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Side view of theater at dusk with white baffles

A Letter to Doctor Atomic ticket buyers

By Charles MacKay

A Letter to Doctor Atomic ticket buyers

Dear Friends,

This is to share several important updates, including the addition of a very special offering onstage which begins 35 minutes before the regularly scheduled start of performances of Doctor Atomic.

The Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, and Tesuque Pueblos, inspired by stage director/librettist Peter Sellars and choreographer Emily Johnson, have created an offering of sacred Corn Dances as a gesture of healing after 70 years of atomic history in New Mexico. This is an extraordinary gift from our neighbors whose lives were forever changed by the Manhattan Project.

The dances are sacred. They are prayers. The gift offering will take two forms — a ceremony before the performance and a presentation of the sacred Corn Dance during the second act of Doctor Atomic. We encourage you to arrive early to experience the ceremonial dance; please know that you are welcome to take your seats during this offering.

The diplomatic and spiritual meanings of this gift are powerful. Never in their histories have these Pueblos danced together. This event will launch a new era in the relations between the Santa Fe Opera and local communities, signaling a new phase for the Santa Fe Opera’s Pueblo Opera Program, which already has 45 years of path-breaking history. The Santa Fe Opera will acknowledge the gift of the dances by contributing to an educational fund to provide performance arts training opportunities for Pueblo youth.

The Pueblo communities will be joined onstage by Downwinder communities of New Mexico — residents who live downwind from atomic test sites and who have developed multiple and complex cancers. With their participation, along with the representation of workers from Los Alamos laboratories, these performances of Doctor Atomic mark an extraordinary occasion to present a deep history of the atomic age from New Mexico, in the words and with the bodies of the communities most affected.

This new production of Doctor Atomic is a significant milestone for the Santa Fe Opera — our first opera with a “local” setting and our largest cast ever onstage. John Adams’ score is an extraordinary achievement, perfectly matched by the libretto Peter Sellars created from an array of original sources — including memoirs, government documents, poetry, and Songs of the Tewa.

In presenting Doctor Atomic and the entire 2018 season, we acknowledge and pay deep respect to the people, elders, and ancestors — past, present, and future — of Tesuque Pueblo, upon whose ancestral lands we have created our productions for 62 years. We extend and offer deep respect and gratitude to Santa Clara Pueblo, San Ildefonso Pueblo, and all our neighboring Pueblos whose beautiful lands provide the stunning backdrop for our theatre and performances.

We also acknowledge and pay deep respect to the real people portrayed in Doctor Atomic and honor their contributions at a time when our nation — and the world — faced great peril. As all these communities come together we hope to gain and share strength and insight into the human condition from the beauty and power of the story on our stage.

We are profoundly grateful to all who have made this possible.


Respectfully yours,

Charles MaKay's signature

Charles MacKay
Santa Fe Opera General Director

Participation of the Northern New Mexico Pueblo Dancers is made possible with the cooperation of the American Guild of Musical Artists.