Singing the praises of Santa Fe––it’s a never-ending tune. This year alone, our International Folk Art Market took top honors as USA Today’s 10 Best Art Festival, with Art Santa Fe close behind; and three Santa Fe hotels scored spots in the 10 Best Hotel Spas. Tuning into the best of the City Different is a skill worth practicing. In less than a month, however, the practicing ends and the music begins when the sun goes down and the lights come up at the renowned Santa Fe Opera. Now that’s worth singing about!
Inspiration Has a Santa Fe History
Who could have imagined back in the 1950’s that Santa Fe would be home to a world-class opera company? John Crosby did––by envisioning and creating a place for American singers, both professionals and those on the cusp of their careers, to hone their craft at home. SFO’s mission extends beyond vocal artistry, since the pioneering Apprentice Program cultivates stagecraft too. Over the 59 years since 1957’s inaugural season, Mr. Crosby’s vision has become a glorious reality. His inspirational guidance led the company forward before he ceded leadership in 2000 to the innovative Richard Gaddes, who in 2008 handed over the reins to native Santa Fean Charles MacKay, now SFO’s General Director. And Mr. MacKay knows how to ride into the future––seven successful seasons are about to become eight!
One Opera + Two Months = A Repertoire of Five
From its inception, the Opera has been dedicated to showcasing music, drama and technical wizardry via treasured classics, revivals of neglected works, and remarkable premieres. The 2015 season––a mix of beloved standards and new revelations––is no exception. Five all-new (yes!) productions begin Friday, July 3, as scintillating soprano Anna Christy pours her heart out to Alek Shrader in The Daughter of the Regiment. Expect to feel all misty when the audience stands for the traditional singing of the National Anthem before this comedic Donizetti romp begins! No rest for the crew; Saturday’s quick change readies the stage for Verdi’s masterful Rigoletto, with 2015 Beverly Sills award-winner Quinn Kelsey in the title role. A return to founder Crosby’s favorite composer Richard Strauss comes with Salome when petite powerhouse Alex Penda adds the dance of the seven veils to her arias! Mozart is a Santa Fe regular and SFO offers a vocal bouquet in La Finta Giardiniera (composed at a mere 18 years old!) featuring William Burden, Heidi Stober and Susanna Phillips (another Beverly Sills Award winner). August brings the world-premiere of composer Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain, with Charles Frazier’s best-seller hero and heroine sung by the amazing Nathan Gunn and Isabel Leonard (both previous recipients of the Beverly Sills Award).
Preludes Are Arranged for the Performance
Although what appears onstage is the ultimate draw, a bevy of singular experiences add zest to the vocal fireworks. Before an opera evening, consider daytime education in the newly-renovated hub of stagecraft magic below the stunning outdoor stage. One-hour backstage tours ($10 adults, $8 seniors, kids free) take place 9:00 a.m. Monday-Friday; augment your backstage prowl with a $10 tour of the extensive “Opera Ranch” grounds––including a “Meet the Artist treat––10:00 a.m. on the last Friday of June, July and August. Saturdays from June 6–August 29, the Opera Guild hosts free Insiders Days, with 8:15 a.m. refreshments before the backstage tour.
Refreshments got your attention? In that case, I recommend dining at the Opera! The July 3–4 Opening Weekend Celebration offers full-bore festivities, and the first performance of every opera is enhanced with an elegant three-course Opening Night dinner set amidst SFO’s lush landscape. Nightly preview buffets include an engaging talk on the performance while you relax over dinner and a glass of wine on the flowery patio. Critical note: once the overture starts, no seating until the first intermission!
For do-it-yourselfers, SFO tailgate parties are as traditional as at major league games––after all, we’re talking major league opera here. Feel free to go for the works, white tablecloths, candelabras and champagne flutes; or simply bring a pair of chairs and pre-order a tailgate dinner before heading to Stieren Hall for a free prelude talk.
Be Prepared to Be Enthralled
Be aware that weather affects fashion and comfort, but you’ll see tuxedos alongside cargo pants and diamonds rubbing elbows with denim. Locals’ tip for visitors: bring a warm wrap to accommodate for our 7,000-foot altitude.
Love of top-drawer opera suffers no economic boundaries since SFO makes it as affordable as possible. Subscriptions are the best way to see more than one opera and you can even craft your own series. Standing room tickets go on sale the day of the performance. If you’re cultivating a young artist, August 16 and 23 Apprentice Concerts are ideal for inspiring little ones who sing in the shower. You can even get a gift certificate to surprise the opera fan in your family. On the subject of gifts, Opera Shop goodies include the 2015 season poster by celebrated Native American artist Dan Namingha.
The Stage is Set for Your Santa Fe Visit
I guess it’s obvious that I’m a big fan––decades of Santa Fe Opera delights will do that! Year after year, talented and passionate souls come together to fill the piñon-covered hills with the sound of music as summer colors paint the sky above this cutting-edge edifice. It’s no wonder the Crosby Theater made USA Today’s list of 10 Best Outdoor Music Venues. A night––and a day––at the Santa Fe Opera is a summer must!