On Sept 24,

that the Santa Fe Opera had leased nearly 27,000 acres worth of mineral rights to J Bar Cane, an energy exploration outfit. The wildcatters now have the right to look for oil and/or gas in the stretch of land that spans Rio Arriba and Mora counties. The opera will get an 8 percent cut.

The opera's general director, Charles MacKay, was out of town and unable to be reached. As a result, both the


ran with otherwise very solid pieces sans official comment. Meanwhile,

are raising the prospect of a boycott of the opera, even though this year's season has ended and the next one doesn't begin until July 2010.

So, yeah, the Opera can play for time. In fact, we waited by the laptop until 6pm on Friday for MacKay to give remote approval of the following statement.

Statement Summary:

An unnamed donor gave the mineral rights to the Opera. The money goes to funding the

for young singers

. The Opera needed the money and it believes it is legally obligated to make as much money as it can off with the mineral rights.

The Opera stops short of calling itself "green," but does point to its environmental record.

Full statement after the jump.

"In December, 2002, the opera received a bequest from a long-time donor which included a share in the mineral rights for a property in Mora County. (We do not own the property itself, just a portion of the mineral rights.) The donor stipulated that the bequest be used to support our Apprentice Programs.

"The Opera has a long tradition of environmental commitment, including investing more than $750,000 in a waste water treatment plant which we operate jointly with Santa Fe County, and the adoption of a wide-ranging program to re-use or recycle materials, including scenery and costumes, to the highest extent possible.

"The Opera strives to operate in a fiscally responsible manner, in keeping with its legal mandates as a not-for-profit organization, and to honor the wishes of its donors. As a result, we had no recourse other than to sell or lease these rights, in order to maximize their benefit to the Opera and to meet the organization's fiduciary obligations."