The one constant through the pandemic has been change. The ability to adjust to rapidly shifting circumstances has been crucial to survival.
In a few weeks, we will see how the Santa Fe Opera navigates its reopening in a world where vaccines are emerging triumphant but the world is not yet normal. Not yet. Wisely, opera officials announced a few changes in store this week, showing they understand that circumstances require adaptation.
The best news of the week was that the opera has been allowed an increase of in-person attendance, with 1,000 or so seats added to every performance this season. But for everyone who can’t get in, the opera plans to simulcast the performances for each production. This summer, the opera is performing Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, the world premiere of John Corigliano’s The Lord of Cries, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Portions of the lower parking lot will become a drive-in theater, with simulcasts of the four major 2021 performances set in August. The productions will be broadcast on two LED screens, and patrons may sit in the comfort of their cars or trucks to hear the sound on FM stereo. This provides comfort and plenty of distance in a world still moving through COVID-19 realities. Plus, the Santa Fe Opera is famous for its tailgate parties — with a drive-in option, the meals and parties should be legendary. Cost will range from $100 to $125 a carload; for folks with a minivan, the show will be fairly affordable.
And less expensive — and accessible — is important for opera, an art form whose patrons are, to be blunt, growing older. The people in charge of the opera know they have to grow a new generation of fans. That’s one reason the Santa Fe Opera has a tradition of offering inexpensive tickets to children and their families for dress rehearsals, as well as to other groups who otherwise might miss out. In 2021, that tradition will continue with groups of New Mexico educators, youth and community partners invited to view dress rehearsal simulcasts.
For patrons attending the opera in person, COVID-19 safety measures are in place — 94 pages of guidelines to keep people safe. Protocols include everything from routine COVID-19 testing for opera staff and musicians, increased cleaning and sanitation to improved ventilation and mask-wearing for attendees. Transactions will be cashless, with touch-free fixtures in place in restrooms.
Much is changing to make operagoers safer while ensuring the company can continue to share this complex art form — singing, orchestra, acting and sets all combined for productions performed live and in person. The company is showing how the show will go on, a welcome return to the new normal we all are attempting to create.
The opera knows how to think on the fly. The company, after all, did survive a catastrophic fire in 1967 that destroyed the original opera house and most of the costumes and sets. It rose from the flames.
In 2021, the Santa Fe Opera is rising from the pandemic that shut down the country and its season last year. The hills will be alive with the sounds of glorious music once again. It’s going to be a wonderful season.