By ROGER SNODGRASS
Los Alamos Daily Post
“Three hundred years of opera, five new productions, three new to Santa Fe, including a world premiere, and two beloved works returning to our stage.”
That in a nutshell is the repertoire for the 2017 season announced by Santa Fe Opera General Director Charles MacKay at a spring luncheon in the new paint space backstage of the Crosby Theater, all live-streamed to the world-class opera’s global audience.
Breaking it down, the season will open with Johanne Strauss, Jr.’s bel canto masterpiece, Die Fledermaus, which returns to Santa Fe after a 25 year absence. There will be a new production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and company premiers of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel, based on a tale by Pushkin, and Handel’s Alcina.
Finally, there will be intense interest in the highly anticipated world premiere of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs by composer Mason Bates and librettist Mark Campbell, commissioned and developed under a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Kevin Newman, director of the Jobs opera, updated his project with a brief report accompanied by a preproduction video trailer. A highly regarded director with multiple projects in the works, Newman is especially well known for his handling of new productions, an incredibly perilous specialty in opera land. Newman has a knack. He has done more than 50 of them.
“This is my fourth production here,” he said about his relationship with the Santa Fe Opera. “I started here as an assistant directing apprentice scenes. Three of our four designers started here.”
Newman said the production would try to “embrace the sophistication, simplicity and magic” that Jobs represents in his time. With a score described as “kinetic electro-acoustic,” and with an “absorbing non-linear narrative,” this production is geared to be a super-high-tech take on the American entrepreneurial saint who bestowed the iPhone on the planet. A success might help lure the millennial generation into the opera fold.
In the background of the presentations for the 2017 season and MacKay and others made reports and expressed optimism on finances, budgets and the progress on phase two of the opera’s ambitious $45 million construction project. All but the last $5 million has been raised.
Called the “Setting the Stage” Campaign, work since last September increased backstage production facilities by 80 percent, expanding workspace for scenery, audio-video equipment and storage and elbow room for stage assistants and production managers.
The background for the media event was the facade of a gold rush era sheriff’s office, the set for Act III of the opening production for this year, now only two months away.
To inspire interest in this year’s 60th anniversary season for the Santa Fe Opera, Patricia Racette flew in from Rome for a few days. She’ll be back again by June to begin rehearsals for her role as Minnie, the golden girl during the California gold rush in Puccini’s Fanciulla Del West that opens the season July 1.
Since 1996, when Racette played the lead in Tobias Picker’s Emmeline, this beloved and versatile soprano has returned to the Santa Fe Opera seven times, most recently playing Leslie Crosby in the premiere of Paul Morevec’s The Letter in 2009. With an effervescent spirit she remarked that playing the holster-hipped Minnie was a dream come true and with a touch of bravado excused herself to get out to the range for some shooting practice.