The opening night of Santa Fe Opera marks the launch of the city’s extravagantly musical summer season, which will keep music lovers hopping almost through the end of August. The company offers its customary five productions, but this year that adds up to six operas, because one of the productions is a double bill of two short works, Mozart’s The Impresario and Stravinsky’s La Rossignol (The Nightingale). That’s a rare step for the local company, which has been largely allergic to doubling up pieces in that way. Its last double bill was in 1993, when the pairing brought together two lesser-known stage pieces by Kurt Weill, The Protagonist and The Tsar Has His Photograph Taken. Before that we would have to look back to 1975: a dyad of Falla’s La vida breve and Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges. Apparently this year’s linking of The Impresario and The Nightingale is being justified through a conception that will be imposed on the evening: Mozart’s feuding divas are auditioning for parts in Stravinsky’s shimmering opera. Extra dialogue has been crafted to clarify the context, and some Mozart concert arias are to be inserted to flesh out what qualifies as Mozart’s slightest operatic score. Whether this enriches one’s appreciation of either work we shall see when this production, overseen by English stage director Michael Gieleta, gets its first outing on July 19. Perhaps the exercise will open the company to being more amenable to one-acters and other operas that don’t fill an entire evening on their own. Such works represent a wealth of terrific, audience-friendly repertoire, and when they are banished a priori as possible repertoire, listeners are the losers.
The season begins on Friday, June 27, with the ultimate operatic blockbuster, Bizet’s Carmen, which the company hopes will pack audiences in for 12 performances scattered through nine weeks. Director Stephen Lawless did a fine job with the company’s L’elisir d’amore in 2009 and Faust in 2011. We hope he does as well with his current charge, which, we gather, involves moving Carmen out of 19th-century Seville and into a mid-20th-century nightclub. Sharing the opening weekend (on Saturday, June 28) is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, a comic romp that, depending on the production, risks celebrating its inherent mean spirit more than anything else. Maybe director Laurent Pelly (remembered, not always fondly, from the company’s past outings of La belle Hélène, Cendrillon, Platée, and La traviata) will instill some kindness in the piece to inform the acres of splendid melody and vocal figuration we know will be there.
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