As the sun moves higher and higher into the azure sky, bringing with it the gift of longer days, Santa Fe starts to glow with all the possibilities that summer offers. The welcoming small-town feeling of this 403-year-old capital city mixes with a treasure trove of world-class art and music to make a winning combination for cultural adventure.

Pristine mornings sparkle with anticipation as gallery doors open, beckoning the wanderer to enter and explore the beauty of every art form imaginable. The rhythmic strum of a flamenco guitar echoes on the Plaza, and tranquility flows from legend light stretching out the shadows at day’s end – Santa Fe blesses its locals and visitors alike. How can you capture that feeling? From Verdi to vino, from fine art and folk music to dining al fresco, there are so many ways to pair perfect weather with unique experiences to make Santa Fe your own this summer!

We Built This City….with Music

Not many opera companies can boast that they run in the black on a two-month season, but the Santa Fe Opera can. From a humble 1957 beginning, with audiences seated on wooden benches open to a glorious sunset or a sudden summer shower, this haven of heavenly vocal music has grown into a top-drawer affair with a stunning outdoor theater to match.

The Santa Fe Opera Theater, designed for sunsets and song

It’s not exactly a cast of thousands, but from its year-round staff of 72, the Opera population swells to around 600-plus by the time the sun goes down and the music comes up.

Every season offers five different productions, a creative blend of audience favorites and forgotten classics. One of the hallmarks of the Opera is its consistent staging of both world and national premieres - pretty bold stuff on a hillside in the Southwest.

And it’s not only the music that makes the magic; it’s the mountains in the distance, the tuxedos and gowns, and dinner or a tailgating party. You can enjoy a preview buffet, complete with wine, and linger over dessert while listening to a lecture by an opera maven in the Opera’s dining pavilion. Or make it simple by ordering a tailgate picnic supper and bringing a pair of folding chairs. You can even go native and borrow a pickup to bring in a table for twenty, complete with candlesticks, white tablecloths and champagne. The sky’s the limit for a personal opera party, and the New Mexico sky itself becomes even more beautiful as the stars start to twinkle above.

The 2013 SFO season opens June 28th with New Mexico native Susan Graham in the title role of Offenbach’s comic Grand Duchess of Gerolstein, followed on June 29th by Mozart’s perennial crowd-pleaser, The Marriage of Figaro. Super-star Joyce Di Donato appears in Rossini’s rarely-heard La  Donna del Lago, coming to the Opera stage for the first time beginning July 13. Tragic romance, anyone? Hear it in spades with Verdi’s heart-breaking La Traviata, opening July 20th. The repertoire completes with the world premiere of Theodore Morrison’s Oscar, opening July 27th with renowned counter-tenor David Daniels bringing Oscar Wilde to life. Fan-girl? Totally!

As much as I love dressing up to hear a beautiful baritone, sometimes my mood runs to something a little less formal. That’s when I head downtown to the Santa Fe Plaza for the Santa Fe Bandstand summer music series. All you need is a blanket and a picnic basket for a great date; just remember that no alcohol is allowed on the Plaza. This locally-sponsored annual music extravaganza starts rockin’ and rollin’ June 21st at 6pm, with two different bands each performance night, intermingling local favorites and nationally touring groups. And beginning July 1st, noon performances let us locals escape from the office for a musical hour. Sexy belly-dancers will shake it, hip-hoppers will break it, and tribal music will make it global over nine weeks until the series ends August 23rd. Every year I vow I’ll be brave enough to join the swing dance crowd - maybe this summer, I’ll keep that promise!

Many musical styles to be found on the Santa Fe Bandstand

There’s jazz on the Bandstand too, and diehards get to groove to the sounds of the New Mexico Jazz Festival. The cachet of Santa Fe’s vibrant performing arts scene attracts name-brand musicians to venues split between the Lensic Performing Arts Center and the Santa Fe Plaza. From July 21 through July 27, Stanley Clarke, Terence Blanchard and the hot, hot, hot Eddie Palmieri are a few of the jazz masters who will pull out all the stops on the stage of the Lensic.

The Great Books program at St. John’s College makes this scholarly institution a valued guardian of the classics in Santa Fe. And there’s more on offer, since summer brings St. John’s Music on the Hill, a Wednesday night series of outdoor musical performances, now in its eighth season, taking place from June 12th through July 24from 6 to 8pm on the green expanse of the college’s lovely grass field. Concertgoers can hang out on the lawn with a picnic dinner obtained on premises from Walter Burke Catering or you and your gang can just bring a basket of goodies and a blanket. Self-parking is at a premium (read “get here early if you want your own car”), but a shuttle van runs every 15 minutes from the ample parking lots at Museum Hill, thanks to City of Santa Fe Rapid Transit.

Feeling all heated up with ideas now? Cool down with a Chopin nocturne or go for baroque with the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, now in its 41st year. From July 14 to August 19, you can dine out before delighting to Dvorak or spend an hour at a daytime rehearsal. Most concerts take place at the St. Francis Auditorium with an occasional outing at the Lensic, and the thrilling roster of artists includes the Orion String Quartet, Garrick Ohlsson, Felix Fan, and a host of guest vocalists taking a break from their roles at the Santa Fe Opera.

Art, Artisans, Artistry…Wherever You Turn

I’m talking art, and I’m talking Santa Fe! Nobody does art like the City Different, and there is more than one way to get outdoors for your art fix. Whether you’re strolling down Canyon Road, cruising the Railyard, or exploring the Plaza and its narrow byways, you’ll discover exciting and inspiring galleries and studios…over 250 of them.  Throughout the summer, there are art walks and gallery openings on Friday evenings, and the artistry on display in Santa Fe 365 days a year will boggle your mind.

Now let’s talk world-class markets! While the Native American artisans kindly oblige us by sitting out under the portal regardless of the weather, summer is the season when Santa Fe goes all out to show off the diversity of its visual art markets.

I can hardly believe that the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market is ten years old! Who could have imagined that this great little idea would grow into a major attraction for lovers of unique folk art from around the world? Not only do I get to decorate my Santa Fe adobe with treasures from Africa or Bolivia, I also get the satisfaction of knowing that the dollars I exchange for a lovingly handmade piece help sustain a village cooperative and ensure the continuity of artistic and tribal traditions. Milner Plaza on Museum Hill will be humming with the sights, sounds and scents of a global culture July 12-14.

La Villa Real de Santa Fe de San Francisco de Assis - our official name is indeed a mouthful - has its own traditional heritage to show off when Spanish Market hits the Plaza on July 26-28. I always enjoy watching the Plaza getting dolled up as the City readies itself for the annual display of artistic traditions that came to the New World from the Old World. Colcha embroidery and weaving, straw applique and tinsmithing, silver and santos, all these unique traditional crafts are kept alive and expressive by dedicated artisans who work all year long for this one summer weekend. If your tastes run to the modern, a Contemporary Hispanic Market reveals a more edgy take on the artistic heritage. This is art worth having, full of meaning and history – just keep enough in your pocket to hit the carnita stand for lunch!

La Herencia, alive at Spanish Market

Big, bold beadwork on display at the Santa Fe Indian Market

Having an artistic adventure in Santa Fe goes way, way back, when you consider how old the Santa Fe Indian Market is - almost 100! But old does not mean tired, because there is something fresh every year. I never miss an opportunity to put on my concho belt and a big sun hat and head to the Plaza to see who won Best of Show. Now in its 92nd year, Indian Market is legendary, the largest Native American arts market of its kind, welcoming pueblos and tribes from all over the continent. Doubt me? I saw Penobscot basket makers, Haida carvers, Navajo silversmiths and Sioux hoop dancers all in one day, and that is only a small taste of this rich and satisfying experience. With the work of over 1000 artists to choose from, no one seems to go away empty-handed, and yes, there is a booth that will pack it up and ship it home for you.


Or Maybe You Just Want a Glass of Wine in a Pristine Setting

El Rancho de las Golondrinas – this mill really grinds flour!

That can be arranged…in fact, it already is, thanks to El Rancho de las Golondrinas graciously hosting the annual Santa Fe Wine Festival July 6-7. Twenty years have not dimmed the appeal of sipping and sampling at this living history museum on the outskirts of town. Sixteen New Mexico wineries will be presenting varietals to try or take home, and there’s food to pair with your vino and live music too. Golondrinas, with its active traditional farming and crafts demonstrations, is one of my favorite places to experience both the authenticity and natural beauty of Santa Fe and New Mexico, and summer is not complete without a visit to see the ancient cottonwoods sway and hear the old mill sing its creaky song.


Go Ahead…Make Santa Fe Yours

Opera to scat singing, mariachis to Mendelssohn, contemporary art masterpieces to traditional silver bracelets and African baskets…do you see what I mean? It’s not so much a question of what there is to do, it’s a question of choosing which adventures you’ll savor the next time you return - that’s why people come back to visit Santa Fe again and again. Immerse yourself in the magic of music and art, be inspired by the culture and timeless traditions, and paint your summer with colorful memories of the City Different!