Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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The High Desert

July 06, 2011

Bryn Hymel and Mark S. Doss Photo: Ken Howard/Santa Fe Opera 2011

Although it may be cheating to say so, Santa Fe has one of the most beautiful opera houses anywhere. The cheating part is that it is not the building itself that provides the beauty. The people of Santa Fe know there is no competing with the beauty of their surroundings, and so the opera house itself is completely open on three sides, including the back of the stage, to the vistas around it providing for some of the most dramatic viewing in a theater anywhere. If you’re an opera fan and haven’t been to Santa Fe during one of their summer festival seasons, you’re missing one of the great joys of loving opera itself. The Santa Fe Opera season, which opened over the past weekend, is a prime example of the variety and excitement the company brings each summer to northern New Mexico. The season will run through the end of August and features performances of five different productions. 2011 is the second year for the company’s Chief Conductor, Frédéric Chaslin, (his third year of performances in Santa Fe), and he and General Director, Charles MacKay, have put together a typically varied and adventurous program I’ll be covering over two weekends in July. In the meantime you can check out the Santa Fe Opera site, which now includes an in-house blog, The Back Deck, that’s worth a look.

The Santa Fe Opera House

First off, any season that includes a Berg opera is on the right track, and Santa Fe is presenting Wozzeck this summer under the baton of conductor David Robertson. The new production, which opens on July 30, is directed by Daniel Slater and features the highly regarded Richard Paul Fink in the title role. He’ll be joined by Nicola Beller Carbone as Marie as well as Robert Brubaker, Eric Owens, and Stuart Skelton. On the complete opposite end of the musical spectrum is the other major highlight of this year’s season, a new production of Vivaldi’s Griselda. Vivaldi devoted much of his career to opera, although the works are little performed today. Santa Fe has ventured into this territory with director Peter Sellars and LA. based designer Gronk who teamed up for the company’s 2005 production of Golijov’s Ainadamar. There’s another L.A. connection with conductor Grant Gershon on the podium who’ll be joined by a starry cast including Paul Groves, David Daniels, Isabel Leonard, and Meredith Arwady in the title role. The run starts on July 16 and it promises to be anything but boring.

David Lomeli and Ana Maria Martinez Photo: Ken Howard/Santa Fe Opera 2011

The season is rounded out with popular favorites and a curiosity. Chaslin will lead a new production of Gounod’s Faust starring Ailyn Pérez and Bryan Hymel with Mark S. Doss as Méphistophélès in a Stephen Lawless production. The other staple is Puccini’s La Bohème starring Ana Maria Martinez and David Lomeli as the tragic lovers in a revival of Paul Curran’s popular staging. Both Bohème and Faust opened last weekend and will run throughout the next two months. The curiosity in the season is Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Last Savage, a parody of 1960s suburbia starring Anna Christy and Daniel Okulitch under the baton of George Manahan. The Last Savage, which premiered in 1963, was critically panned both in Paris and New York where it received a lavish staging at the Met Opera. It’s conventional lyricism and musicality was viewed as unfashionable then and the work lay dormant except for two productions, one in Hawaii in the 1970s and another at the Spoletto Festival in 1981. However, Santa Fe is known for making gold of exactly this kind of American operatic straw and all will be revealed on opening night, July 23.

The Calder Quartet

Of course, Santa Fe is more than a one trick pony even when it comes to music and mid-July will also welcome this year’s Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival in its 39th season now under Artistic Director, Marc Neikrug. As usual the festival will offer a huge variety of programs this year, ranging with music from the Baroque up to premieres of new commissions. The list of visiting artists is again filled with some of the most exciting names in classical music with a roster this season that includes Dawn Upshaw, the Calder Quartet, Joyce Yang, Daniel Hope, Jeremy Denk, Gilbert Kalish, Inon Bartanan, and the L.A. Philharmonic’s own principal cellist Peter Stumpf. There’s so much music to choose from, but I’m most looking forward to hearing Upshaw perform Lieder from Robert and Clara Schumann and the Calder Quartet’s local premiere of Christopher Rouse’s String Quartet No 3, commissioned especially for them. Check out the SFCMF schedule and be sure to take advantage of the other Santa Fe summer music institution while you’re in town.

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I'll be looking forward to your reviews as I will be in Santa Fe for Griselda that same night. I have memorized the Spinosi et.al. recording; it is exquisite!
I'm also pleased to hear you will be reviewing Griselda. It will be my first time at SFO and the centerpiece of my road trip vacation. Yes, the recording is exquisite- great music!
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