Santa Fe has a rich summer music scene. Every July and August since 1957, The Santa Fe Opera has been wowing both opera buffs and neophytes from around the US and the world. During these two months, the Santa Fe Opera presents several operas in repertory.
This summer is no different. The season’s offerings range from classic operas such as Carmen or Madame Butterfly to rarely performed ones like Vivaldi’s Griselda to contemporary operas like Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd. There are world premieres here, too. Cold Mountain by Jennifer Higdon is on tap for the 2015 season.
The soaring, modern opera house is 15 minutes north of Santa Fe, just off US Highway 285/84. Their well-chosen mesa-top location features stunning mountain and sunset views. If you don’t want to drive, there is shuttle service available.
Joyce DiDonato plays Elena in "La Donna del Lago " — Photo courtesy of Ken Howard / Santa Fe Opera
The Santa Fe Opera is more than just music. There’s food, drink, shopping and people watching. The bustling bar and terraces outside the theater are people magnets before the show and during the intermissions. Dress here is as diverse as the crowd. You’ll see anything from black ties to elaborately tooled cowboy boots to jeans. Just about anything goes.
Reserve a spot at the pre-opera buffet dinner. Tables are laden with sumptuous food and drink. A perk of dining here is the prospect of an after-dinner stroll through the beautifully landscaped gardens adjacent to the buffet tent. Pre-performance tailgating is popular, and anything goes from a four-course dinner complete with linens, candlelight and crystal to sandwiches eaten directly out of the paper. After dinner, you can attend the pre-opera talk to get a handle on the evening’s offering.
Savor the pre-opera buffet tent at Santa Fe Opera — Photo courtesy of Steve Collins / Santa Fe Opera
The unusual design of the opera house combines a mostly enclosed theater with open sides in the orchestra section, allowing for summer breezes and glimpses of magnificent summer thunderstorms. Seeing a soprano not lose a beat as the thunder crashes close by is priceless. Glimpse memorable sunsets through the stage’s open back before the start of the performance.
The Santa Fe Opera house at dusk — Photo courtesy of Robert Godwin / Santa Fe Opera
The Santa Fe Opera, brainchild of conductor John Crosby, had a modest beginning. The first theater was totally open air and a bit primitive, a far cry from the current state-of-the-art house complete with in-seat libretto readers. Crosby wanted to create a place where American opera singers perform; most opera houses at the time favored Europeans.
He succeeded. Now in its third incarnation, it’s gone from a rustic theater to a majestic theater and from upstart to major force on the opera scene, whose openings are reviewed by The New York Times and other major publications.
Whether you’re a confirmed opera aficionado or a neophyte, The Santa Fe Opera has something for you. From shopping at the curated opera shop to dining at the buffet to people-watching to the actual performance, it will keep you busy. Even if you’re not quite ready for opera yet, start with one of the daily backstage tours. It might whet your appetite and have you buying tickets.
Popular operas sell out early. Plan in advance and buy tickets online well in advance. Your night at the opera is just a ticket away.
Making scenery on the back deck at The Santa Fe Opera — Photo courtesy of Santa Fe Opera