My First Opera

My First Opera

It was in the early 1980’s when I first attended the Santa Fe Opera, one of the most beautiful and most unique opera houses in the world. It is, perhaps, a side effect of coming of age during the 1960s that I can no longer remember exactly which opera I first saw, but the setting itself has always made an impression on me.

John Crosby, a musical genius from Manhattan (recently biographized by Santa Fe writer Craig Smith in A Vision of Voices: John Crosby and the Santa Fe Opera), had a dream of an outdoor summer opera company that would take advantage of the countless performers, musicians, conductors, and technicians who were annually idle when the Metropolitan Opera in New York City closed for the summer. He found the San Juan Ranch outside of Santa Fe and with his family was able to purchase what would become the location. He found the perfect acoustical setting and the rest is history.

 

santa-fe-opera-interior

What I remember most from my first opera was the setting.

The house is designed so the brilliantly dying light of the setting sun comes straight through the open but covered stage, a stunning backdrop for any opera.

Photo credit wikimedia commons

To the East, each evening, the image of the reddening Sangre de Cristo mountains attests to the appropriateness of their name. The otherworldly red of the foothills struck the Spanish settlers as evidence of the divine, the blood of Christ made manifest. It is these features that shelter the bowl of the opera house providing an appropriately awe-inspiring landscape upon which the fine arts of mankind can play themselves out. But I digress.

Book your room for any Opera showing now ~ receive a Split of Champagne & 2 slices of Opera cake to enjoy!

Since that first production, I try to see at least one opera per season, always the one recommended by Nancy Zeckendorf, my close friend and co-founding director of the Lensic Performing Arts Center. Nancy’s influence on me cannot be described. It was she who brought me onto the board of the opera in 1986, first to run the business fund drive, later as treasurer and chairman of the facilities committee.

Even still, I cannot remember my first opera’s name! It was a board-known fact that I never developed the deep understanding and knowledge of opera. Nevertheless, it was just as board-known that my enthusiasm and drive more than made up for my other shortcomings.

Besides, I was surrounded by people who knew everything about opera. My speech and drama background from college drove my interests more to the physical plant side of the performing arts, and therein lay the key to my interest in helping create Santa Fe’s finest and most versatile venue: the Lensic Performing Arts Center. Along with Bill and Nancy Zeckendorf, Patricia McFate, and Alexis Girard, the dream came true, a dream that is much more fitting to my strengths as a builder and developer (like Bill).

The Lensic offers such a variety of programming. To name a few: the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, the Lannan and Santa Fe Institute lecture series, the New Mexico Jazz Festival, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Met Live, and Performance Santa Fe. All valuable cultural institutions, all as worthwhile as the opera, and all of which I’ve attended.

As for opera, I have seen dozens since that first one now forgotten, and I’ve always been impressed and had a wonderful evening. And what it’s taught me is how communal and convivial an outing it is—before, during, and after. Operagoers—regulars and first-timers—typically turn a night at the opera into a nightlong experience, with drinks or dinner beforehand (the opening night tailgate at the Santa Fe Opera is legendary), food and libations at intermission (though moderately), or dinner and/or drinks afterward.

Which is why I heartily recommend our own Agoyo Lounge as the perfect complement—to the opera or any of the many other cultural events going on throughout Santa Fe. Come in for an early dinner (starting at 5:30–please call for reservations) or an aperitif beforehand, or if it’s a shorter performance, come by for a late dinner or digestif.

Whatever your taste in the arts, the tastes at the Agoyo are unsurpassed and you will always be pleased, just as I have at the many operas I have attended. I just wish I could remember that first one. No matter. What I do remember vividly is the first time I watched lightning and giant black rainstorms rolling into town past the SFO stage, which now, like the entire audience, is fortunately covered from the elements.

Book your room for any Opera showing now ~ receive a Split of Champagne & 2 slices of Opera cake to enjoy!

Jews of New Mexico

Jewish history in New Mexico goes back, it has been argued, to the founding of the colony.  There is evidence that some contemporary New Mexican Hispanics may be descended from “Crypto-Jews” or Marranos.  These would have been Sephardic Jews during the 15th and 16th century who, under penalties of the inquisition, were forced to convert to Catholicism; yet still retained certain cultural markers of Jewish identity.

Temple Montefiore, Las Vegas, NM - First Jewish House of Worship in NM

Temple Montefiore, Las Vegas, NM – First Jewish House of Worship in NM

Facing enormous consequences if caught, the “conversos” who chose to continue practicing Jewish rituals and identity found themselves forced to the edge of the Spanish Empire, or the New Mexican colonies of the Southwest.   Though the evidence is controversial, there have been both ethnographic and genetic pieces of evidence linking the latino culture of New Mexico with Jewish descent.  There are oral accounts of keeping practices like Kosher slaughter and celebration of the sabbath as well as DNA evidence.  One genetic study of 78 latino New Mexicans centering on Albuquerque found 30 displaying genetic markers associated with Jewish descent, markers found in only 1% of the general population.

Temple Beth Shalom, Santa Fe, NM

Temple Beth Shalom, Santa Fe, NM

The history of Ashkenazic Jews in New Mexico is more recent and less controversial.  Like many pioneers, they welcomed the opportunities present with the opening of the Southwest and the United States’ control over the New Mexico territory.  Trade routes that were oriented to Mexico and were zealously guarded by Spanish policy became disrupted as New Mexico began to orient itself with the greater American market and economy.

Jewish heritage places high values on learning and education, and with a propensity for business, these immigrants were able to grow in prominence in the mercantile trade.

Some of the Jewish families who responded to these opportunities were the Bibo family, ten siblings who immigrated to New Mexico during the 1870s.  Three of them started mercantile businesses.  Jewish traditions of helping out family and relatives led to increased immigration as Jews prospered and sent for their families back east.  The Spiegelberg family, for instance, was a major influence in the territorial economy.  Wili Spiegelberg was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the Second National Bank of Santa Fe.  The Spiegelbergs provided work and welcome for many Jewish immigrants, employing several members of the Bibo family and welcoming their cousins, the Zeckendorfs, who opened several stores in Santa Fe and one in Albuquerque. After the Civil War, however, business got tougher and the Zeckendorfs headed to Tucson and opened a store there. Eventually they migrated back to New York where they became successful real-estate developers. In the 1980s, Bill and Nancy Zeckendorf returned again to Santa Fe and became leading developers and patrons of the arts, instrumental in both  the growth of the Santa Fe Opera and the creation of the Lensic Performing Arts Center.

Bill and Nancy Zeckendorf, Dear Friends of Joe Schepps

Bill and Nancy Zeckendorf, Dear Friends of Joe Schepps

The Jewish community remains a vibrant one in Santa Fe and one which visitors can explore. During your next stay at the Inn, be sure to take a trip to the Santa Fe Opera House and the Lensic Performing Arts Center – two Santa Fe landmarks that exist today thanks to the hard work and dedication of my friends, the Zeckendorfs.

_________

Inn on the Alameda, That Enchanting Small Hotel in Old Santa Fe, proudly presents all historical blog posts written by Joe & Michael Schepps. Read about the authors here.

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Comes Home for Spring

Did you know that Santa Fe has a ballet company? Yes, we share, but what a great dance partner we have in Aspen, CO! For seventeen years, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet has made Santa Fe its second home, and local and visiting dance aficionados are grateful.

The company returns to the City Different for two performances on March 29 and March 30, both at 7:30pm at the Lensic. The innovative troupe brings a program of three works, Jiri Kylián’s poignant 1974 piece, Return to a Strange Land, Alejandro Cerrudo’s striking new ballet, Last, and Trey McIntyre’s seductive Like a Samba,  all showcasing the talent and skill of ASFB dancers.

The son of a child-dancer, Jiri Kylián‘s first love was circus, which led to a training regimen in acrobatics. After his acrobatic academy folded, ballet took him to the Prague Conservatory. His studies with the free-spirited choreographer John Cranko at the prestigious Stuttgart Ballet and subsequent work with Carel Birnie of NDT, along with a panoply of world-wide awards, helped form the unique vision that Santa Fe dance-lovers will enjoy.

Return to a Strange Land by Jiri Kylián, photo courtesy ASFB, copyright Rosalie O'Connor

Return to a Strange Land, photo courtesy ASFB, copyright Rosalie O’Connor

A native of Madrid, Alejandro Cerrudo was educated at the Real Conservatorio Professional de Danza de Madrid. Named a Choreographic Fellow of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, he became the company’s first Resident Choreographer in 2009. Mr. Cerrudo danced in December 2012 at Jacob’s Pillow, partnering the sublime Wendy Whelan. The piece being performed in Santa Fe, Last, with music by Henryk Gorecki, was premiered at the Joyce Theater in October 2012.

Last by Alejandro Cerrudo, photo courtesy of ASFB, copyright Rosalie O'Connor

Last by Alejandro Cerrudo, photo courtesy of ASFB, copyright Rosalie O’Connor

Trained at North Carolina School of the Arts and Houston Ballet Academy, American dancer/choreographer Trey McIntyre, founded his dance company, the Trey McIntyre Project, in 2005. McIntyre is known for “brainy” ballet melded with visceral physicality, and anything that is characterized as being “like a samba” is sure to be a hit in rhythmic Santa Fe!

Like a Samba by Trey McIntyre, photo courtesy of ASFB, copyright Rosalie O'Connor

Like a Samba by Trey McIntyre, photo courtesy of ASFB, copyright Rosalie O’Connor

Not content with just performing, ASFB offers a curriculum of ballet, jazz and modern dance in both Aspen and Santa Fe. The ASFB School provides quality training for pre-professional students, as well as recreational dancers, all in a supportive environment designed to enhance confidence and accomplishment while nurturing artistic expression and technical skill. Students perform in an annual spring recital, and alongside ASFB’s professional dancers in The Nutcracker.  ASFB deserves great credit for awarding over $30,000 in needs-based scholarships every year, helping to ensure a vibrant future for dance arts in America.

Santa Fe loves to see music and movement together, and if you do too, then head for the Lensic!

 

Annie Leibovitz in Santa Fe at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum February 15-May 5, 2013

Self-Portrait, copyright, Annie Leibovitz

Self-Portrait, copyright, Annie Leibovitz

Since its inception, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum has had as part of its mission the celebration of women artists. And this year, Santa Fe is in for a treat, as the Museum brings us “Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage,” an exhibition organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The exhibit is comprised of photographs made between April 2009 and May 2011 and tours nationally to 8 different museums.

This renowned photographer has turned her talents towards subjects quite removed from the portraits for which she is so well-known. The work in this new exhibit is based purely on the artist being emotionally or intellectually moved by the subject. Over the course of two separate trips to New Mexico, Ms. Leibovitz captured images of O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu home, the stunning landscape at Ghost Ranch and its environs, and in the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum vault itself.

And there’s an extra special event in conjunction with this exciting exhibit! Ms. Leibovitz will be speaking about her work on Tuesday, February 12, 2012 at 6:00 p.m. at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in downtown Santa Fe. Tickets will be available at www.lensic.com

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is located at 217 Johnson Street in Santa Fe, NM.

Santa Fe Music – It’s Not Just Opera!

Santa Fe has a vibrant musical scene, and not just during the summer season, when we welcome the Santa Fe Opera and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. We are fortunate that our small town is rich in talented musicians all year-round.

Spencer Myer, Photo Courtesy Santa Fe Symphony & Chorus

The Santa Fe Symphony and Chorus is one of our local treasures, and not just because they bring us the Messiah every holiday season! The Symphony, under the baton of Stephen Smith, offers the orchestral repertoire, and a range of soloists, to music lovers throughout the year. This Sunday, January 20 at 4:00 pm, a concert entitled Winter Brilliance features pianist Spencer Myer in a performance of Rachmaninov’s riveting Piano Concerto No. 2.  Also on the bill are works by Nielsen and Tchaikovsky, sure to delight away from the cold and crisp afternoon in the warmth of the Lensic.

Pianist Louis Lortie Goes to the Opera with the Santa Fe Concert Association

The weekend that just passed brought us the wonders of Jules Massenet’s comic opera, Cinderella, performed in the historic Scottish Rite Center, the former Masonic Temple of Santa Fe, thanks to the Santa Fe Concert Association. What a delightful adventure that was, and with three free performances at the Scottish Rite, and performances in the Santa Fe Public Schools for over 1200 3rd and 4th graders, once could say the Concert Association paid their New Year’s dues.  But no, they are back again on January 24, when famed pianist Louis Lortie performs a concert of opera music at 7:30 pm in the St. Francis Auditorium. Their educational mission closes out the month of January at 7:30 pm on the 29th at the United Church of Christ as Executive Director Joseph Illick takes his audience inside the compelling story of Richard Wagner’s life in music.

Pianist Jan Lisiecki, Photo Santa Fe Pro Musica

Not to be outdone, Santa Fe’s beloved baroque ensemble, Santa Fe Pro Musica, celebrates a Winter Classic Weekend at the Lensic.  On Friday, January 25 at 7:30 pm, Friday, Jan Lisiecki performs Frederic Chopin’s Etudes, Op. 10 & 25. The Classic Weekend continues on Saturday, January 26 at 6:00 pm and Sunday, January 27 at 3:00 pm, when the ensemble performs Beethoven’s Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus, and the Haydn Symphony No. 101 in D Major, “Clock” Hob. I:101. and Mr. Lisiecki performs Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58. With the crisp, clean sounds of a seasoned ensemble, Santa Fe Pro Musica does itself proud.

Matisyahu: Photo by Natalie Zigdon www.matisyahuworld.com

For those whose musical tastes run to the more contemporary, Heath Concerts welcomes the one and only Matisyahu, the talented Hassidic Reggae singer, once a novelty but now a highly respected and inventive musician with a deeply spiritual outlook. This will be his  first  Santa Fe appearance, and this don’t-miss-it experience is a sure bet to sell out the Lensic, on January 31 at 7:30 pm.

Take time to enjoy some memorable music in Santa Fe!

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