May 25, 2012 at 10:23 AM

Not Business as Usual: The Santa Fe Opera’s 2013 Season

"The Santa Fe Opera’s 13th season is in the air, and it has a rather unfamiliar and welcome ring."

By Craig Smith

Critical Faculties

Craig Smith answered an ad for singers for the Santa Fe Desert Chorale’s first season way back when – OK, 1983 – and has been here happily ever since. He is a writer, editor, journalist, arts critic, general wordsmith, and wannabe polymath.

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The Santa Fe Opera’s 2013 season is in the air, and it has a rather unfamiliar and welcome ring.

True, two of the productions are revivals, of the 2008 “The Marriage of Figaro” and the 2009 “La Traviata.” But they’re both superb mountings, and well deserve a recap – especially with the tantalizing casts SFO has announced. The other three operas will receive new productions. One hasn’t been seen here since the 1970s; one is an SFO premiere; and the other is both an SFO and world premiere. That makes for a nice combination, again, especially with some really first-rate casting.

The big news is the world premiere commission, with Opera Company of Philadelphia, of Theodore Morrison’s “Oscar,” based – you’ve got it – on the life, literary career and public disgrace of the Irish wit and playwright, Oscar Wilde. Superstar countertenor David Daniels sings the title role, with Heidi Stober, William Burden and Dwayne Croft in other parts. Some other parts, too: the two gentlemen respectively sing Frank Harris, journalist and raconteur of the spicy-smutty “My Secret Life” fame; and none another than the iconic American poet Walt Whitman. Now that’s got to be entertainment. The libretto is by Morrison and British director John Cox. “Oscar” receives five performances beginning July 27, 2013.

Offenbach’s “The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein” is news because it hasn’t been performed here since 1979, and will star the superb mezzo-soprano (and New Mexico native) Susan Graham. The comic tale has 11 performances beginning with opening night on June 28, 2013, and will be sung in French with English dialog. Additional cast besides La Graham include Paul Appleby as Fritz and Jonathan Michie as Prince Paul.

Verdi’s “La traviata” is revived in honor of the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth, with eight performances starting July 20, 2013. American soprano Brenda Rae makes her company debut as the straying courtesan of the title. Former Apprentice Artist Michael Fabiano is Alfredo. The British baritone Roland Wood makes a U.S. debut as Germont.

Rossini’s “La donna del lago,” based on Sir Walter Scott’s “The Lady of the Lake,” opens July 13, 2013 for seven performances and stars virtuosa Rossini mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato. The vocally amazing American tenor Lawrence Brownlee is her lover, Uberto, who actually is a king in disguise – you know, opera plots – and even though there are many twists and turns, things do turn out more or less well in the end.

Finally, Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” takes stage June 29, 2013 and will receive eight performances. Susanna Phillips reprises her Countess from 2008, and Daniel Okulitch, who delighted audiences in 2011 as Abdul in “The Last Savage,” plays the Count. The role of Figaro is still TBA, with Lisette Oropesa as Susanna.

Besides the five mainstage operas, SFO has several special performances set.

* August 4: In honor of the 200th anniversary of Wagner’s birth and the 100th of Benjamin Britten, Christine Brewer will sing Wagner’s “Wesendonck Lieder” and Britten’s “Cabaret Songs.” SFO music director Frederic Chaslin accompanies, and will also play virtuoso arrangements of Wagner operatic scenes by Franz Liszt.

* August 18: 50 years to the day, SFO recreates a 1963 performance held in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, originally conducted by Igor Stravinsky. It includes Stravinsky’s “Mass.”

* August 2013, date and time TBA: A performance of Britten’s opera for children, “Noye’s Flood,” as part of the 100th anniversary Britten birthday celebrations.

Besides the artists I’ve mentioned above, the 2013 roster includes conductors Chaslin, John Nelson, Stephen Lord, and Evan Rogister; singers Daniela Barcellona, Anya Matanovič, Keith Jameson, Susanne Mentzer, and Dale Travis; directors Paul Curran, Kevin Newbury, Laurent Pelly, and Bruce Donnell; lighting designers Rick Fisher and Duane Schuler; scenic/costume designers Paul Brown and Kevin Knight; and choreographers Seán Curran and Peggy Hickey. Incidentally, tickets for 2013 go on sale this June 29, 2012.

Even as you consider the 2013 57th season, don’t forget this summer’s 56th. It opens June 29 with Puccini’s “Tosca,” which is followed by Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers,” Rossini’s “Maometto II,” Szymanowski’s “King Roger” and Richard Strauss’s “Arabella.” For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.santafeopera.org.

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