The Santa Fe Opera

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Theater exterior with baffles and white clouds

Theater & Opera Ranch

The Crosby Theatre

The striking, state-of-the-art, open-air theater has won several prestigious design awards and is widely recognized for blending contemporary design aesthetics with traditional building materials. It commands a panoramic view of the Jemez Mountains to the west and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east. Over the years, the theater has evolved from a 480-seat structure built in 1957, to an open-air house seating 1,889 built in 1968 as a result of a fire to the original theater in 1967, to the current structure built during extensive reconstruction in 1998.

The current theater has a seating capacity of 2,126 and an additional 106 standing room places. Every seat and standing room position offers an individual Electronic Libretto System — a high-resolution full-color LCD touchscreen on which instantaneous translations in English and Spanish appear. The new system (launched in the 2019 season), represents the next generation in seatback title technology. In addition to privacy filters, the system allows for the use of diacritics or accent marks that are crucial to properly representing language translations. It will allow for personalized messaging and recognition of donors to the Seat Naming Campaign.

The combined area of the sweeping stage and mezzanine covers 26,615 square feet with a clerestory joining the two roofs. The “shape of the sound” inspired the roof concept, and its curves directly follow the acoustic reflections of sound from the stage to the audience. Another advantage of the large roof is its capability to collect rainwater; approximately 80,000 gallons can be collected from the roofs of the theater and Stieren Orchestra Hall. Stored rainwater is used to maintain the opera grounds and is replenished by additional storms.

The celebrated architectural firm James Stewart Polshek and Partners designed the building. Purcell & Noppe & Associates were the project acousticians.

Stieren Orchestra Hall

In 2001, Stieren Orchestra Hall, a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Stieren, was constructed. The 12,650-square foot, three-story building, also designed by Polshek and Partners, provides rehearsal space for the opera orchestra and serves as the venue for the Prelude Talks, which are offered to audience members before most performances. Upper and lower levels contain climate-controlled storage for the company’s costume collection and private rehearsal studios. It has also become a venue for the company to host lectures, special events and recitals, as well as activities by other community arts organizations.


The opera property totals 155 acres; the mesa-top portion is home to the Crosby Theatre, Stieren Orchestra Hall and patron parking. The lower grounds, to the northeast, are called “The Ranch” as homage to the San Juan Ranch, a guest resort housed there for many years. The ten-acre campus of offices, cantina, swimming pool and an enormous sloping lawn with its mountain views is surrounded by numerous rehearsal halls all nestled into a hillside. Benches scattered among gardens, trees and shrubbery invite artists, crew and apprentices to chat, study or merely pause for a few minutes’ rest. Swarming with musicians and technicians from May through August, the Opera Ranch also serves as the administrative offices for the year-round business of an international festival.

The Opera Environment

The opera is also acutely aware of its fragile physical environment and has pioneered ways to conserve and protect the landscape. The County of Santa Fe and the opera recently constructed a new, state-of-the-art water treatment plant. Every year, more of the landscaping is redesigned and replanted with drought-tolerant plants and shrubs.