Listed below, we offer many ways you can enjoy classical performing arts on a budget in Seattle and Tacoma. We include ballet, opera, symphony, and Shakespeare productions.
Ballet in Seattle and Tacoma
Classical ballet (from the Italian word “ballare”, which means “to dance”) originated in 15th century Italy as entertainment in the noble courts. In the 17th century, “ballet d’action” developed in France, where it was combined with mime and later with opera but falling out of favor in the 18th century. Eventually, ballet spread through Russia, Denmark, England, and America becoming a mainstream art form by the 20th century.
Ballet is characterized by costumes, staging, and formalized movements (such as arabesques, pliés, and pirouettes). The performance is set to music and tells a story or conveys a theme. Some of the most well-known 19th century ballets include Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Giselle, and Coppélia.
Later forms of ballet diverged from traditional classical and romantic styles. These include neoclassical ballet (such as Concerto Barocco) and modern ballet (such as Appalachian Spring and Deuce Coupe). There are conservatively over 2,000 choreographed ballets. New choreography and new stories are still being written.
Pacific Northwest Ballet
Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) is one of the largest and most highly regarded ballet companies and ballet training institutions in the United States. Founded in 1972 as Pacific Northwest Dance Association under the aegis of Seattle Opera Association, PNB became an independent organization and was renamed Pacific Northwest Ballet in 1978.
Each year, the company presents more than 100 performances, including full-length and mixed repertory ballets in Seattle and on tour. The regular season runs from September through March at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall at Seattle Center. PNB performs special additions through June.
How to enjoy PNB performances on a budget: enjoy discounts with a Ballet Season full or partial subscriptions (pnb.org), buy a digital subscription, attend pay-what-you-can Thursdays (minimum requirement), or purchase discount day-of-show rush tickets (if you qualify). More info: Offers (pnb.org)
Tacoma City Ballet
Tacoma City Ballet (tacomacityballet.com) began in 1955 as The Concert Ballet Group of Tacoma. Over the next several decades, the company performed at the Pantages Theater, forging a national reputation for excellence in classical ballet instruction and performance. In 1995, the company was renamed Tacoma City Ballet.
How to enjoy Tacoma City Ballet performances on a budget: watch full-length videos of productions free on their website: Archival Performances – Tacoma City Ballet
Opera in Seattle and Tacoma
Western Opera emerged in 16th Century Italy with the idea of setting a classical Greek drama to music. The libretto (“booklet”) or dramatic text was set to music and staged with costumes and scenery. The recitative singing is broken up with arias (solo pieces) and choruses (group singing). Opera spread across Europe and evolved several distinct styles. New operas are being written today.
Seattle Opera (seattleopera.org) began in 1963 and has built a reputation as a leading opera company recognized around the world. Just of few of her noteworthy accomplishments include the 1971 first fully staged production of The Who’s rock opera “Tommy”, the 1975-1984 complete cycle of Wagner’s Ring (n German and in English), and the 1993 “Pelléas et Mélisande” with sets by renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly.
In 2003, the company inaugurated its new state-of-the-art home, Marion Oliver McCaw Hall. Seattle Opera has continued to produce ground-breaking works each season. Examples include the 2015 world premiere of “An American Dream”, an opera whose plot, crowd-sourced from the Seattle community, dealt with the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. And, the 2023 World Premiere of a new opera based on Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling novel “A Thousand Splendid Suns” and directed by acclaimed Afghan filmmaker Roya Sadat.
The Seattle Opera mainstage season runs from August to May and includes five operas. Special events throughout the year may take place next door at the Opera Center as well as venues around the Puget Sound region.
How to enjoy Seattle Opera productions on a budget: purchase partial subscriptions, get in line day-of-show for rush and standing only tickets, listen to live audio broadcasts or re-broadcasts, seek out special family programs, or attend free community performances and sing-alongs. More info: Seattle Opera – Ways to Save
Tacoma Opera was founded in 1968 and has grown from a little-known company into a vibrant cultural icon for the South Sound producing operettas, grand operas, and premieres. Tacoma Opera productions are intimate and accessible that seek to connect audiences in a very personal way to the music, story, and performers.
How to enjoy Tacoma Opera productions on a budget: purchase season tickets for substantial savings over single ticket prices.
Symphony in Seattle and Tacoma
As we know it today, symphony music is a form of Western classical music for orchestras (large instrument ensembles) that developed during the 18th and 19th centuries. By contrast, chamber music are small classical ensembles.
Seattle Symphony first performed in 1903 and today is internationally acclaimed for its inventive programming, community-minded initiatives, and superb recordings on the Seattle Symphony Media label. Since 1998, the Symphony has performed in Benaroya Hall, noted for its architectural and acoustical splendor. Programming throughout the year includes musical performances in every genre, often with acclaimed guest artists and conductors from around the world joining the orchestra.
How to enjoy Seattle Symphony on a budget: A variety of subscription packages are available that offer substantial savings over single ticket prices and other benefits. Community events and interactive family experiences concerts are very affordable. Free guided tours of Benaroya Hall are offered throughout the year.
Symphony Tacoma has been a vital part of the City of Destiny since 1946. The initial 30 volunteer musicians today includes over 80 orchestral musicians plus a volunteer chorus of over 70 performing throughout the Puget Sound region. Season concerts are held in historic Pantages Theater.
How to enjoy Tacoma Symphony on a budget: Full and partial Season Packages offer savings over single ticket prices. Volunteers have the opportunity to attend dress rehearsals, concerts, and other events. A variety of free live and recorded Virtual Programs available on TS YouTube and Facebook pages.
Shakespeare in the Puget Sound region
Known as “The Bard” (which means poet), William Shakespeare is regarded by some as the greatest English writer of all time. His works are best known for a traditional poetry form of the time known as iambic pentameter. A line of iambic verse contains ten syllables, with stress placed on every other syllable.
He also used unrhymed iambic pentameter known as “blank verse”, which placed stress on different syllables, as well as rhyming couplets and other forms such as trochaic tetrameter. Listed below are some of his more famous quotes, which demonstrate several of these syllabic rhyming styles.
- From Romeo and Juliet (Act 2, Scene 2): “But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?”
- From Julius Caesar (Act 3, Scene 2): “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!”
- From Richard III (Act 1, Scene 1): “Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer by this sun of York”
- Hamlet (Act 3, Scene 1): “To be, or not to be: that is the question”
- Romeo and Juliet (Act 2, Scene 2): “Good night, good night. Parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow.”
- Macbeth (Act 4, Scene 1): “Liver of blaspheming Jew, Gall of goat, and slips of yew. Silver’d in the moon’s eclipse, Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips”
Why have these works stood the test of time above all others? Some say it is due to the ambiguity of the play’s meaning and of the actions of the characters. This allows Shakespeare’s plays to be continually re-invented and re-imagined, whether as stage plays, or in our time, as movie themes.
Listed below are the companies in the Puget Sound region regularly performing the works of William Shakespeare.
- Animal Fire Theatre in Olympia all-volunteer company produces outdoor Shakespeare plays each summer.
- GreenStage performs free outdoor Shakespeare plays in Seattle Parks in mid-summer.
- Island Shakespeare Festival happens in Langley on Whidbey Island in mid- to late-summer.
- Seattle Shakespeare Company is the Puget Sound region’s year-round, professional, classical theatre, which include indoor performances, regional tours, education programs, and free outdoor productions via Wooden O performed free in mid-summer in parks throughout the Puget Sound region.
Upcoming performing arts events on our calendar
Listed below are performing events of all kinds, including classical and popular entertainment, such as comedy, dance, and theater.
Wednesday, October 4, 2023
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