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Santa Fe Opera announces world premiere, shorter ’21 season

Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo stars in “The Lord of Cries.” (Courtesy of the Santa Fe Opera)

Top 10 Mozart warhorse “The Marriage of Figaro” will open the Santa Fe Opera’s 2021 season, followed by a Dracula-bitten world premiere.

SFO general director Robert Meya announced the Santa Fe institution’s 64th season on Wednesday.

The 2021 season will feature four productions instead of the usual five, Meya said. The more budget-friendly, shortened season will reduce the numbers of people on campus, and allow for more time cleaning and sanitizing.

Susanna Phillips stars in “The Lord of Cries.” (Courtesy of the Santa Fe Opera)

“The Lord of Cries,” a “Dracula”-meets-Euripides mashup, will mark the SFO’s 17th world premiere. The opera also will debut new productions of Benjamin Britten’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin,” as well as “The Marriage of Figaro.”

Opening July 10, “The Marriage of Figaro” is Santa Fe’s most-performed opera. It also ranks among the top 10 of operas performed internationally. Paris director Laurent Pelly, a Santa Fe regular, will return after helming the 2019 production of “Candide.”

Taken by film director Jean Renoir’s 1939 satirical comedy “La R├Ęgle du Jeu (The Rules of the Game),” itself partly inspired by “The Marriage of Figaro,” Pelly will style the piece in the late 1930s.

Soprano Vanessa Vasquez stars in “The Marriage of Figaro.”

“Now, as we consider the 1930s, it was kind of a resurgence of coming out of the Great Depression,” Meya said. “You can see similar parallels of coming out of the pandemic.”

“Figaro” has had “111 performances” at Santa Fe, Meya continued. “There is not a single dull moment. It is some of the most glorious music ever written.”

“The Lord of Cries” composers John Corigliano and Mark Adamo based their work on an intersection between Euripides’ “The Bacchae” and Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” It opens July 17.

Separated by 24 centuries, the two works tell virtually the same timeless story: We must honor our animal nature lest it turn monstrous and destroy us. Famed countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, who has led performances at opera companies around the world, including numerous roles at the Metropolitan Opera, stars.

“We’ve been looking at bringing him here for years,” Meya said.

Tchaikovsky’s sweeping drama “Eugene Onegin” will open July 24. The SFO last produced the opera based on the novel by Alexander Pushkin in 2002.

“It’s about unrequited love, it’s about rejection,” Meya said. “Tatyana is rejected and she then blossoms into her full glory.”

Etienne Dupuis and Nicole Car star in “Eugene Onegin.”

The cast includes real-life husband and wife Etienne Dupuis and Nicole Car as the title character and Tatyana.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will receive its SFO premiere on July 31.

SFO folklore says the company was set to premiere the piece in 1960, but that it opened in San Francisco instead, Meya said.

“It’s perfect for our environment; it takes place outdoors,” he added.

The cast includes soprano Erin Morley as Tytania and British countertenor lestyn Davies as Oberon.

Soprano Angel Blue will lead a group of principal singers in concert on Aug. 7, with apprentice scene performances slated for Aug. 15 and 22.

British classical counter tenor lestyn Davies photographed at the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center in New York City on October 3, 2017.

The abbreviated season follows a COVID-canceled summer buttressed by grants, cost-cutting and donations, including $2 million in PPP from the federal CARES act. The company closed the fiscal year with a balanced budget of $14 million, Meya said.

Board members have discussed several options in case the pandemic still looms in 2021. The scenarios include limiting audiences to between 30% and 50% capacity, Meya said, depending on public health requirements. If COVID cancels the season again, the SFO will remain, using the same options as this year, he said.

“We’ll probably have a big deficit, but we’ll survive it,” Meya said.

Soprano Angel Blue will perform at the Santa Fe Opera on Aug. 7, 2021.

When visitors arrive at the outdoor theater next summer, they will notice such pandemic-fueled changes as acrylic shields in all public-facing locations, electrostatic disinfection in high-traffic areas, hand-sanitizing stations, enhanced ventilation and air purification in elevators and restrooms, as well as social distance markers. Opera officials also plan a ticketless entry system, as well as staggered arrival times. There will be no preview dinners and the cantina will remain closed. All employees will be tested on site.

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