When the back of the opera house’s stage is opened to the elements the view leads to Los Alamos, nestled in the Jemez Mountains.

Santa Fe Opera embarks on its 62nd season this weekend, and for the next nine weeks it will offer a full schedule of activities that includes symposia, lectures, tours (of the opera campus and beyond), a film screening, youth programs — and at the center of it all, 37 performances of five operas. It looks as if the season should prove easy to enjoy, stressing familiar favorites but also including more recent repertoire that will be new to many attendees.

Charles MacKay will step down following the 2018 summer season, ending a decadelong tenure marked by artistic and financial successes in an era of shrinking audiences at other opera companies. 

These are abbreviated versions of longer reviews that ran in The Santa Fe New Mexican immediately following the opening of each Santa Fe Opera production this season. 

The composer crafted this piece to capitalize on surprising stage effects, and the audience tacitly agreed to suspend expectations of realism and go along for the ride to the magical island of a sorceress.

Ludovico Ariosto's epic poem titled Orlando furioso is a long volume rich in fantasy. Here we meet such creatures as the hippogriff, half-eagle and half-horse, useful for flying to Ethiopia. We hitch a ride to the moon and brave wild beasts and magical spells. The book’s histrionic stance and emotional breadth proved irresistible to theater people. 

Composer Mason Bates is well attuned to Steve Jobs’ stature in tech culture and beyond. The innovator’s divisive persona has captured global imagination almost as much as the products he developed.

On a Friday afternoon in June, the cast rehearsal taking place at Gaddes Hall on the Santa Fe Opera campus is decidedly low-tech. An acoustic piano supports the naturally amplified singers in the small open-air amphitheater, and the sun alone provides a spotlight. This could be mistaken for a rehearsal leading up to SFO’s first season, rather than its 61st. Until composer Mason Bates begins triggering audio effects on his MacBook. 

One day a few years back, Campbell looked at his iPhone and discovered a message from the composer Mason Bates: “I want to talk to you about a possible opera project.” Campbell called right away.

The opera crafted by Belsky and Rimsky-Korsakov may be silly on the surface, but its historical context invests it with added texture. In 1905, Russia was rocked by massive demonstrations. The social turmoil has sometimes been described as the dress rehearsal for the Russian Revolution, which would fatefully follow in 1917. 

There’s no surer sign of summer in the City Different than the sound of the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra intoning “The Star-Spangled Banner” to launch a new year. The performance on Friday begins the new season.

Strauss is universally acknowledged as the “Waltz King,” and for good reason. A prolific composer, he left a corpus of 479 published works. Waltzes are the most numerous among them, accounting for 183 pieces in the scholarly catalogue of his compositions. 

The first operetta by Johann Strauss II took Vienna by storm at its premiere in 1871. His second followed in 1873 and his third — Die Fledermaus — in 1874. What happened to 1872? The answer comes from our own country: Strauss accepted an invitation to perform at a celebration in Boston scheduled to mark the centennial of the nation’s independence. 

Susan Graham on Prince Orlofsky: I first played Orlofsky four or five years ago, and two years ago at the Met. Orlofsky is odd. He’s not even in the first act. Orlofsky has no back story. No one knows anything about him. He sings, “I’m so bored.” The party in Act 2 is held as a challenge to amuse him. Ned Canty [the director] is a comic genius. Things are quirky, random. There are Dalí-esque goings-on. An alligator makes an appearance. I do crazy stuff onstage.

There will be blood. In most productions there is lots of it, dripping down the virginal white nightgown of unfortunate Lucia di Lammermoor near the end of the eponymous opera. Her brother, Enrico Ashton, Lord (or Laird) of Lammermoor, has essentially pimped her out, forcing her to marry the well-placed Lord Arturo Bucklaw, an alliance meant to restore the Ashton family’s depleted fortunes. Lucia has resisted. She loves not Arturo but Edgardo, Lord of Ravenswood.

The ensemble “Che mi frena in tal momento,” known to generations as the Sextet from Lucia, falls near the end of the second of the opera’s three acts. In the 20th century it entered pop culture. It figured on a number of releases at the dawn of the age of recording.

The idea behind the instrument is something you can try at home. If you moisten your finger and rub the rim of a high-quality wineglass, it will emit a sustained ringing sound. Fill the glass with different levels of water — or alternatively, stroke glasses of different sizes — and you will get different pitches. Assemble a whole set of glasses tuned to the different pitches of a scale, and you have a proper musical instrument.

Brenda Rae on Lucia: This is one of these roles that you dream about in school. I first started learning the Mad Scene when I was twenty-three. I first went on when I was twenty-eight. During the Mad Scene there can be a lot of freedom, depending on the director. It can be very exciting if you surprise everyone. Ron [Daniels, the director] gives me markers but lets me fill in the details. I love it.

Gustave Flaubert published his first novel, Madame Bovary, as a series of magazine installments in La revue de Paris from Oct. 1 through Dec. 15, 1856. French government lawyers immediately attacked it for obscenity, protesting that it was the story of a woman who, aspiring beyond her place in life as a married woman in a town in Normandy, has affairs outside her respectable marriage, craving the sort of excitement a woman might experience … in a novel.

These capsule reviews are abbreviated versions of full reviews that ran in The Santa Fe New Mexican immediately following the opening of each production. The complete original reviews can be found at www.santafenewmexican.com.

January 16, 1958, the morning after Samuel Barber’s Vanessa received its world premiere at the Metropolitan Opera, critic Howard Taubman of The New York Times declared it to be “the best American opera ever presented at the stately theatre on Broadway and Thirty-ninth Street.” The work has nonetheless failed to secure a footing in the standard repertoire.

By the time he reached Capriccio, Strauss had written 14 operas, all but one of which had been produced. He had composed six of his operas to librettos by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Strauss was a practical type with a flair for the theatrical. Hofmannsthal tended toward the idealistic and cerebral. The two often clashed, as their extensive correspondence makes eminently clear, but somehow they ended up making magic .

"Juliette is a long, romantic, heroic role. … The music by Gounod has such beauty, it’s devastating. When you sing, you’re in fact acting with your voice," says Pérez. "Learning how to die takes some time," says Costello. "I try to be realistic, and not overdramatic. Still, sometimes audiences laugh."

William Shakespeare has had his ups and downs. He’s been praised, damned, adapted, rewritten, filmed, transposed, set to music, set to dance, modernized, tweeted, rapped, dismissed, denied, denounced, and deified. By the middle of the 19th century, he had been elevated to almost divine stature, and indeed on the American frontier he often shared precious shelf space with the Almighty.

Prior to its premiere, Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette was being rehearsed in the concert hall of the Conservatoire. Charles Gounod, who later reminisced about the experience, slipped into the hall to “listen intoxicated to his strange, impassioned music, which opened up new and exotic horizons. … " Years later, Gounod turned his attention to writing his own Roméo et Juliette.

Again we arrive at opera season, which means that Santa Fe is awash with a greater than usual concentration of grand aristocrats, plotting servants, tender maidens, dashing heroes, wanton harridans, and dastardly villains. 

La fanciulla del West is the only one of Giacomo Puccini’s operas built on an American subject, and viewers from the outset have been naturally inclined to consider how successfully it conveys an authentic American spirit. Puccini himself was loath to overestimate his ability to grasp an essence of Americanness or translate it deeply into his work.

Donna Anna screams from her bedroom at a masked man. Unless he kills her, she insists, she will not let him go. He calls her an idiot, and says she will never know who he is. Donna Anna declares him a betrayer and a scoundrel; he threatens her with his wrath. Her father arrives, there is a struggle, and the masked man kills him.

La fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West), the seventh of Giacomo Puccini’s 12 operas, was premiered in 1910, but its roots go back to the beginning of 1848, when two signal events of American history coincided.

David Belasco’s play The Girl of the Golden West scored a robust success on Broadway, where it opened on November 14, 1905, and ran for 224 performances. Already during its initial run, it received the ultimate compliment: a professional parody, starring Marie Dressler, titled The Squaw Man’s Girl of the Golden West.

Wolfgang Amadè Mozart, celebrated as Salzburg’s most distinguished progeny, had little affection for his native city. Growing up as a child prodigy, he spent years on the road, astonishing listeners in what are today nine countries across a wide swath of Europe, from England in the north to Italy in the south.

On June 2, four days before rehearsals would begin for this year’s Santa Fe Opera productions, more than 200 people were at work on scenery, costumes, furniture, and props in spaces recently expanded as part of a $30.6 million improvement project.

Performance Santa Fe concludes its summer recital series with a program of vocal chamber music featuring singers who are participating in Santa Fe Opera’s apprentice program this year.

These capsule reviews are greatly abbreviated and otherwise altered from full reviews that ran in The Santa Fe New Mexican immediately following the opening of each production. The complete original reviews can be found at www.santafenewmexican.com.

As composer Jennifer Higdon began to consider sources for her first opera, the eventual winner was already sitting on her shelf unread. “I got the book when it came out,” Higdon said of Charles Frazier’s 1997 National Book Award-winner for fiction, Cold Mountain.

Leonard Foglia didn’t set out to make a career in opera. In fact, he didn’t even start out as much of an opera fan. “I’d been to the opera twice in my life before I directed my first opera, so it’s not really my world,” he recalled when he sat down with Pasatiempo on a sunny afternoon on a terrace on the grounds of Santa Fe Opera.

Cold Mountain opens at Santa Fe Opera on Saturday, Aug. 1. A three-day affiliated symposium, “Echoes of Cold Mountain,” takes place at the New Mexico History Museum from Friday, July 31, through Sunday, Aug. 2.

Cold Mountain — book, movie, and now opera — is a variation on one of humankind’s oldest stories: a man returns home from war to his love. In these narratives, there’s always danger in the travel and the complications waiting at home.