Review capsules

of Santa Fe Opera premieres

Così fan tutte

8:30 p.m. July 26; 8 p.m. Aug. 1, 5, 13, 22

The Santa Fe Opera’s Così fan tutte is a bracingly conceived and beautifully sung new production. Opera purists who demand fidelity to the original time and place won’t be pleased, but those interested in a deep exploration of the characters’ emotional worlds through a contemporary, high-concept approach will find ample rewards. Stage director R.B. Schlather emphasizes the opera’s immediacy and universality, aided by brilliant scenery, costume, and lighting design and the cast’s emotionally vulnerable, strikingly realistic acting. SFO music director Harry Bicket led a musically persuasive performance, successfully achieving a sense of late-18th-century performance style with modern instruments. The reduced string section played with clarity, providing textures that brought Mozart’s matchless writing for winds and brass to the fore. (July 15)

The Pearl Fishers (Les pêcheurs de perles)

8 p.m. July 30, and Aug. 8, 16, and 23

Santa Fe Opera’s 2012 production of The Pearl Fishers (Les pêcheurs de perles) was widely acclaimed and with good reason. By focusing on universal issues of power, leadership, and trust, director Lee Blakeley turned an opera that often seems like an exotic travelogue into a true human drama. Its return sees it in fine form, with one major exception. In the “title role,” the chorus of apprentice singers is superb. Scenery, costumes, and lighting offer a series of stunning tableaus. A love triangle drives the action, and two of the three sides are in very capable hands — soprano Corinne Winters and baritone Anthony Clark Evans. Unfortunately, tenor Ilker Arcayürek sang with a tight, unattractive tone, compromising several numbers including the celebrated “Friendship Duet.” (July 1)

La bohème

8:30 p.m. Friday, July 19; 8 p.m. July 29, and Aug. 3, 7, 12, 17, 20, and 24

The new staging of La bohème played to the company’s strengths, with its ensemble cast and a big chorus scene for the apprentices. Standout performances came from soprano Vanessa Vasquez as Mimì and baritone Zachary Nelson as Marcello, with soprano Gabriella Reyes adding a charming portrayal of Musetta. Tenor Mario Chang was an ardent Rodolfo, albeit with a voice that lacks sweetness and turns bland under pressure. Director Mary Birnbaum had a few too many thought-provoking ideas: some worked well, especially the character arcs for the women; some fizzled out and a few were puzzling. No lasting harm was done by the latter, however. Overall, it was a very good start for the season and the company’s new leadership troika. (June 28)

— Mark Tiarks

Read a review of Jenůfa in Monday’s New Mexican.

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