Preview Review: Santa Fe Opera’s eclectic 2017 Season

From Baroque to the Orient to the man behind the Apple logo, Santa Fe Opera's 2017 exotic lineup encompasses the length and breadth of the operatic landscape.

Santa Fe Opera complex at sunset. 2015 photo by Peter Ogilve, courtesy of Santa Fe Opera.

SANTA FE, N.M., August 3, 2017 – We’re back in Santa Fe, New Mexico’s impossibly picturesque state capital, for what’s starting to look like an annual pilgrimage. The goal: To attend and review all five of Santa Fe Opera’s eclectic 2017 season offerings. Over the next few days, as we find the time (and the bandwidth), we’ll be filing our reviews of all five operas currently being performed during the month of August.

Thus far, 2017 has proved to be an interesting and intriguing season, presenting familiar and unfamiliar operas to the Santa Fe area audience as well as the legion of out-of-state and international opera fans. All the above stream year after year into this modest-sized city that’s become so well-known for its ambitious and highly successful opera company.

This season’s operas include:

Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.” This classic and much-beloved bel canto opera is loosely based on Sir Walter Scott’s classic novel, “The Bride of Lammermoor.” It’s famed for its magnificent sextet as well as its supremely challenging “mad scene” for the soprano lead.

Johann Strauss the younger’s “Die Fledermaus.” A perennial favorite of opera companies everywhere, this charming, entertaining bit of Viennese fluff is an audience favorite. Actually an operetta, complete with a healthy dose of spoken dialogue, it’s frequently performed in English. Performances often include surprise “special guests” and a semi-spontaneous bit of comic improv by the actor or singer portraying Strauss’ tipsy jailer, Frosch.

George Frideric Handel’s “Alcina.” For fans of the Baroque era, this rarely-performed Handel gem is an undoubted must-see, though Handel traditionalists may not appreciate this production’s “updated” format. As with many of Handel’s operas, this opera’s somewhat improbable plot – based on Ludovico’s epic poem, “Orlando Furioso” – quickly becomes secondary. Instead, Handel fans will be quickly drawn to the magnificantly difficult singing that’s demanded of this opera’s soloists.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Golden Cockerel” (“Le Coq d’Or”). In my Washington Times reviews (1995-2010, online 2010-2014) and more recently, here at CDN, I’ve regularly complained about the infrequent performances of great Russian operas in the U.S. Granted, there’s the occasional “Boris Godunov,” and Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” and “Queen of Spades” show up from time to time. But where are the rest? Santa Fe does its audiences a great favor this season by presenting Rimsky-Korsakoff’s exotic final opera, “The Golden Cockerel,” completed in 1907. It’s a delicious, anti-establishment political satire from nearly any political poknt of view, which is exactly what got it banned in Russia by beleaguered Czar Nicholas II et. al. The music is exciting and enchanting, and the Santa Fe’s production is, well, over-the-top. In a good way.

Mason Bates’ “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs.” This world premiere opera, written and scored by current Kennedy Center resident composer Mason Bates, remains the final opera on our schedule this week, so we can’t offer a sneak peak in today’s column. Suffice it to say that this will be a completely new experience for life-long opera aficionados, adding a punchy array of electronica and techno-beats to the standard acoustic sounds of the pit orchestra. From what we’ve gleaned thus far, this opera will be an unusual take on the life of legendary Silicon Valley giant Steve Jobs, given its considerable focus on Jobs’ intellectual and spiritual development and his lifelong dedication to music.

Stay tuned. It’s been an interesting week.

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