Saratoga Performing Arts Center

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Saratoga Performing Arts Center

The Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) is an amphitheater in Saratoga Springs, New York, which presents summer festivals of all kinds of music (including classical concerts, jazz, and popular), dance, and opera, as well as a Wine & Food Festival. It opened on July 9, 1966, with a presentation of Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream by the New York City Ballet.Coordinates: 43°03′19″N 73°48′21″W / 43.0553°N 73.8058°W / 43.0553; -73.8058

SPAC also serves as the common grounds for high school graduations, particularly for Burnt Hills - Ballston Lake, Saratoga Springs, Shenendehowa, and Ballston Spa High Schools.

SPAC is the summer home of Live Nation in the Capital District.


In early February 1961, Albany newspaperman Duane La Fleche noted a wire service report about a group hoping to entice the New York Philharmonic to make Stowe, Vermont its summer residence. La Fleche proposed that the group stay in New York State and perform in Saratoga Springs. Local civic, cultural, and legislative leaders, who had previously considered a Saratoga Arts Center an interesting possibility, began to design the facility. Within a week, they held their first meeting; within a month they were focusing on Saratoga Spa State Park as the site, had won the support of State Conservation Commissioner Harold Wilm, and began discussions with both the New York Philharmonic and New York City Ballet.

By summer 1963, contributions from Rockefeller Brothers Fund and New York State supplemented community support to create Saratoga Performing Arts Center. In June 1964, Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller mounted a bulldozer to break the first yard of ground. More than 410 workdays followed: 300 workers clocked 136,000 hours to complete the 5,100-seat, 10-story amphitheater (original layout of the venue did not include a festival lawn; the lawn, which holds 20,000, was added later).

Harry Belafonte was the first non-classical performer to perform at SPAC, in 1967. A year later The Doors gave a performance at SPAC, which began a tradition of bringing top pop and rock acts to the amphitheater including Guns N' Roses, Coldplay, Rush, KISS, Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, Tom Petty, The Cars, The B-52's, Def Leppard, Heart, Journey, and Elton John.

Past presidents of SPAC include Margaretta "Happy" Rockefeller and Lillian Bostwick Phipps.

Present-day performances

Today, SPAC hosts the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra every summer.

This season, some of the world's finest classical music soloists, including Yo-Yo Ma, Gil Shaham, Yuja Wang, and Sarah Chang, are performing major concerts at this venue.

The "Philly"'s most well-attended performance is its annual Tchaikovsky Spectacular, which includes the 1812 Overture and one or two well-known concerts.

A feature of each summer is the Freihofer Jazz Festival, co-produced with George Wein, which presents major and emerging jazz artists on two stages.

Also, the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival, under the direction of Canadian violinist, Chantal Juillet, presents programs in the Spa Little Theatre. In 2006, the Composer-In-Residence was Bright Sheng.

Opera performances are given by the Lake George Opera in the Spa Little Theatre.

The Martha Graham Dance Company performed at SPAC during its 2008 residency at Skidmore College.

SPAC is also a venue for popular music concerts, which are booked exclusively by Live Nation, a leading concert promotion company.

Sting performed during his Symphonicities Tour on July 31, 2010, along with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Dave Matthews Band has a live album recorded at SPAC: Live Trax Vol. 11 (August 29, 2000). Also, they have sold out more concerts than any other artist at the venue, with ten.

For at least two decades, SPAC has played host to the School of Orchestral Studies (SOS) for the New York State Summer School of the Arts (NYSSSA) program. Under the baton of artistic director Russell Stanger and overseen by administrator Dr. Edward Marschilok, and accompanied by string orchestra conductors Patricia Koppeis and Philip Preddice as well as wind ensemble conductor Conrad Kuchay, the approximately 115 high school age students of NYSSSA's SOS attend concert performances during their summer weeks as part of an intensive study of music performance, study with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and ultimately give a culminating performance in the amphitheater.

SPAC is headed by Marcia White, who replaced president Herb Chesborough in 2005. Over 200 seasonal employees keep the venue running smoothly over the summer.

SPAC's largest attended performance in its history was by The Grateful Dead in 1985, where a total of 40,231 fans showed up to see the band. Since the show, SPAC limits its capacity to 25,100.

In an effort to remain profitable, SPAC announced that it's 2009 season would see a slightly shortened ballet season. The new season will span two weeks versus the normal three.

Building Activity

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