The Santa Fe Opera's mission is to advance the operatic art form by presenting ensemble performances of the highest quality in a unique setting with a varied repertoire of new, rarely performed, and standard works; to ensure the excellence of opera's future through apprentice programs for singers, technicians and arts administrators; and to foster and enrich an understanding and appreciation of opera among a diverse public.
Vistas beckon from every side. There are the rugged mountains to the east, the far reaches opening up to the north, the rolling hills to the south, the limitless sunset horizon to the west.
The house itself is a point of visual and architectural wonder, an aria given shape under the overarching sky. Every part directs our attention toward the stage, where the disciplines of music and stagecraft at the highest level combine to challenge the notion of what is possible on the opera stage. Production after production, night after night, The Santa Fe Opera upholds the highest standards of professionalism in opera and strives to raise them.
Working at this level takes more than a spectacular opera house. It takes a village — or, perhaps more accurately, a small city. Only a small portion of the company’s buildings and operations are visible to the audience. To each side of the house, down the turn of the hill, and tunneling deep below the stage itself lie nerve centers of industry — a concealed city of wonders.
There is Stieren Orchestra Hall, with its large two-story orchestral and rehearsal room, an exact reproduction in size of the expansive stage. A large costume storage facility extends beneath. Nestling to the west and east, below the level of the house itself, are costume, wig, and makeup areas; several huge stage elevators, scaled to accommodate whole scenes and heavy sets; an orchestra lounge and music office; and broad and high spaces dedicated to a set shop, a paint shop, and a properties construction workshop. Even more storage and work spaces are on levels below.
Then there is the company’s busy central office complex, set on and in the site of the original ranch house that housed singers and company members during the early years. It hums year-round with work that balances the practical and creative sides of opera production — artistic administration along with production preparation, marketing, media and public relations, human resources and operations, education and community programs, to finance and fundraising.
Dotting the surrounding grounds — laid out originally by founder John O. Crosby and his parents — are rehearsal halls also built to mimic the size and layout of the stage, studios for vocal coaching and recording, and a comfortable cantina. There is even a swimming pool, the most recent in a series that dates back to the mid-20th century, when the complex was a guest ranch.
Together these unseen spaces comprise thousands of cubic yards of creative space. To fill them and help the music and drama come to vibrant life, the company’s year-round staff of 70 expands to 700 during the height of the season. Each member is an individual, important component in the complex “machinery” that is The Santa Fe Opera. Experience always exceeds expectations here, because everyone in the company is fiercely committed to striving for the best. As Crosby memorably put it, “Quality counts, always. Quantity must take a second place, if necessary.” Thanks to quality, The Santa Fe Opera remains a world leader in defining, refining, and celebrating the art of opera.
THE SANTA FE OPERA SITS MAJESTICALLY ATOP A MESA, LIKE A GEM IN A PERFECT SETTING.
Facts & Figures
Every July and August since 1957, opera lovers have been drawn to the magnificent northern New Mexico mountains to enjoy productions by one of the world's premier summer opera festivals. Here, The Santa Fe Opera's dramatic adobe theater blends harmoniously with the high desert landscape. It is this fusion of nature and art that leaves such an enduring impression on all who come. More than half the audience of 85,000 comes from outside New Mexico, representing every state in the union as well as 25 to 30 foreign countries.
More than 2,000 performances of nearly 164 different operas have been given here, including 14 world premieres and 45 American premieres, among them Lulu, The Cunning Little Vixen, Capriccio, and Daphne. Recent premieres include the world premiere of Madame Mao (2003) by Bright Sheng, the American premiere of Thomas Ades's The Tempest (2006), the American premiere of Tan Dun's Tea: A Mirror of Soul (2007), the world premiere of The Letter (2009) by Paul Moravec, and the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Higdon's Cold Mountain (2015).
Casts are drawn from the world's most talented young singers, and production teams of conductors, directors, and designers are international as well. Many singers whose names are now found on the rosters of the world's leading opera houses began their careers in Santa Fe. They include William Burden, Joyce DiDonato, Michael Fabiano, Brandon Jovanovich, Kate Lindsay, Jay Hunter Morris, and Susanna Phillips.
For founder John O. Crosby, the “burning point of reason” for his company was the constant striving for the best. Through good luck and bad, whether facing obstacles or meeting opportunities, total commitment to quality and unremitting hard work were watch words from the very first. That legacy continues today.