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History of the Astoria Music Festival

Stage ViewWho could have imagined that a modest production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, featuring a cast and orchestra of university students in Astoria’s musty pre-restoration Liberty Theater, would blossom into one of the Pacific Northwest’s celebrated summer musical events? The short history of the Astoria Music Festival is filled with the same adventuresome spirit that caused those hearty pioneers to found a town at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River over two centuries ago. Now, a decade later, we look back on performances of 17 operas and a long list of orchestral and chamber works performed by major singers, instrumentalists, and conductors from around the world. Here are some highlights.

2003  The inaugural performance in July 2003 featured several performers who have remained with us: baritone Stacey Murdock, whose subsequent performances included the hilarious “Too Much Coffee Man,” sang the role of Figaro. The Count was Deac Guidi, who later performed in the 2012 Magic Flute. Newly crowned Miss America Katie Harman sang Barbarina, and concertmaster was Adam LaMotte. The festival was founded by a four-person team: soprano Katherine Matschiner provided initial impetus and organization, Intel administrator Larry Taylor managed the business, soprano and voice teacher Ruth Dobson trained the singers, and Keith Clark was Music Director. The team continued during the early years, and Keith Clark remains as Artistic Director.

2004  We expanded to a full three-week festival in 2004, presenting a fully staged production of The Magic Flute and a concert version of Verdi’s Falstaff, the first of several performances to be listed among The Oregonian’s “Ten Best Performances of the Year” in the Northwest. The festival concluded with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony featuring choirs from Cannon Beach and Scappoose and the first of many collaborations with Astoria’s North Coast Chorale. Conductors included Music Director Keith Clark, Romanian maestro Dimitru Goia, and members of our Young Conductors Project William Intriligator and Steven Huang, each now enjoying a thriving career. The summer included the first of Ruth Dobson’s Sopranorama concerts, featuring leading sopranos from the Northwest that livened things up for several years.

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