Santa Fe Opera
I Wish I Was the Tune Tonight
Saturday, Sep 17: Neko Case
Puccini and Barber End Opera Season on High Note
A glimpse of La Fanciulla and Vanessa
The final week of the 60th Season of the Santa Fe Opera included two operas by two great opera composers, Samuel Barber and Giocomo Puccini. Both works have the significance of originally being commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
The fact that I had never seen either opera piqued my curiosity and interest and I truly enjoyed both operas and got wrapped up in the stories told and the spectacle of the grandest theatrical stage in the state of New Mexico.
The Gold Rush of 1849-50 is one of the great American stories where many present day westerners, including myself, have ancestors that got caught up in that frenzy.
It is a suitable subject for an opera with much potential of triumph and tragedy, heroic tales of loss and gain, life and death, loneliness and romance. All of this is in the opera, but what I missed from La Fanciulla del West was the stand-alone aria–it was an expectation that was never fulfilled.
I can understand that modernity has moved operas further away from actual songs, but with Puccini you kind of expect it. Perhaps it is my own realist mindset that prevented me from accepting the banjo sound coming from he harp; if the harp had been played nearer the sounding board it would have achieved a better banjo quality, but that is not in the score.
Indeed I was immersed by the orchestration and rich harmonies, the moving passages and cumulative build up of emotions that overflow into an overall gorgeous musical experience, but, even with all that–the melodies did not last. As for the production, my only confusion was the use of what appeared to be neon light that outlined the set of the first act, which seemed more modern than the rest of the production’s more historic setting.
The lead role of Minnie, superbly sung by Patricia Racette, captured the hearts of the audience. Minnie is like many of Puccini’s strong, larger than life characters. The story revolves around her and her passion ... and falling in love with someone who is the enemy of the people.
The Opera Orchestra was joyfully conducted by Emmanuel Villaume with great energy and enthusiasm. The direction of the action distracted me at times; most notably a “campy” series of miners with guns running through the climatic scene that culminates in the capture of Minnie’s lover Dick Johnson.
Very little can be done to cover the weaknesses of the libretto and score, but a production can help tell the story more clearly and focus the audience on the story line. However, some basic questions still arise: why is this American story presented in Italian? And no one could have predicted the unfortunate character named Dick Johnson, and by the rippling snickers in the audience just proves that everyone has a dirty mind.
Overall I am glad that I attended this opera, and would see it again, maybe just to clarify some of those things that I missed the first time.
Vanessa, by Samuel Barber, has a strong modern sound associated with Barber’s serious scores, although those most familiar with the celebrated Adagio for String, will find little of that here.
The story is about a very dysfunctional family following a huge 20-year gap and the expected arrival of a former lover, but the lover who arrives is not the one who is expected. This score won Barber a Pulitzer Prize in 1958 and the Santa Fe Opera presented it as the refined work of art that it is.
The production values of Vanessa were unified throughout, every detail fit perfectly with every other creative aspect. High praise to all involved: Scenic Designer Allen Moyer, Costume Designer James Schuette, Lighting Designer Christopher Akerlind, Choreographer Seán Curran and Chorus Master Susanne Sheston.
The musical score and orchestration culminate in some of the most beautiful of music of the modern 20th Century. The grand ball is choreographed with the dancers briefly spilling over onto the stage like we are missing the party because our focus is behind the scenes–unraveling the story of Erika (Virginie Verrez), Vanessa (Erin Wall), and Anatol (Zach Borichesky). Now, many days later I feel as though I am still in the musical world of Barber’s Vanessa.
The Orchestra was meticulously conducted by Leonard Slatkin, and I very impressed and surprised by the wonderful libretto was by Gian-Carlo Menotti, a composer as well as a friend of Samuel Barber.
The Santa Fe Opera is the premiere opera house of our region and attracts audiences from around the world. Its reputation is built on quality work and I look forward to many more years of attending productions at this grand opera company.
As a composer, Daniel Davis explores melodic, linear and contrapuntal textures that incorporate elements of disparate forms including folk music, minimalism, micro-compositional techniques and tonality all wrapped up in an accessible style. His works draw from a deep well of his spiritual life and frequently depict his personal experiences and dreams. He makes his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he is a teacher of introductory courses in music at UNM and CNM. He grew up in Wenatchee, Washington, receiving his music education at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Art Music Action
A season of sounds
Cross X Off Your Bucket List This Season
No Principles Tour finds punk band X in fine form
Having attended more than a few "reunion" shows, the only ones that were any good were a Washington, D.C. Damned show in 1988 and a recent Negative Approach show in Albuquerque. Lets face it: By the time most bands reach a certain age, there are good reasons for calling it quits and the motives for resurrection are largely monetary. In many cases the existence of the Casino Circuit enables bands that never should have been assaulting my ears in the first place to once more hit the road and get in my face with billboards along the highways of North America—or at least the highways running through Albuquerque.
The entirely legit performance that the Los Angeles punk rock legend X put on at the Santa Fe Opera last Monday, Sept. 23, dispelled any doubts I might have had about their motives or competence. I was also pleasantly surprised at what a nifty spot the Santa Fe Opera is—and it sounds great in there. There ain't much to say about X: They rocked, they rock and they still rock. With all four original members on stage, X launched their set with a tight rendition of "Los Angeles" and proceeded to rip through nearly two hours of their best songs—that's a lot of tunes—without slowing down, fucking up or retooling their catalog. Guitarist Billy Zoom played with the same panache and chops he had back in 1980 and drummer DJ Bonebrake—though he looked as though he might collapse near the end of the set—whipped it on his snare like Orville Redenbacher makes popcorn. John Doe and Exene Cervanka (or "Cervenkova," as she is apparently going by these days) performed with all the chemistry they showed in Decline and The Unheard Music way back when. The group is obviously enjoying themselves on this tour, with their health and safety in mind, too.
Seriously, folks, if you live near a city the X/Blondie or X/Blasters tour is coming through: Get a ticket and show up. X fans will freak out as the dopamine and serotonin levels in their brains reach pleasure levels produced by only the world's finest live music. Blondie, by the way, while adequate and definitely popular with the choir—oops, I mean crowd—just didn't have the energy and vibe to elevate their set above the rating of "reunion-rock," a term I hereby claim to have coined.
Santa Fe Opera Youth Night
Cheap tickets for you and your wee ones
This summer’s final Youth Night at the Opera is Tuesday, July 19.
For deeply discounted ticket prices, families with children or young adults can attend a fully staged and costumed rehearsal of Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Last Savage. These dress rehearsals will be accompanied by the full orchestra.
The social satire follows Kitty, a young college anthropologist, as she searches for and captures the last savage. Kitty plans on taking the savage back to New York City and donating him to the zoo. When they fall in love and try to live in ’60s suburbia, they discover that perhaps it’s more challenging than life in the jungle.
A half-hour, interactive lecture on music called “3-2-1 Opera!” will start at
8 p.m. The Last Savage performance is at 9 p.m.
Tickets for Youth Nights are sold in packages. Prices:
One adult and two children, $32
Two adults and three children, $56
Each additional child, as well as young adults (ages 15-22), $8
Young adults may purchase individual tickets on their own. Children must be at least 6 years old to attend.
The Santa Fe Opera is also offering free bus service from Albuquerque and Taos. For information and reservations, call the Albuquerque Guild of The Santa Fe Opera at 505-792-6869, ext. 103, or email firstname.lastname@example.org