SANTA FE, N.M. — At the Santa Fe Opera, vocal stars give a grandiose performance, projecting their dramatic roles to the furthermost rows of an 800-seat theater.
At the Festival of Song, you can get an up-close-and-personal view of these stars as they sing some 20 of their favorite songs to the accompaniment of a piano.
You might be only a few rows away in a venue seating 320 and get a chance to hobnob with the performers over refreshments afterward.
That chance for relative intimacy is part of what draws fans to these performances, now being presented for the fourth year by Performance Santa Fe in collaboration with the Santa Fe Opera, according to Joseph Illick, PSF artistic director.
Previously staged at the Scottish Rite Center, the Festival of Song is being held this year at St. John’s United Methodist Church, which has a comparable space, good acoustics and a Steinway grand piano, he said.
“In three minutes, every little song has a whole story,” he said. “It’s very musically engaging and thrilling.”
And rare, he added of the performances.
With their lives taken up by singing opera around the world, these performers don’t get many chances to give song recitals – and they jump at the opportunity, said Illick.
“They can give more of themselves,” he said. “They are completely able to express themselves, from the selection of the repertoire to portraying each different character as they want to.”
People who attend one recital often come back for more, he added.
“Each of these singers are really rising stars,” Illick said.
Corinne Winters, scheduled for this afternoon, plays Soong Ching-ling in “Dr. Sun Yat-sen.” Illick said he saw her at the English National Opera portraying Violetta in a pared-down version of “La Traviata.” “She was on-stage for two hours. … She was electric,” he said.
Her program focuses on “Canción Amarosa,” a CD she will be releasing the same day as her performance, with songs in a variety of dialects from Spain.
Those selections are filled with passion, sometimes unrequited, according to Illick.
Paul Groves, who is singing the part of Florestan in “Fidelio,” is the headliner Aug. 8 with songs by Duparc, Liszt, Britten and Rachmaninoff. “He is the most seasoned of the performers,” Illick said. “Now he does the really big (opera) repertoire – Wagner, Strauss – but his recital is lighter.”
Challenged to name a theme to Grove’s recital, Illick suggested “longing and fulfillment.”
And Brenda Rae on Aug. 10 is “fireworks,” he said. “I think she is so brilliant. One almost can see sparks coming out of her head when she sings.”
Portraying Vlada Vladimirescu in “The Impresario” and Cook in “La Rossignol” this season, Rae will be presenting songs from Schubert, Strauss and Rachmaninoff in her recital.
And, yes, all of these performers will be singing in languages other than English.
But if your understanding is limited to that language, don’t worry. Illick said he will project translations of the songs on a screen behind the vocalists, so you can catch every nuance of both the words and the performances.