Santa Fe opera lovers have had much to enjoy each summer since 1956 but for fans of art song, it was a barren landscape, at least until 2011. That’s when Performance Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Opera began offering “A Festival of Song;” the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival added its own vocal series to the mix in 2019. The hour-long programs in the two series complement each other nicely, and three recent performances demonstrated their respective strengths and different natures.
In “A Festival of Song,” soprano Elena Villalón (Nannetta in Falstaff) and bass-baritone Nicholas Brownlee (Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde) used the Scottish Rite’s intimate configuration to advantage, establishing a warm and unforced rapport with the audience in their spoken introductions to each section of songs. (Singers and excellent pianist Robert Tweten were about 10 feet from the front row of seats, rather than upstage of the proscenium, which makes the venue feel more casual and provides better acoustics.)