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Santa Fe Opera plans classic opening

The Santa Fe Opera opens its season on Friday, June 28. (Courtesy of Robert Godwin)

SANTA FE, N.M. — The Santa Fe Opera will open its 2019 season with a pair of classics, and a premiere spiked with Hitchcock and magic.

The season opens Friday, June 28, with Puccini’s “La Bohème” followed by Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers” on Saturday, June 29. The season ends Aug. 24.

“If you look at the Metropolitan Opera’s history, (‘La Bohème’) has been performed the most,” SFO general director Robert Meya said.

“The most important thing about ‘La Bohème’ is an ensemble feel,” he said. “This will showcase what Santa Fe is so famous for – giving young singers the chance to shine on a world stage.”

“The Pearl Fishers” is a revival of Santa Fe’s 2012 production by the late Lee Blakeley.

The Santa Fe Opera will present one world premiere this season. (Courtesy of Robert Godwin)

Director Shawna Lucey, the stage director of 2018’s “The Italian Girl in Algiers,” worked with Blakeley. Corinne Winters will sing the role of the priestess Leïla; the Turkish tenor Ilker Arcayürek plays the woodsman Nadir.

“It has an open-back stage, with Leïla sitting in the hand of a Buddha,” Meya said.

The setting is 19th century Sri Lanka.

“There was this whole fascination among the French with that period in the Far East,” he added. “There’s a wonderful rain scene. You’ve got all the elements of a great opera – thunder, storms, rain and a love affair gone wrong.”

Mozart’s “Così fan Tutte” is one of the composer’s greatest operas, Meya said. Director R.B. Schlather took his cues from modernist photographers who spent time in the Southwest, including Richard Avedon and Doug Aitken.

“To some extent, visually it might be seen as minimalist,” Meya said. “The concept is to focus on the action and the drama.”

The tale of two young men testing the fidelities of their fiancées is somewhat autobiographical, he added.

“The story goes that Mozart was in love with his wife’s sister,” Meya said. “So, in some ways, this is fascinating, with partner-swapping.”

The Czech composer Janácek based “Jenufa”on Moravian folk tunes.

“It’s very much written to enhance the drama rather than beautiful music set to words,” Meya said.

The subject matter also screams contemporary. A young woman becomes pregnant out of wedlock, and her righteous stepmother plots to murder the child. The opera marks the return of Santa Fe resident Patricia Racette as Kostelnicka. Racette sang the role of Minnie in Puccini’s “La Fanciulla del West” in 2016.

“The child is drowned in the river,” Meya said. “The point of the subject matter is forgiveness.”

The SFO world premiere of Poul Ruders’ “The Thirteenth Child” combines the fantasy of Harry Potter with a Hitchcockian sensibility.

Ruders is known for composing the opera “The Handmaid’s Tale,” about to be revived in both Boston and San Francisco.

The composer based his fifth opera on “The 12 Brothers” fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. He changed the title because the daughter is the heroine who restores the kingdom in this 90-minute show.

Set designer Alexander Dodge based the design on a tower he saw as a child. In the tradition of “Vertigo,” the audience sees a bird’s-eye view with the sensation of staring down a stairwell.

“He took that image of the stairwell and put it on its side,” Meya said. “It almost forms a 3-D image of the stairs, like an Escher drawing.”

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