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Nights at the Opera

SANTA FE — The Santa Fe Opera is serving up a smorgasbord of operas for this summer’s festival season.

“To me, it’s a musical feast,” said Charles MacKay, the SFO’s general director.

“There is such variety in the season in terms of the styles of music and the periods represented, and this marvelous spectrum of talent (on stage) and with the creative teams. ”

And for the first time since 2008, the company will have new productions for all five of its operas.


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Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca,” considered one of the most popular operas ever, opens the season on Friday, June 29. Tosca and Cavaradossi are in love but Scarpia, one of the most famous villains in opera history, lusts for her.

It’s followed by Georges Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers,” which will have the first of eight performances on Saturday, June 30. The opera’s setting is Ceylon in ancient times. It is a story of a love triangle involving two men who have vowed eternal friendship and a Brahma priestess.

Giaocchino Rossini’s opera “Maometto II” will have six performances over the season. The first one is July 14. The opera’s love story is set in 1470 against the backdrop of a war between the Venetians and the Turks.

The opera “King Roger” by Karol Szymanowski premiered in 1926. It is about the enlightenment of a Christian king thanks to a young shepherd. The first of five performances of “King Roger” will be July 21.

And the fifth opera being staged in repertory is Richard Strauss’ comedy “Arabella,” which will have the first of its five performances on July 28.

The title character of Arabella is the daughter of a mid-19th century Viennese family. The family faces financial ruin unless Arabella marries a rich husband. She, of course, wants to marry for love.

And the SFO season could be viewed as a feast for a polyglot. Five operas will be sung in four languages — “Tosca” and “Maometto II” in Italian, “The Pearl Fishers” in French, “Arabella” in German and “King Roger” in Polish.

“We have done Polish operas before, but not in that language,” MacKay said.


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Patrons can read English or Spanish translations of the operas as they are being performed. That’s made possible by an electronic libretto system called Opera Titles. Translations can be read along a lighted bar on the back of the seat in front of the patron.

Beginning this season, the opera company has instituted earlier starting times. Performances from June 29 through July 28 will begin at 8:30 p.m. and those from July 30 through Aug. 25 start at 8 p.m.

“Earlier start times and somewhat earlier ending times (for some operas) I believe will appeal to our patrons, particularly folks who have to drive some distance. It means getting home at a slightly earlier hour,” MacKay said.

For example, he said that “King Roger” is about 90 minutes of music and will be performed without intermission.

In addition, “Arabella,” “Tosca” and “The Pearl Fishers” will have what MacKay called “a quick pause” in place of one of the standard intermissions.

“Generally speaking there should be shorter evenings at the opera,” he said.

He also reported that the SFO is seeing a positive response at the box office.

“We are comfortably ahead of a year ago in sales to New Mexico patrons and patrons coming from out of state. I hope the economy is turning around and I hope it benefits the operas, and that helps the Santa Fe Opera,” MacKay said.

The SFO also is producing a special concert on Aug. 4 — “Susan Graham and Friends.” MacKay referred to it as a fun mix of repertoires. There will be a number of operatic selections plus selections from popular Broadway musicals.

“At this concert Graham will give us a preview of her Dido that she will sing in ‘Les Troyens’ at the Met,” MacKay said.