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Fifty years ago a vision became a reality.
A community was inspired.
A legacy was born.

Fifty years ago, in 1966, Saratoga Performing Arts Center was founded as an idyllic outdoor summer home for New York City Ballet and The Philadelphia Orchestra. Over five decades, this legacy has grown to include:

  • A third resident company, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
  • International programming including The Bolshoi Ballet and The National Ballet of China
  • Modern and contemporary dance, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Martha Graham
  • The world-renowned Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival
  • Live Nation rock and pop concerts
  • The Saratoga Wine and Food Festival
  • 2015 winner of "Best Outdoor Music Venue" in America in USA Today & 10 Best's Readers Poll

Set in historic Saratoga Springs, known for horse racing, natural spring water, Victorian architecture, and proximity to the beautiful Adirondack Mountains, SPAC's 5,000 capacity open-air amphitheater also offers:

  • A lush, sloping lawn for outdoor seating
  • Pre-performance events & education programming
  • Ticket pricing customized to local demographics

50th Anniversary Season:

In 2016, SPAC will celebrate its 50th anniversary with innovative programming, once-in-a-lifetime special events, and honorary world-premieres by New York City Ballet Resident Choreographer Justin Peck and internationally acclaimed composer Michael Torke with The Philadelphia Orchestra. This anniversary celebration will be a special opportunity to reflect on SPAC's unprecedented history as America's summer home for the classical arts.

Brief History:

SPAC has a powerful story to tell, from our humble inception in a "letter to the editor," ... to the inspired community activism that brought SPAC to life through local fundraisers ... to the inspirational leadership of George Balanchine, founder of New York City Ballet, and Eugene Ormandy, conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra... to the glamour and star power of socialite and philanthropist Marylou Whitney... and to the unique community of dancers and musicians who now call Saratoga home.

Saratoga Performing Arts Center:  Overview

SPAC opened its gates on July 8, 1966, with a performance of George Balanchine’s Midsummer Night’s Dream presented by the New York City Ballet.  This inaugural performance was the start of the longest running summer residency for a ballet company in the nation. Less than a month later, Eugene Ormandy raised his baton to lead The Philadelphia Orchestra in Beethoven’s Consecration of the House Overture, a fitting tribute to the new Amphitheatre.

Framed by rolling lawns, majestic pines and rushing streams, SPAC’s Amphitheatre, situated in a naturally curved hillside in the center of the 2,200-acre Saratoga Spa State Park has been an ideal showcase for internationally acclaimed music and dance artists for nearly five decades. The Amphitheatre offers covered seating for 5,200 and the surrounding lawn can accommodate an additional audience of 20,000. Each season more than 350,000 people pass through SPAC’s gates. 

From the beginning, SPAC’s growth, success and stature has been intertwined with that of its founding resident companies, the New York City Ballet and The Philadelphia Orchestra, two of the world’s foremost artistic organizations. In 2014, that circle of partners grew to include the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the nation’s premier chamber music organization, which presents a six-concert series at the Spa Little Theatre in August.   

Other annual highlights of the summer season include the iconic Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival which was founded at SPAC in 1978 by jazz impresario George Wein; a star-studded concert series by Live Nation; and professional opera productions by Opera Saratoga. The 2014 season also included a first-ever engagement by Russia’s legendary Bolshoi Ballet which presented its signature production of Don Quixote.  The final curtain of the SPAC season comes down in early September with the annual Saratoga Wine and Food Festival, one of the fastest-growing wine and food events in the nation. 

Millions of people have attended performances at Saratoga Performing Arts Center and millions more will pass through its gates in the future.  For each and every audience member, SPAC provides a unique experience while upholding its promise to offer the world’s best artists and programming in music and dance, and to preserve and perpetuate its glorious cultural heritage and natural beauty.

SPAC in Quotes

For 50 years, SPAC has impressed and captivated artists, patrons, and critics alike:

  • At SPAC's 1964 groundbreaking, Governor Nelson Rockefeller exclaimed: "I can't help but be impressed and feel strongly that in America, the things that are done, the things that are good, that are exciting, that are wonderful, come from the individual creativity and responsibility of free citizens. I don't think that I have been on a platform with as many men and women who have contributed so much to the cultural, recreational and dynamic growth of America as are gathered here today."
  • Fifty years later, New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Sterling Hyltin described SPAC as "the Madison Square Garden of the classical arts"
  • New York Times Dance Critic Alastair Macaulay has written: "It's startling how different New York City Ballet looks at the open-air Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The light has the effect of subtly changing faces, feet, musculature. Choreography, too. As I watched two performances here on Saturday, works as familiar as George Balanchine's "Concerto Barocco" and "Symphony in C" suddenly revealed fresh details. The dancers looked happy, despite the afternoon heat, as if performing for friends. A high quotient of young people in the audience cheered and clapped at every opportunity."
  • David Kim, Concertmaster of The Philadelphia Orchestra, said of SPAC, "The acoustics and ambiance of this magnificent outdoor concert hall are simply the best in the world."

For more SPAC quotes, visit:

SPAC Photos

SPAC Lawn during The Philadelphia Orchestra - Photo credit: Chris Lee
SPAC amphitheatre during a New York City Ballet performance - Photo credit:


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