See my final thoughts on this summer's season at Santa Fe Opera, published in the Style section of today's Washington Post:
Charles T. Downey, Santa Fe Opera has weathered the economic crisis true to its fine form
Washington Post, August 10, 2011
Full Santa Fe reviews:
The Santa Fe Opera, the iconic New Mexico opera festival and the oldest festival in the country, has weathered the economic crisis with some shrewd cost-cutting, but this summer’s season, heard last week, stayed true to the company’s tradition of combining many performances of audience favorites with a few of less-familiar operas.
Santa Fe Opera on a performance night (photo by Robert Godwin)
As if to justify these ventures off the beaten path, the triumph of the summer was a revival of Daniel Slater’s psychologically penetrating staging of Berg’s “Wozzeck,” from 2001, in which the paranoia and auditory hallucinations experienced by the title character are reinforced onstage, most memorably by a menacing, even zombie-like, chorus. The minor role of the Fool, who has a two-line exchange with Wozzeck, is expanded as a supernumerary (played with creepy menace by apprentice singer Randall Bills) who shadows Wozzeck, prompting murderous thoughts and propelling the opera to its tragic end.
The season’s other 20th-century opera, Gian Carlo Menotti’s “The Last Savage,” is about a spoiled American girl who captures and tries to civilize an Indian man who has never encountered modern society, or so she thinks. This comic opera, eviscerated by critics at its premiere, was given a worthwhile second chance in a blockbuster production by Ned Canty, complete with bearded, tattooed swamis dancing in white turbans and loincloths. It provided an ideal screwball counterweight to Berg’s tragic intensity, and its melodic beauty and adherence to traditional operatic forms such as arias and ensembles call for a reassessment. [Continue reading]
The Last Savage | Griselda | Wozzeck | La Bohème | Faust
David J. Baker, Agent Provocateur (Opera News, August 2010 -- on Santa Fe Opera chief conductor, Frédéric Chaslin)
If anything, next season at Santa Fe Opera looks even more lavish, with five new productions and an alluring line-up of operas. The "American premiere" slot (not really, this time) is taken by Karol Szymanowski’s Król Roger (with Mariusz Kwiecień in the title role), an opera we have long wanted to see staged, and the 20th-century masterpiece slot goes to one of my favorite Strauss operas, Arabella (Andrew Davis will conduct Erin Wall in the title role), not seen as Santa Fe since 1997. The wild card slot is the premiere staging of the new critical edition of Rossini's Maometto II (edited by Hans Schellevis for Bärenreither -- Philip Gossett will advise Santa Fe Opera for this production): no conductor announced yet (I suppose they cannot get Will Crutchfield), but the production will be by the always challenging David Alden and the cast will feature Leah Crocetto, Patricia Bardon, and Luca Pisaroni.
The chestnuts will be Puccini's Tosca (conducted by Frédéric Chaslin, with Thomas Hampson as Scarpia only for the last five performances) and the company's first staging of Bizet's Les Pêcheurs de Perles (conducted by Emmanuel Villaume, with Nicole Cabell and Eric Cutler in the leads). Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham will host a special Gala Concert next season, on August 4, with singers from the various casts under chief conductor Frédéric Chaslin. Performances run from June 29 to August 25, 2012.
In other exciting news, Santa Fe Opera has announced the new operas to be featured in the next three upcoming seasons. In 2013, the company will give the world premiere of Theodore Morrison's new opera on the life of Oscar Wilde, with the title role to be created by countertenor David Daniels. British composer Judith Weir's opera Miss Fortune will receive its American premiere in 2014. Jennifer Higdon's new opera on Charles Frazier's novel Cold Mountain will be staged in 2015.