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.

Sustainability at the Santa Fe Opera

In a place with abundant natural beauty, the Santa Fe Opera takes seriously its responsibility to care for the land and natural resources. The opera is 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. As the opera looks to the future, its commitment to artistic excellence will be mirrored by thoughtful stewardship of its natural setting.

Solar Installation

Solar Power

In April of 2023, the Santa Fe Opera celebrated the successful installation of a 214 kW solar power system on its campus. Consisting of 431 solar panels, the installations crown the opera’s Cantina at the Dapples Pavilion and Stieren Orchestra Hall, in addition to a ground-mounted array currently under construction. The system will produce over 400,000 kWh of clean energy annually, offsetting half of the opera’s daytime energy use with solar generated electricity. The panels will connect to The Crosby Theatre, rehearsal facilities and the opera’s administrative buildings. Additionally, the photovoltaic network will power the Cantina, where the opera prepares and hosts its popular Preview Dinners. Over the lifespan of the system, the Santa Fe Opera will save more than $1.3 million in electricity costs and reduce its emission of greenhouse gasses by 13 million pounds, the equivalent of planting 100,000 trees.

View Press Release

Water Conservation

The opera is ever-mindful of the environmental challenges inherent to life in the desert. The theater roof captures more than 80,000 gallons of rainwater each summer, which is funneled into underground cisterns. In the 2023 Season, three productions featured water on stage: Pelléas et Mélisande, Rusalka and Orfeo. The opera constructed new PVC piping through its stage floor to transfer the water used in these productions into the same below ground tanks, which is then used to irrigate the grounds. Additionally, all greywater at the opera is recycled on-site. With this conscientious stewardship of the desert’s most limited resource, the opera is able to sustainably cultivate its grounds and gardens.

Ongoing Sustainability Initiatives

  • Utilizing recyclable and compostable products in all concessions.
  • The opera partners with ReCORK to recycle wine and champagne corks.
  • Vocal studios incorporate “labyrinth” passive cooling systems, drawing cool air up from ground and creating renewable air conditioning and circulation.
  • Gaddes Hall and Dapples Pavilion at the Cantina employ systems that collect water runoff, which is directed to below-ground cisterns to supplement irrigation to plants.
  • Environmentally conscious improvements to the landscaping, prioritizing drought-resistant xeric shrubs and perennials, hardy grasses and shade trees.
  • Developing ways of measuring its use of raw materials in production shops.
  • Our Program Book is printed on paper that is sustainably sourced and includes 10% recycled fibers.

Solar Panel Photo: Thomas Grey