A Great Week in Santa Fe
by Argo Gherardi
Everybody with whom we spoke and who had attended Opera Santa Fe said that we would have a good experience there. So, we left home anticipating a great week in Santa Fe.
After our flight from San Jose, we rented a car at the Albuquerque airport and drove north to Santa Fe. We experienced our first taste of northern New Mexico scenery on that drive; scenery that is so different from coastal California.
The first of the three operas we saw was Beatrice and Benedict by Berlioz. The spoken dialogue and the singing, both in English, blended well and the acting and the quality of the singing were topnotch. The opera is based on Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing. Berlioz' music, much use of Shakespeare's text, and Tim Albery's direction made for an excellent production. The cast did a flawless job of moving on a set that undulated somewhat like a ski run full of moguls.
The second opera was La Sonnambula by Bellini. The lead role of Amina was sung by Natalie Dessay, and she was great. Her soprano seemed effortless and kept the audience spellbound. Tenor Shalva Mukeria did a good job of not being outclassed by Dessay. Bass Giovanni Furlanetto was good, but it seems that the opera did not allow for the lows one would expect. The setting was a Swiss village and it was a little cramped when all were onstage, which was for much of the time. The costumes for the period, early nineteenth century, were excellent. Apparently the village is on the edge of a lake, and Dessay and Mukeria performed part of the time while ankle deep in water.
The sound of heavy rain on the theater's roof complemented the watery scene! Most of the side walls are missing (intentionally) from the theater.
The third opera was Simon Boccanegra by Verdi. This was a change of pace, a personal drama driven by Verdi's gift for dramatic music. The set was austere, but true to the action that took place in the late Middle Ages, i.e. 14th century Genoa. We were fortunate to hear the two lead roles sung by Mark Delavan and Patricia Racette. The drama was highlighted by occasional flashes of lightning off in the distance. In the chorus, we saw tenor Joseph Muir, who was a resident artist last year with Opera San José.
We not only had a week of fine opera, but also a week of fine sightseeing. Santa Fe itself was unique with its "Spanish-Pueblo" look and buildings constructed in 1610. We visited fine museums, including viewing Georgia O'Keefe's original paintings in the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. We explored the environment in which she painted by visiting the area and hamlet of Abiquiu, where she made her home in 1945. There we saw some of the landscapes depicted in her paintings. We also visited Bandolier National Monument, where we hiked along a creek in a forested canyon bottom and walked by the ruins of a seven-to-eight-hundred year old Indian pueblo, and looked into cliff dwellings, and climbed by ladders 150 feet to a ceremonial kiva. It really was a great week.
(SJOG Newsletter October, 2004 Issue)