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Free performances introduce opera to audiences

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Santa Fe Opera is going on the road in hopes of reaching those who might not have the opportunity to watch a performance on the main stage.

bright spotThe organization’s Spring Tour is in its 19th year, according to director of education and community programs Andrea Fellows Walters. The opera started its roving performances in 1999. Beginning today, the Opera will provide free performances to communities all the way from Raton to Las Cruces. The Albuquerque performance will take place April 25 at 6:30 p.m. on Stage One at St. Pius X.

The opera will perform “Trinity,” which was written by Fellows Walters to celebrate the opera’s 50th anniversary, with music by John Kennedy. The one-act, 45-minute opera commemorates the development of the atomic bomb, which was tested at the Trinity Site in southern New Mexico.

In the story, an older woman named Tessa tells her story to a teen named Atom who encounters her in the present day near the site. Tessa recalls her time in New Mexico during World War II when she met an Italian prisoner of war and the two became friends. He introduced Tessa to opera and fostered a love for music. The opera is performed in English.

“Essentially the theme of the story is that when we are confused, or hurting or overwhelmed, we go to music,” Fellows Walters said. “It gives us comfort.”

A large component of the tour is performing for local school children in the communities they visit. The opera has partnered with Albuquerque Public Schools. Hundreds of students ranging from elementary to high school will attend seven performances at the National Hispanic Cultural Center starting April 24, according to Fran A’Hern Smith, vice president of education for the Albuquerque Opera Guild, which is affiliated with the Santa Fe Opera.

“It’s a very unique experience for them,” A’Hern Smith said. “They can go to the movies whenever they like but the opera is not something that many parents introduce their children to. It’s not as popular.”

A’Hern Smith said after the performance, the students can meet with performers and ask questions.

She said one fact many students don’t realize is that operas are performed without microphones. Fellows Walter said the Santa Fe Opera keeps in mind that some audience members are younger and tries to perform pieces that will engage younger audiences.

“But we don’t dilute the complexity of the stories,” Fellows Walters said. “We believe they (students) can handle the more complex stories.”

She said the Spring Tour gives opera members a chance to get feedback from audiences that may not typically attend a main-stage performance. She said the hope is the tour will encourage more people to enjoy opera and other live performance art. The goal, she said, is to continue presenting operas with diverse characters to equally diverse audiences.

“We hope these operas help to lessen objectification of people and the view of people as others,” she said. “… We want to diversify the opera for all people.”