By Gary W. Murphy
The Land of Enchantment’s magical charm beckoned Opera League members once again this August as the League’s Special Events Chair Brita Millard escorted 22 eager Leaguers to Santa Fe, New Mexico for a week of opera-going and exploration.
Santa Fe Opera is one of the world’s finest opera houses and perhaps the most dazzling of the summer festivals. With an open-air theater that embraces the environment, sometimes with an added dramatic effect, and five mainstage productions every season, Santa Fe Opera is an experience of a lifetime. It’s no wonder that Brita’s summer excursions sell out early, and this year was no exception.
The special attraction on this year’s Santa Fe Opera program was the world premiere of The Thirteenth Child, based on the tales of the Brothers Grimm. Composed by Pulitzer Prize-winner Poul Ruders, it was directed by an LA Opera favorite, Darko Tresnjak (Ghosts of Versailles), and featured a cast of exceptional singers. League members got a special treat at the performance when a massive thunderstorm rolled through area providing unscripted drama.
Scenes from The Thirteenth Child (Credit: Santa Fe Opera)
Mozart’s mesmerizing Così fan tutti got a nip and a tuck in a new production conducted by a true maestro of the Baroque, Harry Bicket. Once again, the cast featured several singers that many LA Opera goers admire including the great baritone Rod Gilfry and former Young Artist tenor Ben Bliss. It also featured the Santa Fe debut of multi-award Operalia 2018 winner and mezzo-soprano Emily D’Angelo.
Scenes from Così fan tutti (Credit: Santa Fe Opera)
Other operas on the week-long program included Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers as well as Janáček’s chilling Jenůfa in a dramatic production that proved to be the League favorite. It featured the amazing soprano Patricia Racette in her role debut as the scheming, manipulative Kostelnička.
Scenes from The Pearl Fishers (top) and Jenůfa (Credit: Santa Fe Opera)
Finally, a sublime rendition of Puccini’s classic tale of the Bohemian life in Paris got us ready for LA Opera’s 2019-20 season opener. Can one really have too many La Bohèmes in one’s life? Not if you get to experience the wonderful cast Santa Fe gave us which featured soprano Vanessa Vasquez as Mimi and Mario Chang as Rodolfo. These are two next-generation award-winning singers. Vanessa won the 2017 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and Mario is the top Operalia 2014 winner which was held in Los Angeles.
Scenes from La Bohème (Credit: Santa Fe Opera)
Of course, everyone who comes to Santa Fe seeks out the work of painter Georgia O’Keeffe. Brita fashions a theme for every August Santa Fe trip. This year it was the world of O’Keeffe. That’s why the week included a guided tour of the O’Keeffe Museum and a day-long trip to Georgia O’Keeffe’s home and studio, forty miles north in Abiquiu, and her Ghost Ranch where the artist painted some of her most brilliant landscapes.
Speaking of Georgia O’Keeffe, the great Renee Fleming made her long-awaited Santa Fe Opera debut this summer with “Letters from Georgia,” a piece that Kevin Puts created from the painter’s letters. Renee also sang Strauss’ “Four Last Songs” on another blustery stormy evening.
All in all, a sublime week in Santa Fe, and we look forward to next season when Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde finally makes its long-awaited Santa Fe Opera debut. Want to know more about Santa Fe Opera? Click here.
And now for some scenes from our trip, courtesy of Brita Millard. To view the full album, check out (and Like, if you haven't already) the Opera League's Facebook page.
Click here to peruse all the photos on the Opera League's Facebook page.