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Santa Fe’s ‘Opera House’ estate is up for sale

SANTA FE – An 11-acre Pueblo Revival estate known for its owners’ hosting of lavish Santa Fe Opera parties has been put on the market for $11.5 million.

The “Opera House” on Circle Drive was built during the 1930s, according to listing agent Stephanie Duran of Barker Realty. It includes a six-bedroom main residence, three guest houses, a tennis court, a swimming pool and spa and expansive gardens. Its first owner was John Dempsey, who served as New Mexico’s governor from 1943-1947.

According to current owners Bob and Miryam Knutson, the property earned its nickname while it was the home of Peggy Driscoll, a Santa Fe Opera board member and donor who used her home to host extravagant opera gatherings. She bought the house from the Dempseys and lived there for 32 years.

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\’The Opera House\’ in Santa Fe has recently been put on the market for 11.5 million. (Courtesy photo)

The Knutsons purchased the mansion in 2004 for about $3.4 million. They said they spent almost five years and $18 million restoring it to its “original glory,” added a guesthouse and redid the clay tennis court. And they continued the tradition of using the estate for opera events.

Miryam, now on the Opera’s board of directors, said the couple staged formal dinners for donors and provided an informal hangout for Opera performers in town for the summer.

“It is truly almost a piece of art,” Miryam Knutson said of the home.

The Knutsons are moving away from high-altitude living to Beverly Hills for health reasons. Bob Knutson said the asking price is what Realtors say is right in the current market.

Casa Alegre, the main residence on the 12,000-square-foot property, features two master suites, a kitchen with space for a private chef and staff, an additional, outdoor kitchen and dining area and a wine cellar. Two of its “casita” guesthouses include one bedroom, one bath, a living room and a kitchen, and the third has two bedrooms. The estate is off U.S. 84/285 on the north edge of town, a few miles away from both downtown and the Santa Fe Opera.

“I always found it very, very convenient,” said Miriyam Knutson. “Even though we feel we are away from everything in the compound, we are only four minutes away from the Plaza.”

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