We are currently in Santa Fe, attending the opera festival there. The opera house is a striking modern building housing some 2000 seats and situated on a hill outside the town. The opera has been going some 25 years. When first founded the stage was covered but the seating was open to the skies. Now the seating is covered as well, but the sides of the auditorium and the rear of the stage are open. This means that shows start at sunset (currently 8.30pm) and you are able to watch the sunset as the show opens. The whole is rather magical, though it must be borne in mind that the evenings can get rather cold and windy.
The acoustics of the theatre are surprisingly good. The stage has no drop curtain so that all scene changes must happen in view of the audience, which is something of a novelty and rather harks back to the baroque era when such practices were common. The auditorium is surrounded by a complex of buildings including a rehearsal hall and a cantina in which preview buffets are given, enabling audience members to eat whilst hearing a talk about that night's opera. These preview buffets are organised by the various voluntary opera guilds which support the opera house's work and all profits go towards their touring and educational activities.
Repertoire is generally conservative, but casting and production standards are high. This year Natalie Dessay made her debut in La Traviata and Christine Brewer made her debut in Alceste. Each year they do a relatively unknown opera, Alceste being this years. Next year they will be performing a contemporary opera by Lewis Spratlan, Albert Herring with Christine Brewer as Lady Billows and Tales of Hoffman, an opera not performed in Santa Fe before. I have, so far, been unable to determine which edition of the opera they are doing and whether it will be done with spoken dialogue or not.
The only trouble in paradise is that an audience of 2000 people requires some 1000 cars to get to the opera house and so leaving after the opera is rather tedious. My review of The Letter has already appeared and my review of Alceste will do so shortly. Then on Saturday we are seeing La Traviata.
On Monday I interviewed Christine Brewer and this interview will appear shortly, providing PC problems allow!