A Guide to the Arts in Boston

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The city of unequalled vibrancy and energy is waiting for you.

Oscar Wilde once said, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” At Harvard, and in greater Boston, it is difficult to tell which imitates which. As incoming freshmen will soon experience, life at Harvard is characterized by unequalled vibrancy and ubiquitous variety. The arts scene in Boston parallels this multitude of possibilities; almost too many to follow and choose from. Still remembering how overwhelmed I was when I first came to Harvard, I want to offer you an introductory guide to some opportunities, venues and institutions that colored my life at Harvard last year-and that you should definitely visit, sea, hear and make a part of your life.

To start our sensory journey, I have to emphasize that Boston is especially rich in opportunities for musical encounters. You have to keep a close eye on the programs of some of the most important concert halls and orchestras in order to plan ahead and not to be lost in the plethora of happenings.

One of the most important gems of the Boston cultural life is the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which has prepared an exceptionally impressive program for this year. Having had the opportunity to listen to many symphony orchestras in the world, I can confidently support the view that Boston Symphony Orchestra is one of the best,  offering the classical music lover a music feast of high professionalism and fine variety. They are opening for this season on the 23rd of September, and the program of the night includes Roman Carnival Overture by Berlioz, Piano Concerto No. 2 by Chopin, and Le Mer by Debussy. The night will also be the world premiere of “On Willows and Birches,” a concerto for harp by John Williams.  Boston Symphony Orchestra has also prepared a striking program of “Beethoven’s Complete Symphonies,” which will be performed grouped in threes and conducted by the experienced conductor James Levine. The first concert of this series is on October 22nd, composed of the 1st, 2nd and fifth symphonies. To see the detailed program Boston Symphony Orchestra prepared for this year, you can visit their website: BSO.org.

Another jewel in Boston’s musical crown is the House of Blues. Every year the House of Blues houses stars of blues, rock, jazz, electronic and pop music. The atmosphere of the House is unique, and the setup allows an exceptional proximity to the artists. Some of the most important concerts of the early season are Regina Spektor on the 21st of September, Moby on the 24th and Porcupine Tree on the 27th. For a preview of the festivities the House of Blues has prepared for the music-hungry, step into their website:HouseOfBlues.com.

Classical buffs, check out the websites for Opera Boston, Emmanuel Boston, Boston Pops, Boston Lyric Opera, Boston Chamber Music Society, and the Bank of America Celebrity Series. Student rush tickets are available for almost all of these events.

Boston is also an absolute heaven for the museum-lover. The many museums in the city display numerous collections of a wide range of specialties. Some of the most important of these museums are Museum of Fine Arts, Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, and Institute of Contemporary Art. All these museums are free for Harvard students with an ID, extending an open invitation to all members of the Harvard community to visit at any time and with any frequency.  One event that I would definitely suggest that you note on your calendars would be the “College Night at the Museum of Fine Arts,” which has been planned for the 24th of September this year. Harvard University has many museums on campus as well; the Sackler Museum is currently most important. With the closing of the Fogg Museum and Busch-Reisinger for renovation, some art works have been moved into the Sackler to create the best representation of the museum’s complete collection. The relatively small size of the museum and the importance of the art works in exhibition give the museum a special character.

The dance and theater scene in Boston is equally vibrant and rich in offerings. Boston Ballet is one of the gems and also a very good venue for all those who want to partake in conferences on dance. In addition to various opportunities they provide for students and Bostonians, they also offer student rush tickets available for most performances at the Wang Center box office two hours before the conference or the show.

There are some theater companies in Boston offering many different shows through the year that can color your weekend nights, or maybe even a week night. These include Broadway in Boston, the Huntington Theatre, and the American Repertory Theatre. All offer student rush tickets.

The plethora of artistic happenings in Boston might be very overwhelming and even intimidating at the beginning. However, there are a few guides that can make your art quests easier and help you intersperse your free time with some memorable spectacles. The prime guide is the Beat. Sponsored by the Office for the Arts at Harvard (OFA), it includes current events, ongoing events, and opportunities to get involved. A wonderful opportunity that is also listed in the Beat is the OFA’s free BSO ticket program. The OFA provides free tickets to selected performances by the Boston Symphony Orchestra;  Harvard students can get one per Harvard ID. Another helpful source is “artsboston,” a website (ArtsBoston.org) that lists in one place almost all the events in the greater Boston area for discounted prices. For opportunities exclusive to Harvard students and events happening on campus, the art lover should look at the OFA’s website: Here. The OFA is hosting an open house on September 1st between 1 and 4 PM to introduce incoming freshmen to opportunities.

Plato said that the beginning is the most important part of any work. As you are about to start your freshman year at Harvard, make sure to remember that this is also a beginning to your artistic endeavors at Harvard and art quests in the greater Boston. This city of unequalled energy has many colors, views, melodies, scenes, dances to offer and share, and is waiting for you.

Ezgi Berektli ’12 ([email protected]) loves a good deal on a good date.