WESTFIELD, NJ — The New Jersey Festival Orchestra kicks off an eclectic season Oct. 5 with “Invitation to the Waltz” in Westfield.

The program features waltzes by Johann Strauss Jr. and Richard Strauss’ waltz-filled suite from “Der Rosenkavalier.” Chinese superstar cellist Jiapeng Nie will perform Tchaikovsky’s “Rococo Variations.”

It’s a dramatic start to a season that will take the Westfield-based professional symphony orchestra around the region, Music Director and Conductor David Wroe explained.

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In addition to the regular Union and Morris County performances, the NJFO will appear in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, New Brunswick and Somerset Counties, offering an eclectic mix of classical, Broadway and accompanying stars from the popular genre including Celtic Women, Mannheim Steamroller, Irish Tenors and many more,” Wroe said.

There will plenty of opportunities to catch concerts here in town.

Variety is the Spice

There is no thematic thread throughout the season this year, Wroe said, “rather, an eclectic mix of music and featuring stars from various genres.”

But the individual concerts do have themes.

“Our season opener highlights how two different composers tackled the waltz, both as pure entertainment — J. Strauss’ ‘Emperor Waltz’ — and incorporated into a more classical music setting — R. Strauss’ ‘Rosenkavalier Suite,’” Wroe said. “Our closing concerts presents composers of Slavic origin and how this unique flavor is particularly pictorial in the compositions we have chosen — Smetana’s ‘Moldau,’ the famed river, and Rimski-Korsakov’s ‘Sheherazade,’ Thousand and one nights.”

Opera fans can expect a double feature.

“Every year NJFO presents a fully staged opera, and this time we present ‘The Ultimate Odd Couple’  — two one-act operas that are diametrically opposed in style and content,” said Wroe. “This is a rather daring gesture as the opening opera — Wagner’s first act of ‘Die Walkurie’ —  is rarely presented this way. In fact, Wagner’s operas are rarely performed in New Jersey, so we expect people far and wide to come to this noteworthy event.”

The second opera, to be performed the same night, is “I Pagliacci,” “a classic for opera lovers of all tastes,” said Wroe, “the story of a traveling comedy troupe whose real-life drama become entangled in the show they are producing. We have been blessed with fabulous singers on our stage over the years — those who grace the stage of the Met, national and international opera houses will again join a stellar cast in these monumental operas.”

The full cast will be announced this fall, he said.

More Guest Performers

In addition to the renowned cellist Jiapeng Nie, the NJFO announced several planned guest performers.

“Metropolitan Opera’s Barry Banks, with, arguably the best top C in the business, will be a highlighted tenor at the annual 'Home for the Holidays' concert in December,” Wroe said. “Members of Dance Theater of Harlem will be joining us again at New Year’s Eve, and young American pianist Andrew Tyson will play the most famous piano concerto ever written — Rachmaninov’s 2nd Piano Concerto. These artists are people I have worked with in the past and were so impressed with their charismas that I felt compelled to invite them to perform with the NJFO.”

If you go:

The first concert of the season, “Invitation to the Waltz,” will take place on Saturday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Westfield. It will be repeated Sunday, Oct. 6, at Drew University in Madison at 3 p.m.

Tickets start at $30 ($15 students). For more information about concerts this season and tickets, go to www.njfestivalorchestra.org or call 908-232-9400. Discount ticket packages are available.