Santa Fe Opera, how do I love thee? It’s your voices: mezzos, tenors, sopranos and basses, even a unique counter-tenor on the stage. It’s your treasure chest of marvels on a backstage tour, or a table of treats at the preview buffet. It’s your picturesque panorama of the mountains on a sublime summer night, as the sun sets slowly in the west. It’s the anticipation of your opening night at this world-class performing arts destination. Simply put, the Santa Fe Opera is a true love story.

Marvel in sunsets at the Santa Fe Opera through its open design

Harvesting Opera Season Year-Round

So much transpires before the first summer performance. Production schedules are planned years in advance, with singers’ and conductors’ schedules to be accommodated, musicians and apprentices to be hired, costumes and lighting and sets to be designed. This relatively small operation connects with big talents all year long to bring the opera repertoire to life. It begins with a holiday party each December, raising expectations for summer along with fund-raising for outreach educational programs, and ends with fond farewells until next season’s curtain goes up.

The Santa Fe Opera has made magic annually since 1957. The 2013 season, an intriguing blend of premieres and familiar favorites, is no exception to the Opera’s mix-it-up ethos. The season opens June 28 with Offenbach’s Grand Duchess of Gerolstein and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro on June 29. July 13 brings Rossini’s La Donna del Lago to Santa Fe for the first time, and Verdi’s La Traviata returns July 20.

The Opera’s unwavering commitment to staging a world or U.S. premiere every season yields Oscar, Theodore Morrison’s tale of the trial and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde, opening July 27. Whether it’s opening night or mid-week at season’s end, you’ll see tuxes, stilettos, and sexy slits up to the thigh a la Angelina Jolie, but jeans and cowboy boots also pass muster. Dress as you like, but dress up the night with some special experiences to make the most of your visit to the Santa Fe Opera.

Dinner Is Not an Afterthought on Opera Night

I adore opera, but I need to be fortified before settling in to my seat. Avoiding the last-minute crush for parking and will-call is also on the menu, so I opt for the delights of dining right on the premises of the Santa Fe Opera.

Years ago, the Opera recognized that lingering on the gorgeous grounds is itself a treat, and the popular preview buffets were born. The Opera’s cantina, where staff and performers dine during the summer, becomes the delicious setting for enjoying a relaxed wine dinner and informative dessert-course lecture pre-performance. Dinners are on a space-limited basis, so reserve through the box office or make buffet reservations online from the performance calendar.

The Opera Preview Buffet is a lovely and lively space for gathering before the show. (Credit: Robert Godwin, Courtesy of the Santa Fe Opera) 

If you prefer a more casual outing, order a prepared picnic dinner through the Opera’s website. Order 48 hours ahead, and dinner will await you 2 hours before the performance. There are picnic tables on the grounds, but they fill fast, so bring a folding chair to ensure you get a seat.

Tailgating at the Santa Fe Opera can be fancy or casual

I have yet to see a big barbecue grill hauled off a flatbed truck, but tail-gating is not just for sporting events — it’s a long-standing tradition at the Santa Fe Opera. From two TV tables and take-out, all the way to a crisp white-clothed table with crystal and candlesticks, imagination is all it takes to create an onsite dining experience that fits your taste. If yours is a truly special occasion, there are reserved spaces available, but you need to confirm in advance with the box office.



Opera Opening Weekend in Santa Fe is a Thrill

Sun, shade and sculpture coexist in the garden at Nedra Matteucci Gallery

Consider a more expansive scale and get swept up in the excitement of the entire Opening Weekend Celebration. This insider’s experience encompasses three events that will create a lasting memory of this unique cultural adventure. Friday, June 28 welcomes you to a festive dinner on the grassy Opera grounds prior to opening night. On Saturday, June 29, daytime brings an exclusive backstage tour and lunch, and evening offers dinner in a signature Santa Fe home, followed by yet another opening performance. The weekend concludes Sunday, June 30, with a convivial brunch in the company of some of the season’s Opera stars, in the artistic setting of Nedra Matteucci’s sculpture garden.

If your summer escape can’t include a whole weekend, the thrill of opening night can be enjoyed at any of five opening night dinners. Three-course fine-dining experiences in a private setting on the Opera grounds are complemented a lecture by the director or designer of the evening’s production; remember that tickets to the performance itself are by separate purchase. 

Wondering If Your Kids Will Be Opera Fans?

It’s gratifying to help the little ones you love have early opera exposure to develop a lasting appreciation. You can make this happen for your young friends with backstage tours that set a lively backdrop. One-hour tours (literally behind the scenes) take place at 9 am, Monday-Friday, June 3-August 23. No reservations are needed, and tours begin at the box office, where tour tickets ($10 adults, $8 seniors, kids free) are sold. If you happen to be here on a Saturday in June, July or August (through the 24th), the Guilds of the Santa Fe Opera sponsors free Opera Insiders’ Days, beginning at 8:30 am with entertainment and refreshments, followed by the backstage backstory.

The costume shop backstage at the Opera is always busy. (Photo: Ken Howard, Courtesy of the Santa Fe Opera)

Youth Nights at the Opera are a terrific deal. These discounted dress rehearsal performances don’t require fancy clothes or break the bank if you have to take a sleepyhead home. The Santa Fe Opera exercises real forethought by providing a way to introduce the classics affordably, and, in the process, creating a future audience for this wonderful Santa Fe experience.

Porgy and Bess brought to life by Santa Fe Opera apprentices. (Credit: Ken Howard, Courtesy of the Santa Fe Opera)

And the Opera is in the business of creating future stars too, presenting two Sunday night performances August 11 and 18 to showcase the up-and-coming talents of the Santa Fe Opera apprentice singers and stagecrafters. Who knows whether the little one who roams your house singing to herself might catch the opera bug?



Have You Caught the Opera Fever?

My opening night tickets are secured, my fancy finery is lined up, and I have less than a month to wait until the house lights go down and the music comes up. I have laughed out loud as a scheming servant bests his pompous master, and wept silent tears on hearing a sweet voice fade to a whisper, but year after year, I return for yet another fantastic season at the Santa Fe Opera. Two months of opera go by quickly, but your memories of a night or a week or a summer season of music in Santa Fe will truly be unforgettable.