.”

“Tenor Nicholas Phan, joined by pianist Orio Weiss, proved himself to be an effective storyteller, always paying close attention to the text.”

“An especially poignant moment in the [Brahms’ Piano Trio No. 1 in B Major, Opus 8] first movement “Allegro” featured Ms. Djokic in a high register of the cello, answered by Ms. Kwon equally as high on the violin, with pure intervals between the instruments.”

“A piano trio is nothing without the effectiveness of the pianist, and throughout the work Mr. Weiss played with sensitivity and clarity.”

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Robin Birkel, Princeton Found, June 14, 2016

“The Broadway voices were smooth and delightful … [with] tremendous depth of their voices … topped off by strong acting.”

“Costume designer Marie Miller’s work was brilliant….”

“[Director Diana Basmajian] made scene changes as entertaining as the voices.”

“This was a witty and poignant story brought to life by a spirited cast. It’s amazing that The Princeton Festival can bring such a powerful production to town in a venue that makes you feel as if you are at an exclusive staging for a reasonable price. This gem is an unparalleled experience!

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Toby Grace, Out In Jersey, June 9, 2016

“an absolutely unique experience”

“there is nothing like a solid stone building for acoustics … as the sublime voices of the chorus seemed to linger in the air like a polyphonic mist”

“Search far and wide for a chorale that is more technically perfect, more capable of an ethereal quality than the Princeton Festival Chorus and you will search far indeed. Directed by Carmen-Helena Telléz, both chorus and [Princeton Symphony] orchestra performed flawlessly.”

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Ted Otten, The Times of Trenton, June 22, 2016

“What could be more perfect for a summertime entertainment than Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning 1973 musical “A Little Night Music,” about to finish its run at the Princeton Festival on June 26…?”

Interview with director Diana Basmajian: “I asked my cast members to try to consider how they were like the characters they played. What do you have in common with whom you play? Then, with that beginning, each could develop an identity.”

Interview with Jessica Medoff (Desirée Armfeldt): “We’re both mothers who are trying to balance a career with raising a child, and Desiree must have had a difficult choice giving up her daughter to her own mother’s care because Desiree is constantly on the road.

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David Fox, Philadelphia Magazine, June 16, 2016

Lovers of the performing arts know that, here on the east coast, the big news is summer festivals. But for local area residents, many of the best known — Tanglewood, Glimmerglass, Caramoor — are far enough away to make it complicated.

Why not take advantage of the Princeton Festival, which can easily be done as a day trip (it’s an hour from downtown Philly by car, and there are a number of public transportation options) — or you can make a multi-day trip of it. Venues are on the Princeton campus.

Of course, the programming is what really matters. Now early in its second decade, the Princeton Festival offers a broad range, including theater, dance and music (mostly classical, but some jazz as well). Many events have complementary lectures. (A production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music is listed as entirely sold out, but if you’re going to be there anyway, it couldn’t hurt to try.)
A suggestion: if you can come on the weekend of June 25 and 26, you can combine Sunday’s performance of Peter Grimes with a Saturday late-afternoon concert of four Bach cantatas, which will be done in Princeton’s Theological Seminary. Now that’s my idea of a great summer getaway!

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By William W. Lockwood, Jr.

I was delighted to learn that Richard Tang Yuk had chosen Britten’s Peter Grimes as the centerpiece opera presentation for this summer’s Princeton Festival, because it has always been one of my favorites—certainly in my top ten, maybe even top five; one that I see every chance I get. This is a courageous and ambitious undertaking, since it’s not an easy work to stage or sing. Its productions are infrequent, which is all the more reason for you to experience a 20th century operatic masterpiece up close at McCarter. Along with Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress and the operas of Richard Strauss and Alban Berg, Peter Grimes has cemented a place in the operatic pantheon of this century, and every production is a cause for celebration. Britten wrote other operas to be sure, most notably Death in Venice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but Grimes will always rank as his signature work in this genre, and it’s one that every serious operagoer should experience.




Nokware Knight, Mercerspace, June 2, 2016

Something for everyone is the phrase that comes to mind when I look at the eclectic offerings that are part of this year’s Princeton Festival. The diverse lineup is filled with genres I have known in passing but rarely if ever had experienced in full: Jazz that sang my father’s songs, organs and piano that were church staples, orchestra music I played in school and university, modern dance performances I have happened upon once or twice in life.

Opera, however, is completely new and foreign, at least to me.

That concerns Jean Brown and Takako Lento, members of the Festival Guild, a group of volunteers organized in 2013 to pick up and run off with community education and outreach events for the festival. I meet up with them at a quiet coffee shop to get a sense of their outreach efforts and see how they are going to introduce opera to a new generation.

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Carlton Wilkinson, Asbury Park Press, May 27, 2016

The Benjamin Britten opera “Peter Grimes” will be performed at the Princeton Festival, which begins the first week of June and runs at various venues in the Princeton area until June 26. “Peter Grimes” will be performed three times: Saturday, as well as on June 23 and 26 at McCarter Theatre.

The festival’s artistic director, Richard Tang Yuk, will conduct the performances and the action will be directed by Steven LaCosse. The composer, Benjamin Britten, died in 1976 having been recognized as one of the great English composers of his generation. Much of his music — chamber works, orchestral scores and vocal repertoire, including more than a dozen operas — is now widely regarded as standard repertoire.

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OperaMetro.com, May 25, 2016

Peter Grimes! Peter Grimes! Peter Grimes!

Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, arguably one of the masterpieces of 20th century opera, is a prominent feature of this year’s Princeton Festival in Princeton, New Jersey.

It’s not by any means what one would call a ‘festive’ piece, neither in book nor in score. No, Peter Grimes is a work that lingers, at least with me, music that seeps from the murk below into one’s consciousness when one least expects it. Especially when you’re near the ocean. In March, yes, like this past March, when the weather was particularly beastly. Blowing mist…cold.

OperaMetro spoke with Richard Tang Yuk, who conducts the Princeton Festival Orchestra for Peter Grimes, Steven LaCosse, who directs the production, and tenor Alex Richardson, who sings the title role. Perhaps they can shed some light on Mr. Grimes and his so called exercise.

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Anthony Bellano, patch.com, May 23, 2016

The Princeton Festival’s 2016 season opens June 4 with an a cappella concert and closes on June 26 with an opera and a musical comedy.

The festival offers 22 performances in 11 different genres plus a series of free lectures, previews and special events at venues in Princeton and the surrounding area.

Offerings range from three performances of the powerful opera Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten to Grammy award‐winning jazz vocalist Cécile McLoren Salvant.

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nj.com, May 19, 2016

A performance preview, opera workshop and lecture series that supplement the Princeton Festival’s 12th season will be presented during June at Princeton Public Library.

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WQXR, May 18, 2016

The Princeton Festival
princetonfestival.org; 609.258.2787
June 4–June 26

In addition to theater, jazz, dance and world music, the Princeton Festival has been presenting opera, recitals, concerts and more in New Jersey since 2005. This season’s big ticket production is Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes (June 18–26) but other projects interest, such as an oratorio to accompany the silent film, The Passion of Joan of Arc (June 9). The annual piano competition finals (June 12) is a yearly highlight.

♪ Our Pick: The moving tenor Nicholas Phan presents an evening of works by Britten, Bax and Brahms on June 10 at the Princeton theological seminary, with pianist Orion Weiss and other talented chamber musicians

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Erica Chayes Wida, Princeton Sun, May 10, 2016

In January 2004, some friends contacted Richard Tang Yuk, a local conductor and teacher, to have lunch and start a company. Several months and many conversations later, the idea to create a multi-dimensional arts festival had sprung.

After a year of discussion, Tang Yuk, Marcia Atcheson, Markell Shriver and Helene Kulsrud created the nonprofit with a name just vague enough to allow all the arts into it. The Princeton Festival launched its first season by June 2005.

“I had a vision from the very beginning that the Princeton Festival would not only be performing arts, but also visual arts. I didn’t want to limit our ability by using a name that might do that,” said Tang Yuk, the festival’s general and artistic director. “If we had named ourselves something referring to a performing arts or music festival, we may have not been able to move forward as we have into so many different arenas.”

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Robin Birkel, Princeton Found, March 4, 2016

The Princeton Festival is a world-class summer festival of performing arts. It extends Princeton’s cultural season into June, and has offered fully staged operas, musical theater, jazz, chamber music, symphonic concerts, piano, organ and vocal recitals, dance, world music, and a piano competition since 2005. The 2016 season will run from June 4 – 26.

It kicks off with its biggest fundraiser of the year, the 2016 Princeton Festival Gala, which makes the upcoming season possible. It will be held at Greenacres Country Club in Lawrenceville on Saturday, April 30 at 6 PM. Cocktails and dinner will be served, and there will be live and silent auctions, plus entertainment and dancing. Tickets can be purchased online.

Read more, including video highlights of Peter Grimes, A Little Night Music, and Complexions Contemporary Ballet »