Santa Fe Opera Season Success

The One-of-a-Kind Santa Fe Opera

It’s been my great, good fortune to have seen the entire Santa Fe Opera season, and to my mind (recall that yours truly is an opera enthusiast not a music critic), Mr. McKay and company saved the best for last! The programming has been so thoughtful and creative, opening the summer season with the tried-and-true crowd pleasers, and then moving on to the more unusual offerings. Certainly an opera by a Polish composer sung in Polish by a Polish baritone qualifies as unusual. And more to the point, it’s stunning!

Crisis in the Court of King Roger; Photo by Ken Howard

Karol Szymanowski’s King Roger was so good that I had to see it twice and wouldn’t hesitate to see it yet again if the opportunity presents. Following the premiere of Rossini’s riveting Venetian drama Maometto II by a week, the opera is set in the same Byzantine era of Italy, this time in Sicily, and the casting was perfection. The incredibly rich voice of Mariusz Kwiecien in the title role anchored this unique offering with heft and clarity. The story line suited Santa Fe well, as it is a tale of the conflict between earthly duty and spiritual longing, a very City Different dilemna. Roger’s kingly realm is challenged by the appearance of The Shepherd, artfully sung and acted by tenor William Burden, who offers the kingdom a Dionysian life of carefree joy, ultimately leading away not only Roger’s subjects, but also his beloved queen.

A King and His Queen; Photo by Ken Howard

Erin Morley is vocally thrilling as Queen Roxana, believable in appearance and blessed with a beautiful voice. The role of Roger’s counselor, Edrisi, loyally committed to protecting his king, is clearly covered by Dennis Peterson. And I loved seeing Raymond Aceto, who is terrific as the villainous Scarpia in SFO’s current Tosca, appearing here as the Archbishop…nice switch from devilry to devotion! The orchestra? Just superb under the talented baton of Evan Rogister, who we hope will return to Santa Fe in seasons to come. While it’s puzzling indeed that this opera has languished through the years, we’re lucky and grateful that it came to the stage in Santa Fe!

Pomp and Circumstance; Photo by Ken Howard

The last entry on the Opera’s “dance card” is Richard Strauss’  Arabella, a thoughtful and welcome acknowledgement of founder John Crosby’s favorite composer.  This was 2 1/2 hours of sublime music, not heard on the Santa Fe stage since 1997, and a treat for Strauss-lovers like me, who have had to wait since 2007 to hear that big complex orchestration.  Although librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal passed away before he finished this poetic tale, leaving Strauss himself to hold it together, as the Opera’s General Director Charles MacKay told me, “The music is so luscious, I sometimes forget to look at the words.” The lively conducting of Sir Andrew Davis certainly made that happen to me!

Arabella and Mandryka; Photo by Ken Howard

The role of Arabella, marriage fodder for the financial hopes of her family, is sung by Erin Wall, last seen in Santa Fe as Strauss’ Daphne, and she unerringly handled the demands of a Strauss soprano. As Arabella’s successful suitor, the burly land baron Mandryka, Mark Delavan threw himself into the role, both vocally and dramatically. The Count and Countess Waldner, Arabella’s parents, are ably sung by Dale Travis and Victoria Livengood. And Brian Jagde, who bravely stepped into the role of Cavardossi in Tosca this summer at the last minute, sings the part he actually came for, that of Count Elemer, egotistically convinced that his wooing of Arabella is a fait accompli.

“Zdenko” Gets Her Man, Eventually; Photo by Ken Howard

Heidi Stober is touching and convincing in the pants role of Zdenka, Arabella’s sister who is forced by family misfortune – oh, the costs of “bringing out” a Viennese daughter – to live life as a boy, of course named Zdenko. In his SFO debut, Zach Borichevsky ardently sings the role of Matteo, Arabella’s youthful suitor, who accidentally wins the hand of the other sister, so obviously in love with him, suit and tie notwithstanding! Kiri Deonarine sings the intense role of Fiakermilli, quite a feat without any first act lines for warm up. Apprentices Suzanne Hendrix, Chrsitian Saunders, Jonathan Michie, Joseph Beuatel, Ryan Milstead, Matthew Newlin and Edwin Vega fill out the cast with verve.

Give Yourself this Joy of Opera; Photo by Ken Howard

Every one of my opera experiences this summer left me wide-eyed, and I have to agree with Arabella herself who sang, “I lie awake, unable to sleep for sheer happiness.” Give yourself that gift, and see one of these five terrific productions. Or better yet, if you can, see them all!

Spanish Market Santa Fe

For lovers of art and heritage, the upcoming weekend promises many delights, as the 61st annual Santa Fe Spanish Market swings into the Plaza. With 183 artists in the Market, and an additional 52 youth artists exhibiting their work, this is an artistic and familial legacy that continues to grow in size and quality.

Spanish Market on the Santa Fe Plaza

Taking place on the historic Plaza, on Saturday and Sunday, July 28 and 29, from 8:30 am to 5 pm, the Market offers something for everyone, from straw applique to retablos to engraving to weaving and calaveras, too. If we’re lucky, we might even see some of that beautiful and increasingly rare colcha embroidery!

Calaveras con Corazon

And if your taste runs more to the cutting edge, the Contemporary Hispanic Market runs concurrently, spread along both sides of Lincoln Avenue, with 134 booths of art and artistry to peruse or purchase.

There will be food, of course, since it’s Santa Fe, and among other tasty events, there’s a cooking class with John Vollertsen, “Spanish Influence on New Mexico’s Norteno Cooking,” at Las Cosas on July 26 at 10 am.  And if you just can’t make time for that class, don’t forget that the Inn offers a Muy Sabrosa Cooking Experience with the experts from the Santa Fe School of Cooking, soon to be fully ensconced in their new location.

La Comida Muy Sabrosa!

Also on July 26, John Schaefer lectures on “Collecting Spanish Colonial Art” at Peyton Wright Gallery at 4:30 pm. On Friday July 27, at 9:30 am, Patina Gallery hosts a breakfast reception and lecture on the work of Enric Majoral.  On Friday evening, a Market Preview opens at the Santa Fe Convention Center at 7 pm.

Listen for “la musica,” not only during the Saturday-Sunday Market itself. On Thursday, July 26, the Santa Fe Bandstand series gets into the act with homegrown favorites, Andy Primm and Alex Maryol, performing on the Plaza from 6 to 9 pm. Performances by the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival take place in St. Francis Auditorium on Thursday, July 26 at noon and 6 pm, Friday, July 27 at 6 pm, Saturday, July 27 at 6 pm, and Sunday, July 28 at 5 pm. The Santa Fe Desert Chorale offers a concert, “Celebrating the Centenery,” at 8 pm on Saturday, July 28 at the New Mexico History Museum.  The Santa Fe Opera serves up Giaochino Rossini’s Maometto II on Friday the 27th at 8:30 pm, and on Saturday the 28th, also at 8:30 pm, the premiere of Richard Strauss’ Arabella rounds out the season’s repertoire.

It looks like it will be a great weekend…will we see you there?

Santa Fe Opera Premieres

July is the month for Santa Fe Opera premieres! This past weekend brought the riveting and seldom-seen drama, Maometto II, composed by Giaochino Rossini, better known to opera audiences for his comic operas. Coming this weekend is King Roger, by Karol Szymanowski, and the last premiere, Richard Strauss’ Arabella debuts in the last week of July.

The Santa Fe Opera Theater

The story of Maometto II concerns the attempted conquest of Italy by the Turks, and the action takes place in the Venetian city of Negroponte, during a siege. The commander of the city, Paolo Erisso, is challenged to save both his populace and his daughter, Anna. Little does he know that Anna has fallen in love with the Turk, Maometto, who met her while disguised as an Italian. When she realizes exactly who her lover is, she chooses kin and country, losing her life in the process. To put flesh to the bones of this story, some truly tour-de-force singing takes place over the course of two vocally punishing 90-minute acts.

Anna and Maometto II; photo by Ken Howard

The role of Maometto is impressively sung by bass-baritone, Luca Pisaroni, who physically and emotionally embodies the character with skill. He sounds great and looks great in equal measure, and it’s not often that you have the opportunity to hear a low voice doing such vocal calisthenics. Leah Crocetto’s liquid singing brings both passion and pathos to the role of Anna; she’s young and believable, and wow, can she sing! We look forward to hearing both of these artists perform in the Santa Fe Concert Association’s Festival of Song, Leah Crocetto on July 22 and Luca Pisaroni on August 5. Anna’s father, Erisso, is ably and nobly sung by tenor Brian Sledge, and the pants-role of his general, Calbo, is brought to life by mezzo-soprano, Patricia Bardon, pouring her whole heart and voice into the role.

Venetians Under Siege: Calbo, Anna and Erisso; photo by Ken Howard

The scenic and costume designs by Jon Morrell were striking, and the lovely contrast of the noblewomen’s jewel-toned gowns to the stark white backdrop were evocatively lit by a  favorite Santa Fe Opera regular, Duane Schuler. Director David Alden moved the principals, chorus and dancers to measured and thoughtful effect. Music Director Frederic Chaslin led a lively orchestra, and the sustained pace kept this listener (who is NOT a music critic, just a diehard opera enthusiast) from sensing the actual length of each act.

A Terrific Chorus Too; photo by Ken Howard

We are loving the new start times, 8:30pm in July and 8:00pm in August. They do not detract at all from the action, and in fact, with the right staging, the backdrop of the New Mexico sky is a glorious addition. Keep in mind that some summer evenings can be cool and rainy, so bring that pretty shawl to stay warm.

The New Mexico Sky Plays Its Part

The Opera shuttle picks up right at the Inn’s doorstep, and with five new productions, this is a Santa Fe Opera season to cherish. We’ll be there to see each and every production, multiple times, we hope!

Santa Fe Opera…Summer Season At Last!

The Santa Fe Opera, 7 miles north of Santa Fe on Highway 84/285


“I have longed for the sound of your voice.” So sings Nadir in Georges Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers. And that’s an apt reflection of  my feelings as I pine for la bella voce each year, waiting for the Santa Fe Opera season to begin.

This season is notable for bringing five, yes, five, new productions to opera lovers. The internet “tells” me that 5 is the number representing divine grace, and there’s a blessed synchronicity in that thought for this, the Santa Fe Opera’s 55th season. Three of the productions are new to the company, Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers; King Roger, composed by Karol Szymanowski and first performed in 1926; and Giacomo Rossini’s Maometto II, written in 1820 but performed this summer in a new edition prepared by Dutch scholar, Hans Schellevis. The repertory is rounded out with Giacomo Puccini’s riveting Tosca, not seen here since 1994, and, in a nod to founder John Crosby’s favorite composer, Richard Strauss, a new production of Arabella, last performed in Santa Fe in 1997.

Good fortune gave me the opportunity to hear Tosca and The Pearl Fishers last week, and although I was familiar with the music from both, I had never seen either in performance. It doesn’t take much expertise to predict that these will both be big hits for the company this summer.

Tosca and Cavaradossi, Passion and Puccini: Photo by Ken Howard

Scarpia Gets What He Deserves: Photo by Ken Howard

Tosca, with SFO Music Director Fredric Chaslin in the pit, offers a big dose of drama, along with Puccini’s always-memorable arias. And there’s an exciting back story this year, too! One week before opening, tenor Andrew Richards who was to have sung the critical role of Cavaradossi, was forced to withdraw due to severe allergies. While we regret his misfortune, the flurry around a last-minute replacement never fails to excite. Brian Jagde, who already had prepared to sing the part at the San Francisco Opera in the fall stepped up to the SFO stage in admirable fashion and acquitted himself commendably with a rich, full tone and youthful ardor. Congratulations to him for his stamina and willingness to add this to his previously-scheduled role in Arabella in later in the season! Floria Tosca is sung by Amanda Echalaz, who did not hold back at all in a passionate portrait of a diva who has “lived for art… lived for love.” We can always count on Italian opera for a hard-bitten villain, and Scarpia, as sung by the baritone Raymond Aceto, did not disappoint, with leers aplenty complementing his liquid voice. Puccini’s scoundrels always act so bad, but sound so good! Noted baritone Thomas Hampson returns to sing Scarpia for the last performances in August, after a long absence from Santa Fe.

Nadir and Zurga, The Pearl Fishers: Photo by Ken Howard

Lovely Voice, Lovely Leila, The Pearl Fishers: Photo by Ken Howard

Also just opened is Georges Bizet’s luscious The Pearl Fishers, luminous in every aspect. A first for SFO, this early work from Bizet, while not as complex as his Carmen, is full of memorable melodies and is energetically conducted by Emmanuel Villaume. The story begins as two old friends reunite, vowing to stay loyal despite their prior passion for the same woman, who, you guessed it, shows up again, this time as a temple vestal whose virginity protects the pearl-diving community. With its exotic setting in Ceylon (today’s Sri Lanka), this opera has Brahma for its divinity, but in typically operatic fashion, there’s a love story at its core. The maiden in question is the strikingly well-cast Nicole Cabell, whose liquid  soprano has beautiful tone and control, and who embodies both the sworn temple guardian and the sensuous woman in love. Her paramour Nadir is portrayed by Eric Cutler, fortunate indeed to have some really gorgeous tenor lines with which to demonstrate his ability. And in the role of Zurga, his friend and rival, baritone Christopher Magiera masterfully shows both jealous rage and compassionate forgiveness in equal measures.

YOUR seat awaits!

What’s next? Maometto II, also conducted by Frederic Chaslin, premieres on Saturday, July 14 at 8:30, with bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni in the title role. King Roger, directed by the highly-regarded Stephen Wadsworth and conducted by Evan Rogister, opens on Saturday, July 21, also at 8:30pm, with the terrific Polish baritone, Maruisz Kwiecien taking the lead in his native tongue. And Strauss’ Arabella, opening on Saturday, July 28 at 8:30 pm welcomes Erin Wall back to the Santa Fe stage as Arabella, with the orchestra led by Sir Andrew Davis.

Feed the Body First, then the Soul!

And don’t forget that you can go early, beat the parking crush, and enjoy a tailgate picnic like so many do, although the picnic tables are for the really early arrivals…everyone else, bring furniture!

Silent Mountains, Musical Nights

Another hit season has begun, so don’t wait too long to get your tickets,and the Opera Shuttle will pick you up right here at the Inn! And byt the way, the new earlier start times – 8:30pm in July and 8:00pm in August – are great! This opera fan (never posing as a music critic, mind you) is thrilled to be back up on the hill, watching the sun go down and the stage lights come up!

Glorious Sunsets, Glorious Music

Summer in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Yes, it’s summer, and the sunsets have been glorious, as will be the summer arts scene in the City Different.

Santa Fe Sunsets are Memorable

The Santa Fe Opera season opens on June 29th with a gala performance of Puccini’s Tosca. This year’s repertoire should be an opera fan’s delight, with five, count ’em five, new productions: In addition to Tosca, you can enjoy Georges Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, Karol Szymanowski’s King Roger, Giacomo Rossini’s Maometto II, andArabella by Richard Strauss, founder John Crosby’s favorite composer.

The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival kicks off on July 15th and runs through August 20th, with many familiar names. The Orion String Quartet will return, as will flutist Tara Helen O’Connor, and bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni will take a night off from his opera duties to sing in town. And Santa Fe welcomes Alan Gilbert, conductor of the New York Philharmoic and former Music Director of the Santa Fe Opera, to the stage for several viola performances.

The Santa Fe Bandstand brings free music to the Santa Fe Plaza Monday through Thursday nights at 6pm beginning on July 5. Mondays and Wednesdays also feature concerts at noon, with all performances running through August 16.

The big arts events are all scheduled to return, with the exception of the SOFA show, which was sadly cancelled for this year.

Matluba Bazarova, featured Folk Artist from Uzbekistan

Handmade SilK and Felt Scarves from Kyrgyzstan

The 12th annual ART Santa Fe returns to the City Different from July 12-15. TheSanta Fe International Folk Art Market takes place on Museum Hill on July 13-15, followed shortly by the 61st Annual Spanish Market on July 27-29. And it wouldn’t be August without SWAIA’s Indian Market, with the 91st iteration taking place on August 17-19.

What’s new in Santa Fe? The Santa Fe School of Cooking is moving to its new digs on July 1st, with ground level access and their own parking lot. The new location is at 125 North Guadalupe Street.

317 Aztec has taken over the space of the former Aztec Cafe, bringing a focus on raw salads, juices and vegan/vegetarian items. The sorely-missed Plaza Cafe has yet to re-open, but we are watching the progress on Lincoln Avenue. The Palace Restaurant is definitely back in the saddle, complete with red-flocked wallpaper and the talents of Joseph Wrede, formerly of Joseph’s Table in Taos, headlining the kitchen. And there’s a patio in back!

The Sun-Dappled Patio at La Casa Sena

Speaking of outdoor dining, a patio does make for a wonderful evening, and the patio at Restaurant Martin is as gorgeous as the food. SantaCafe is always a stellar outdoor choice, and La Casa Sena has renovated their menu along with their patio. The patio at The Compound is always peaceful and cool, and the Coyote Cantina (sorry, no reservations) is always a lively scene.

Since your time may be better spent enjoying a daytrip, we are always happy to discuss dining options or make dinner reservations for you; you just need to call us at 888-984-2121 for suggestions or assistance.

Take a Daytrip into Beautiful New Mexico, Photo by Eric Swanson

Let us be YOUR Santa Fe!

Viva La Fiesta de Santa Fe

The big art events are behind us, the Opera season has concluded, and now it’s time for the Santa Fe locals to have a party….a party that’s almost 300 years old! Although the City of Santa Fe celebrates its history and heritage throughout the year, Fiesta de Santa Fe heralds the approach of autumn with all of its attendant glories, fresh green chile, golden aspens and refreshingly cool mornings, welcome after the heat of summer. Viva La Fiesta de Santa Fe!

Welcome to Our Party!

Fiesta events encompass somber recollections of the past in conjunction with the delights of the present, in short, they offer a little bit of everything for everyone. Although the Fiesta Council works diligently throughout the year to ensure that the Fiesta court has been chosen and the event schedule coordinated, the majority of  Fiesta events take place during the week that coincides with the Labor Day holiday.

The annual Labor Day Arts and Crafts Festival takes place all day on the Plaza through Monday, September 5th, and local artisans will be on hand to talk about their work. Music will ring out at the Fiestacita at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center on Tuesday, September 6 from 6:30-9:00 p.m. And if you simply must have the music continue, there will be two more opportunities to enjoy the happy sounds of the trumpet and guitarron at a Concierto de Mariachi at the Lensic on Wednesday, September 7 at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

Lovin’ That Guitarron!

History buffs can make an afternoon visit to the New Mexico History Museum on Wednesday, September 7, and return at 6:30 p.m. to learn more at an informative lecture, entitled “Death Along the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro 167o,” presented by Dr. Joseph Sanchez.  Dr. Sanchez examines the dramatic escape of Bernardo Gruber, branded as a witch by the Spanish Inquisition.

Thursday is given over to the burning of Zozobra, Old Man Gloom, a 50+ foot puppet (for lack of a better term), who offers Santa Fesinos the opportunity to put an end to the dark thoughts and distractions of the year. This annual conflagration, created by artist Will Shuster in 1924, pre-dates Nevada’s Burning Man by 60-some years, and advance tickets are advised. Following the burning of Zozobra, the revelry flows down to the Plaza, for music, munching and merriment. With on-field attendance at 25K, take note that Zozobra is NOT for agoraphobics or the faint-at-heart!

If You Think He Looks Big Here…

The firm commitment made to La Conquistadora in 1712 to commemorate the re-conquest of Santa Fe after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 includes several religious events, including the Pregon de La Fiesta at 6:00 a.m. on Friday, September 9, in the historic Rosario Chapel. There will be a Pontifical Mass celebrated by Archbishop Sheehan on Sunday, September 11 at 10:00 a.m., that starts with a Procession from the Plaza to St. Francis Cathedral. And Fiesta events also end on a more solemn note, with a Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday, September 11, at 7:00 p.m. at the beautiful Cathedral, followed by a candlelight procession to the Cross of the Martyrs.

Like all small towns, Santa Fe loves a parade, and Fiesta offers two to enjoy, complete with marching bands. On Saturday September 10 at 9:00 a.m., the children of the City Different bring out their pets, both live and stuffed, for the unique Pet Parade, Desfile de los Ninos, where you might encounter a lizard dressed as Don Diego de Vargas or a few adorable Senorita Barbies! Sunday, September 11 is the Desfile de La Gente, aka the Hysterical/Historical Parade, in which residents poke fun at local figures and national events. And speaking of hysterical, clapping, stomping and booing are all welcome behavior at the Santa Fe Playhouse, when the Fiesta Melodrama, anonymously penned each year, skewers pols and prima donnas alike.

I Love a Parade!

Entertainment takes place all weekend on the Plaza Bandstand, with folkloric dance, traditional music, and Fiesta garb galore. The Gran Baile takes place at the Community Convention Center on Saturday night, September 10, at 7:30 p.m.; you’ll certainly see some fancy Fiesta fashions there. And food booths will be wafting tempting aromas around the downtown streets throughout the weekend.

Our Fiesta de Santa Fe holds a very special place in our hearts, and we invite you to join us as we fondly declaim, “Vivan Las Fiestas! Que Viva!”