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Susanna Phillips as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro.
Ken Howard

She Will Sing

The Santa Fe Opera and Chamber Music Festival rev up new offerings

May 21, 2013, 12:00 am
Steady on, Santa Fe. Summer’s nearly here, bringing world-class music festivals, out-there programming and, uh-oh, potential cultural overload. Remember Bette Davis’ famously feline line in All About Eve? To paraphrase: “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s gonna be a sizzling summer.”

For starters, circle June 28 on your calendar. That opens the Santa Fe Opera’s 57th season, with former Roswell gal and super-mezzo-diva Susan Graham taking the title role in The Grand Duchess of Gérolstein.
Offenbach’s impudent spoof ran for four seasons back in the ’70s. We loved it then, and it’s a pleasure to welcome back both la Duchess and la Graham. Rising young tenor Paul Appleby sings the love interest, and Emmanuel Villaume conducts.

Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro enters the repertory June 29, a revival of the handsome 2008 production.
Susanna Phillips, whose career has skyrocketed since, reprises the role of the Countess to the Count Almaviva of Daniel Okulitch, aka 2011’s Last Savage. Zachary Nelson sings Figaro, Lisette Oropesa debuts as Susanna, and John Nelson wields the baton.

Yet another super-mezzo-diva, Joyce DiDonato, returns on July 13 in the premier production here of Rossini’s demanding, tuneful La Donna del Lago. SFO’s vow to undertake that scary bel canto repertory (cf. last summer’s gleaming Maometto II) still holds. Nowadays, DiDonato simply owns the ferociously tough title role of Elena, with recent engagements in Paris, La Scala, Covent Garden and now, just up Highway 285. High-flying tenor Lawrence Brownlee debuts here as Elena’s would-be lover, Uberto, and Stephen Lord’s in the pit.  

July 20 brings a revival of 2009’s La Traviata, honoring Verdi’s bicentennial year. But that’s about the only significant reprise for this season’s show. Listen up for major SFO debuts: the conductor, Leo Hussain; the Violetta, Brenda Rae; the Alfredo, Michael Fabiano; and Germont, Roland Wood.

There’s so much gossip, so little time until Theodore Morrison’s Oscar premieres on July 27. That’s Wilde, not Levant, and it’s a SFO co-commission for countertenor David Daniels as the man who dared to speak love’s other name, and paid dearly for it. The libretto, by the composer and opera-savvy John Cox, includes Walt Whitman (Dwayne Croft), Ada Leverson (Heidi Stober), Frank Harris (William Burden) and Lord Alfred Douglas/Bosie danced by Reed Luplau. Evan Rogister conducts.

Yet more chatter, too, about up-coming items on the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival’s 41st musical roster, opening July 14 in the St. Francis Auditorium. Like the SFO, the Festival hews to a somewhat formulaic—and successful—repertory pattern. This summer, roughly half of the 60-plus composers represented on 40 concerts come from 19th-century Europe, with generous chunks of Beethoven, Brahms and Schumann. No big surprises there.

SFCMF continues its tradition of comfortable noonday programs—11 this year, including five piano recitals beginning with the young Korean pianist Soyeon Kate Lee on July 18. Local favorite Jeremy Denk appears the next week, followed by Shai Wosner, Victor Santiago Asuncion and Garrick Ohlsson. Other programs will return pianists Inon Barnatan, Anne-Marie McDermott and Haochen Zhang to the Festival.

In celebration of the SFCMF’s glorious 40th season last summer, several concerts featured large ensembles performing rarely heard 20th-century masterworks. There’ll be fewer of those this year, but note well the program on Aug. 4 and 5: Lawrence Foster conducts the Schoenberg arrangement of Mahler’s “Songs of a Wayfarer” with baritone Matthew Worth and Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire with soprano Lucy Shelton. Earlier in the week, Worth sings Schumann’s Dichterliebe, accompanied by Wosner.

But return now to those chatter-provoking programs. There’ll be a series of four: Aug. 12, 14, 15 and 19—the season finale. Each concert opens with members of the Desert Chorale performing several dissonant, otherworldly madrigals by Carlo Gesualdo. A Mozart trio will follow, and a Schumann quartet or quintet will complete the pattern every evening.

The potential effect of these programs? Well, possibly a Mozart sandwich. But maybe, also, some help cutting us loose from what David Foster Wallace called “our tiny skull-sized kingdoms.”

Santa Fe Opera:
June 28-Aug. 24  (986-5900) santafeopera.org;

Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival:
July 14-Aug. 19 (982-1890) sfcmf.org

 

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