Just think eye-dazzler. No, not one of those jagged, showy blankets from Navajo-land's aniline age. We're talking opera here, specifically what's shaping up to be one of the eye-poppingest shows of the Santa Fe Opera's 49 seasons. That would be Puccini's final opus, Turandot. A quick trip in the company of General Director Richard Gaddes to, through and under the Crosby Theatre during recent rehearsals recent made it clear the company won't be sparing any splash on the July 1 ***image1***season opener.
Turandot pairs up mythical, fairy-tale China with Barnum & Bailey and both leads-soprano and tenor-demand gargantuan voices. Gaddes thinks he's found them. Jennifer Wilson takes the icy title role ("She can really sing it") and at most performances former apprentice Carl Tanner (also a former singing waiter at Asti's where, it's rumored, Gaddes first heard his voice) is Calaf. Willa Kim returns after too long an absence to design the, believe me, jaw-dropping costumes.
A new production of Rossini's Barber of Seville follows. SFO audience fave Ana Maria Martinez gets to sing Rosina, with newcomer Bruce Sledge as Almaviva. Former apprentice Brian Leerhuber debuts as the show's demon barber of Calle Rápido. Mid-season Lucio Silla, created by a 16-year-old Mozart, arrives with an entirely different view of Love Triumphant than Turandot, with Roswell's own star-flaming queen, Susan Graham, wearing the pants and demonstrating that sometimes love really does conquer all.
Gaddes believes Benjamin Britten's tonal, tragic Peter Grimes may prove the sleeper of the season. SFO hasn't programmed much Britten-only a couple of pieces in all these many years. A Midsummer Night's Dream was to have been an SFO premiere, but the composer ***image2***yanked it, hence a certain frostiness, Britten-wise. Gaddes hopes to amend that this summer and, probably, in summers to come. Grimes specialist Anthony Dean Griffey debuts here as the tormented fisherman, with Christine Brewer as Ellen Orford and Alan Gilbert once more in the pit.
Last up will be Ainadamar, a new work by the hot, youngish Argentine composer, Osvaldo Golijov, taking its cues from the life of Federico García Lorca. Dawn Upshaw leads a cast of mostly apprentice singers with Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducting a production by adventurous Peter Sellars. Once the bad boy of opera-going blue-hairs, Sellars should help keep the SFO's reputation for cutting-edge musical theater cheerfully alive. Gaddes reports that the director is crazy for Santa Fe. Sounds like he'll be back, possibly for a premiere by a certain, you-name-her, Finnish composer.
And here's happy news for tardy customers. The lower parking lot is paved. At last.