The Santa Fe Opera always presents five operas during its summer season, but this summer there’s a slightly different twist to the schedule. For the first time since 1993, the opera presents two short operas in one evening. “The Impresario” by Mozart and “Le Rossignol” by Stravinsky are part of a double bill.
“As far as we know, this is the first time that these two operas have ever been paired together in performance,” says the opera’s general director Charles MacKay. “Pairing these two beguiling works will give us a rare opportunity to experience their genius together in one evening.”
“The Impresario” and “Le Rossignol” are part of the Santa Fe Opera’s summer season that begins June 27 and ends Aug. 23. An opera that Mozart referred to as a comedy with music, “The Impresario” is the story of an opera and ballet producer trying to keep his company going in the face of financial ruin. A wealthy financier steps up to the plate to help because he has a personal interest in one of the divas competing for a leading role in the next production. After hearing their audition arias as well as additional Mozart concert arias that the Santa Fe Opera has inserted into the production, the Impresario makes his decisions and prepares to present the opera, which turns out to be “Le Rossignol.”
The cast of “The Impresario” also star in “Le Rossignol.” This opera is an adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale “The Nightingale” that tells the story of an emperor who prefers the tinkling of a bejeweled mechanical bird to the song of a real nightingale.
“In the second part of the evening, we will see all the characters from the Mozart opera, including the Impresario himself cast as the Emperor,” says MacKay. “The essence of Stravinsky’s opera is to reveal the healing power of music. The dying emperor is healed by the exquisite song of the nightingale. In the end, all is well in the world.”
The season’s contemporary opera is “Dr. Sun Yat-Sen” by Chinese-American composer Huang Ruo, who was born off the southern coast of China in 1976. Ruo studied at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music before moving to the United States to study at Oberlin Conservatory of Music and The Juilliard School. “Dr. Sun Yat-Sen” had its world premiere in Hong Kong in 2011. The Santa Fe Opera production is the first since its premiere.
A Chinese revolutionary, Sun Yat-Sen (1866-1925) played an instrumental role in the overthrow of the Qing dynasty that led to the establishment of the Republic of China. He was appointed to serve as Provisional President of the Republic of China when it was founded in 1912.
“‘Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’ is an opera that tells the personal story of the man, not the political story,” says MacKay. “Sun Yat-Sen (played by tenor Warren Mok) had a profound love of country and love for his people but a very complicated personal life. He fell in love with his best friend’s daughter (played by soprano Corinne Winters), who’s about 21 years his junior, while he is still married to his arranged-marriage wife. Sun Yat-Sen was brilliant and charismatic. The opera sheds insight into the man’s passions and foibles.”
Although the premier of “Dr. Sun Yat-Sen” featured Chinese singers, MacKay says the composer has been adamant about having Chinese and non-Chinese singers appear in future productions. The opera is presented in Mandarin, which is a first for the Santa Fe Opera. The orchestra is supplemented by three Chinese instrumentalists playing a variety of Chinese instruments.
The Santa Fe Opera also presents “Carmen” by Georges Bizet, “Don Pasquale” by Gaetano Donizetti and “Fidelio” by Ludwig van Beethoven.
This season’s presentations are sung in six different languages – French, German, Italian, English, Russian and Mandarin.
As usual, the summer’s apprentices present their own shows of fully staged opera scenes during two Apprentice Showcase Scenes.
For opera aficionados who want the inside scoop on how an opera production comes together, the Santa Fe Opera offers a Behind-the-Scenes tour that includes many of the production and front-of-house areas. Tours for the 2014 season are conducted at 9 a.m., Monday through Friday, from June 2 through Aug. 22. The one-hour tour is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and free for anyone up to the age of 22. Reservations are not needed.