Santa Fe Opera announces 2023 summer festival season

Summer 2024 will include company’s 19th world premiere

By Peter Alexander June 22 at 3:45 p.m.

Robert K. Meya. Screen shot 10.25.2020

Robert K. Meya, general director of the Santa Fe Opera, has announced the repertoire, cast and creative artists for the company’s 2023 summer season. 

Opening the opera’s 66th Festival Season will be Puccini’s Tosca and Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, followed by Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, Dvořák’s Rusalka and Monteverdi’s Orfeo with a new orchestration by American composer Nico Muhly. Meya also announced the commission of a new opera by composer Gregory Spears and librettist Tracy K. Smith, The Righteous, to be premiered in 2024.

The Righteous  will be the company’s 19th world premiere.

The 66th Festival Season will feature a total of 38 performances, including two special Sunday evenings presentring the opera’s singing and technical apprentices in staged scenes, August 13 and 20. Tickets for the 2023 season are now on sale at the Santa Fe Opera’s Web page.

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Santa Fe Opera
2023 66th Festival Season

Santa Fe Opera. Photo by Kate Russell.

Giacomo Puccini: Tosca
John Fiore, conductor
Keith Warner, stage director
Cast includes Angel Blue, Leah Hawkins, Joshua Guerrero, Freddie De Tommaso and Reginald Smith, Jr.
Santa Fe Opera new production
Sung in Italian with English and Spanish titles
June 30; July 5, 8, 14, 21; August 1, 7, 12, 19, 23 & 26, 2023

Richard Wagner: The Flying Dutchman
Thomas Guggeis and Alden Gatt, conductors
David Alden, stage director
Cast includes Nicholas Brownlee, Elza van den Heever and Morris Robinson
Santa Fe Opera new production
Sung in German with English and Spanish titles
July 1, 7, 12, 31; August 5, 10, 15, 25, 2023

Claude Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande
Harry Bicket, conductor
Netia Jones, stage director
Cast includes Huw Montague Rendall, Samantha Hankey and Gihoon Kim
Santa Fe Opera new production
Sung in French with English and Spanish titles
July 15, 19, 28; August 3, 9, & 18, 2023

Antonín Dvořák: Rusalka
Lidiya Yankovskaya, conductor
Sir David Pountney, stage director
Cast includes Ailyn Pérez, Robert Watson, James Creswell and Michaela Martens
Santa Fe Opera premiere and new production
Sung in Czech with English and Spanish titles
July 22, 26; August 4, 8, 17 & 22, 2023

Claudio Monteverdi, orchestration by Nico Muhly: Orfeo
Harry Bicket, conductor
Yuval Sharon, stage director
Cast includes Rolando Villazón, Lauren Snouffer, James Creswell and Blake Denson
World premiere of new orchestration; Santa Fe Opera premiere and new production
Sung in Italian with English and Spanish titles
July 29; August 2, 11, 16 & 24, 2023

Read the complete news release from the Santa Fe Opera, with full cast and credits, here.

Santa Fe Opera announces 2022 festival season

One world premiere, one company premiere, and three favorites

By Peter Alexander Nov. 5 at 11:40 p.m.

The Santa Fe Opera (SFO) has announced their 65th summer festival season, scheduled for July 1 through Aug. 27, 2022.

Robert Meya announcing the Santa Fe Opera’s 65th season

The festival will feature a world premiere and a company premiere, as well as three operatic favorites. The announcement was made by SFO general director Robert K. Meya on Thursday, Nov. 4. 

Following last year’s reduced season of four productions, the company returns to a full season of five different operas, played in repertoire throughout the summer.

The first of the operatic favorites to be performed in 2022 will be Bizet’s Carmen, opening the season on July 1. That will be followed by Rossini’s Barber of Seville on July 2 and Verdi’s Falstaff on July 16. A co-production with Scottish Opera, Falstaff will be presented in Sir David McVicar’s production, which is set in a wood structure resembling an Elizabethan theater of Shakespeare’s time.

Next in the summer’s rotation will be the company premiere of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. This will be the first piece by Wagner to be presented at the SFO since The Flying Dutchman in 1988, and the only Wagner to be presented other than Dutchman. Some performance start times at the SFO shift over the summer season, due to changing times of sunset, but due to length, all performances of Tristan und Isolde will begin at 8 p.m.

Rounding out the summer season will be SFO’s 18th world premiere, M. Butterfly, based on the 1988 Tony Award-winning play by David Henry Hwang, who is also the librettist, with music by Huang Rao. The play and opera were inspired by the true story of a French diplomat who carried on a 20-year affair with a star of the Peking Opera without discovering his lover’s remarkable secret. The production of this new work will recall the SFO’s productions of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, the opera that has opened all three of the company’s theaters, in 1957, 1968 and 1998.

Promotional art for the Santa Fe Opera/Scottish Opera production of Verdi’s Falstaff

Further information and the full calendar of performances are available at the Santa Fe Opera Web page. Both season subscriptions and individual performance tickets are now on sale through that portal, or by calling the box office at 505-986-5900 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday (toll-free 1-800-280-4654). Currently, the SFO plans to require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for all patrons 12 or older. Full details of the SFO health and safety policies and any updates can be found here.

CORRECTIONS: Typos corrected 11/6.

Santa Fe Opera announces reduced 2021 season with extensive safety measures

Four operas, to be played for 30–80% capacity houses

By Peter Alexander Oct. 26 at 9:15 p.m.

The Santa Fe Opera (SFO) has an advantage these days over most other summer opera festivals: they perform outdoors.

Santa Fe Opera’s open-air theater. Photo by Kate Russell.

In the time of COVID, of course, outdoors is the safest place to be. That fact made it easier for SFO to plan for the coming season. 

“The single greatest advantage that we have given the challenges of the coronavirus is that that we are an outdoor venue,” Robert Meya, the SFO’s general director, says.“ Even if we have to reduce our social distancing way down, it’s still going to be a lot safer than any indoor theater.”

Meya announced the summer 2021 season in an online press conference Oct. 21. The season will be reduced—four operas instead of the usual five—to decrease crowding on the grounds of the SFO during rehearsals and work hours for backstage crews. The four operas on the schedule provide an interesting variety of styles, with one each from the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

Robert Meya announces the SFO 2021 season from the stage of the John Crosby Theater.

The season will comprise Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Benjamin Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream—ideal for an outdoor summer venue!—and the world premiere of The Lord of Cries by John Corigliano and Mark Adamo. All four had been part of the long-term plan for the coming summer.

A fifth opera that calls for a very large chorus and many extras would have been next to impossible to produce with safe distancing of cast and crew, and was dropped from the schedule. 

The open-air “lobby” of the Santa Fe Opera. Insight Foto.

It was important to preserve as much of the 2021 schedule as possible because of contractual commitments by the SFO. “Most of the contracts had been issued,” Meya explains. “Certainly verbally, we had agreements with all of the artists for that season.”

All of the productions planned for 2020 have been moved to 2022 or ‘23, including the world premiere of M Butterfly by Huang Ruo and David Henry Hwang, the return of Wagner to the SFO with Tristan und Isolde, and the company’s first production ever of Dvořák’s Rusalka. “Because we wanted to preserve all of these projects, we had to leapfrog over 2021,” Meya says.

“We were able to save all five projects by slotting them into ‘22 and ‘23. That created a little bit of a domino effect, because we had those plans laid out. We had already built three of these (2020) productions. In March [they were] almost ready to go on stage.”

The dates of those future performances postponed from 2020 will be announced later. “I’m hoping we can go forward with the season announcement for 2022 this coming spring, in the normal pattern of announcing about 14 months out,” Meya says. Stay tuned.

Costume sketch for Lord of Cries. Courtesy of Santa Fe Opera

Of the four operas slated for 2021, the premiere of The Lord of Cries is sure to attract the most attention from the opera world. The 17th world premiere at the SFO, The Lord of Cries is based on two classic works of literature, The Bacchae by Euripides and Dracula by Bram Stoker.

According to the description in the SFO’s news release, “Separated by 24 centuries, The Bacchae and Dracula tell virtually the same timeless story, with the same subversive message: We must honor our animal nature lest it turn monstruous and destroy us. The Lord of Cries begins with a strange, androgynous god returning to earth to offer a mortal three chances to ‘ask for what you want’ or risk the consequences. He materializes in Victorian England in the guise of the eponymous ‘Lord of Cries,’ . . . the irresistible antihero of Dracula.”

The Lord of Cries is the second opera by Pulitzer Prize winner Corigliano, after his 1991 Metropolitan Opera commission, The Ghosts of Versailles. Librettist Mark Adamo is himself a composer who wrote librettos for his own operas, including the 2013 Gospel of Mary Magdalene, which was revised in 2017 for a “CU NOW” workshop production in Boulder.

John Corigliano

Ticket information and full information on all four operas, including casts and synopses, is available on the SFO Web page.

The SFO’s various health strategies, for artists, staff and the public, have been worked out in partnership with CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe, as well as a Reopening Advisory Group comprised of SFO Board members, staff, and public health experts. Steps to protect the health of the public during the 2021 season include seating reduced to between 30 and 80 percent of capacity, depending on conditions; ticketless entry and staggered arrival times; electrostatic disinfection of high traffic areas; and enhanced ventilation and air purification in elevators and restrooms. 

The usual preview dinners and backstage tours will not take place, and the SFO Cantina, a popular gathering place before performances, will be closed. Tailgating picnics will still be permitted in the parking lot, with appropriate distancing.

SFO Tailgaters. Photo by Chris Corrie.

Protecting the health of the artists and others working at the SFO is both a high priority and a complex challenge. Meya explains the steps that will be taken: “The musicians in the orchestra, all of the singers, and of course that includes our apprentices who comprise our chorus—[everyone] rehearsing and performing in close proximity is going to be quarantined upon arrival in the state for 14 days. During that same period they will receive the CCR test as well as the antibody test.

“Once they’re admitted to rehearse on campus, we will have frequent [testing]. All the singers, musicians and apprentices will be tested three times weekly, the backstage crew who can still socially distance to some degree will be tested two times weekly, and everyone else on campus will be tested once weekly.

“Those tests will be the rapid test. We are actually in the process of sourcing those—something like 12,000 tests. We will do the tests on site. We’ll set up a testing station [with] six machines that are going to be running approximately seven hours a day, six days a week with three operators, in order to conduct something like 1000 tests per week.”

The SFO outdoor campus. Photo by Peter Alexander.

In addition to those precautions, the SFO campus is mostly outdoors, with open air rehearsal spaces. But of course the visiting artists and their families will be out in the community as well. “We’re going to ask all of those people to sign a stringent out-of-workplace agreement about what they’re not going to do, like go to bars or restaurants.”

The Santa Fe Opera is one of the very first summer operas to announce full details for their 2021 season. Central City announced long ago that they would move their entire 2020 schedule to 2021, but details of health precautions have not been released. Opera Theater of St. Louis announced Oct. 19—two days before SFO—that they will proceed with an open-air, socially distanced 2021 season. 

Considering the dangers posed by the coronavirus, Meya feels very fortunate that the SFO is operating in its unique environment. “We are in that environment that is the perfect marriage of nature and art,” he says. “We’re in such a fortunate position in so many ways. We’re determined to put on a season, and we have been able to announce with a good deal of confidence.

“I feel very positive that we can make this happen and that we can do it safely.”

Santa Fe Opera. Photo by Robert Goodwin