Nancy Willbanks tipped her sunglasses off her nose and surveyed the clouds which were gathering on all horizons around the Santa Fe Opera. It was Tuesday afternoon. There were clouds over the mountains to the east and the west. There were clouds down the valley towards Albuquerque. There were clouds up the valley toward Taos. The sun shone brightly on the opera building.

"If it rains today, it won't rain tomorrow night," she said, a note of hopefulness in her voice. "That's what they say. If it rains the night before the opening, it won't rain the night during the opening. But, look at those clouds!" She swept her hand around in a grand circle. "They look like they are waiting, holding back." She sighed and began the short trek up the hill in the direction of the production shops.

Ms. Willbanks is assistant to Anke Kempter, head of the opera public relations office. It is her task to escort visitors around the grounds of the opera. She is a music major at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. The Santa Fe Opera's 19th season is her first, and already she knows the superstitions.

Standing amid the clutter of paint buckets, swatches of fabric, loose ring bolts, wood scraps and unfinished sets, Carolyn Lockwood, the opera's production stage manager, looked calm. In her hands she held a green book wrapped in plastic. Embossed on the cover were two words: "Verdi" in the upper left corner, and "Falstaff" in bigger letters across the center.

"Richard, I knew there was a foul up," she shrugged, a slight smile on her face. The man she was talking to was Richard Pearlman, the director of "Cosi fan tutti." He was upset.

"Carolyn, when I left here last night, I had the stage for this morning. When I got here this morning, I didn't. What's going on?"

Ms. Lockwood surveyed the mess around her, shrugged her purse a little higher on her shoulder and took Pearlman by the arm. As she turned away from the clutter, she accidently kicked a paint bucket. It teetered for a moment, turned a circle on its base and settled back almost exactly where it had been.

"You know as well as I do…" Her voice faded as she walked with Pearlman a few paces out of earshot.

A moment later she was striding purposely up the stone stairs that lead down from the stage to the back apron where she had been the minute before, oblivious to all but the new task. At the top of the steps she paused and looked behind her, out across a deep arroyo towards the Jemez mountains. Grey clouds loomed over the mountains.

This year marks SFR's 40th anniversary. Celebrate with us by reading excerpts of stories that have graced our pages through the years. Monsoon season is almost upon us as the SFO's season continues.