There’s still time to enjoy this season at the Santa Fe Opera

From the cast of Don Pasquale, Zachary Nelson (Dr. Malatesta), Alek Shrader (Ernesto), Brenda Rae (Norina), and Andrew Shore (Don Pasquale) Photo By: Ken Howard.
From the cast of Don Pasquale, Zachary Nelson (Dr. Malatesta), Alek Shrader (Ernesto), Brenda Rae (Norina), and Andrew Shore (Don Pasquale) Photo By: Ken Howard.
If you haven’t yet ventured to Santa Fe for the opera this year, you still have a few weeks to enjoy the 2014 season. This year’s line-up features everything from classics like Carmen, Fidelio and Don Pasquale to an opera enjoying its American premiere: Dr. Sun Yat-sen. The season also includes two short operas performed in a single evening: Mozart’s The Impresario and Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol.

Attending the opera in Santa Fe is different in many ways from other places, which is appropriate considering the nickname of “The City Different.” For one, the theater is open air, with the dramatic vistas of the mountains behind the stage enhancing the experience, especially if a storm is brewing. Patrons are protected from rain by the sweeping roof, but dressing for a cool summer evening is a good idea.

Speaking of attire, at the Santa Fe Opera, you aren’t expected to dress to the nines, but you certainly can if the spirit moves you. But if you want to wear your best pair of jeans, nobody will look askance as they would in, say, New York.

The Santa Fe Opera’s schedule is a bit different, too. Rather than staging the same performance night after night before opening the next opera, the schedule is staggered, so you could visit Santa Fe for a five days and see a different performance each night. While that is exciting for the opera aficionado, it creates extra work for the crew. With impressive sets crafted for each opera, they must be changed for each evening’s performance. The set for
Don Pasquale, for example, features a rotating piece that represents from outside the home to the living room. Two sides are smaller sets, then with another change it becomes a very large wall that almost fills the stage. The side pieces move and change depending on the scene as well. It is all very impressive and requires a great deal of good timing by everyone involved.

The iconic Santa Fe Opera embraces the desert environment.
The iconic Santa Fe Opera embraces the desert environment.
To help patrons enjoy and appreciate the performances, translations are shown on screens in front of each seat. In addition, infrared hearing assistance devices are available. Of course, no experience would be complete without a visit to the gift shop to pick up opera-themed mementos like shirts, mugs and posters or even your own special pair
of opera glasses.

Another beloved tradition at the Santa Fe Opera is tailgating prior to the performance. Just park your car, set up a table and chairs, and pull your gourmet meal from the trunk to start your evening off right. If you don’t have the time or energy to put together your tailgating treats, you can arrange to buy a sampler of appetizers or a full meal at the opera.

Or come even earlier to enjoy dinner, including wine and dessert, at the open-air cantina on the rehearsal grounds. For $62, listen to a guest speaker giving an informative talk about the evening’s opera during the dessert course. Reserve your space in advance.

Tickets prices vary depending on the night of the week and proximity to the stage. However, because the opera encourages families to attend, there are several family nights each season with greatly reduced ticket prices: $25 for adults and $12 for children. At least one child’s ticket must be purchased to take advantage of these prices. Two performances remain this season under this program: Thursday, August 14, for Dr. Sun Yat-sen and Tuesday, August 19, for Don Pasquale.

Another special opportunity provided by the Santa Fe Opera is the Apprentice Scenes performances. The apprentice program has helped launch the careers of many of opera’s notables. Singing and technical apprentices who have spent the summer working at the opera take center stage August 10 and 17 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for youth aged 6 to 22.

Those who want to know more about how everything works backstage will want to take part in a special tour. One-hour tours are given once daily Monday through Friday at 9 am, through August 22. Tickets are $10 for adults; $8 for seniors, and youth (ages 6 – 22) are free. Tours start at the box office. No reservations are required and tickets are sold at the start of the tour.

The Guilds of The Santa Fe Opera sponsor Opera Insiders Days, with free backstage tours, on Saturdays in August (excluding August 30). Entertainment and refreshments are offered on the theater patio at 8:15 a.m., followed by an informational talk by an opera insider and a backstage tour. Opera Insider Days are free of charge and no reservations are required.

An extended tour of the grounds, known as the “Opera Ranch,” is offered at 10 a.m. on the fourth Friday through August with a “Meet the Artist” component. No reservations are necessary and tickets may be purchased at the box office beginning at 8:45 a.m. the morning of the tour. The tour is $12. If combined with a Backstage Tour, the cost is $20.

If you aren’t able to make it to Santa Fe this month, perhaps you should plan ahead to enjoy the 2015 season. Next year, they will offer the world premiere of the opera Cold Mountain, plus Daughter of the Regiment, Rigoletto, Salome, and La Finta Giardiniera.

More information at