Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – The Santa Fe Opera on Monday announced the cancellation of its 2020 season, which was scheduled for July 3 through Aug. 29, due to health and safety concerns during the coronavirus pandemic.
In an open letter, General Director Robert K. Meya wrote, “It is with profound sadness that I announce today that the Santa Fe Opera has been forced to cancel its 2020 Season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This difficult but
necessary decision was made with the health and safety of our staff, artists, patrons and the entire Santa Fe community at the forefront of our thoughts.”
The decision follows the cancellation of Santa Fe’s three key summer markets – the International Folk Art Market, Traditional Spanish Market and Indian Market.
The opera has never canceled a season in its 64-year history, although a fire that destroyed its theater in 1967 forced it to move performances to the Sweeney Auditorium in the Santa Fe Community Convention Center downtown.
The Santa Fe Opera’s 64th season was scheduled to present 39 performances of five operas, including the world premiere of “M. Butterfly,” based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway show, as well as Steven Barlow’s new production of Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville.”
The 2020 season was going to follow the programming model pioneered by Santa Fe Opera founder John Crosby: a mix of new and old works and crowd-pleasers such as theater tours, preview dinners, tailgate picnics and prelude talks.
The opera says its annual economic impact on the state of New Mexico is about $200 million.
The opera has already sold $5 million in tickets for its 2020 summer season, and Meya is asking ticketholders to consider donating their tickets back to the opera to help it meet the financial challenge created by the cancellation of the 2020 season. Patrons can make a tax-deductible donation for the value of purchased tickets, receive a credit to be applied to the 2021 or 2022 season, get a refund, or tap a combination of donation, credit and refund options.
A group of donors has agreed to match all donated tickets dollar for dollar, up to $3 million.
Ticketholders have until Aug. 31 to choose their option, after which a credit in the ticket value amount will be issued for future use.
In a telephone interview, Meya expressed concern for the many seasonal workers who join the opera each summer, taking payroll from 70 full-time employees year-round to 670. He said all contract workers will receive some form of compensation even though the season has been canceled.
Opera buffs around the world want to know if some of the highly anticipated productions for the 2020 season will be rolled into 2021. Unfortunately, that will not happen, Meya said, because of the long lead times in the opera business.
He said that sets for three 2020 productions, “Tristan und Isolde,” “The Barber of Seville” and “The Magic Flute,” were largely completed before Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued stay-at-home orders in mid-March. Those productions will show up in later years, Meya said.
The summer season brings in opera lovers from around the world, including such luminaries as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former ABC News broadcaster Sam Donaldson.
Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber said the city has offered to help the opera any way it can.
“I think there’s an opportunity of some kind to continue to bring the opera’s remarkable talent to the public without having the traditional opera that we all associate with going up the hill and having a chance to tailgate and all the parts that makes it so special,” Webber said.
Journal North Editor T.S. Last contributed to this report.