When eminent musicologist Duke Ellington grandly proclaimed, “It’s all music,” he probably didn’t have Santa Fe’s summer scene in mind. But he could have. It’s kaleidoscopic; it’s multifarious; it’s just Too Much.
So here follows a picky, picky personal calendar of musical offerings calculated to spur the imagination and to hint at the near-infinite variety of summer-y listening opportunities hereabouts. Ready?
Why not commence with a concert by Santa Fe’s most venerable musical institution, and I don’t mean high Mass. That would be the Santa Fe Concert Band, in business under various monikers since the 19th century at least. Greg Heltman leads the band on Father’s Day, June 15, at Federal Place. Grab a blanket, a jug of lemonade and hunker down to some Sousa in the sunshine.
"You want tears and goose bumps? Check and check."
Our town’s 800-pound gorilla, the Santa Fe Opera, opens its season on June 27 with Carmen, and a tailgating contest and, for some, dress-up ops. All very jolly, but why not postpone Bizet’s familiar blood-and-sex opus for now and sign up instead for Donizetti’s high-jinxed romp, Don Pasquale, the next night? Lighten up. Bring a fizzy picnic and the kids.
And for something completely different, show up for the Acequia Madre House-sponsored free afternoon program at St. Francis Auditorium inside the New Mexico Museum of Art, “Creative Dialogues VI,” on July 2. It’s a pet project of distinguished Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg and gifted cellist Anssi Karttunen, featuring very, very new music performed by young artists from top conservatories here and in Finland.
So it’s July 6 already, and we’re ready for a mini-road trip? Just head north to a Taos School of Music concert at the Community Auditorium. Listen up for the Borromeo Quartet and their piquant program of Mozart, Bartók and Dvořák in a comfortable high-altitude setting. Take a sweater.
Then have a second helping of the SFO on July 19—opening night for a provocative, updated double-bill of Mozart’s catty coloratura competition, The Impresario, paired with Stravinsky’s deeply affecting fairy-tale pageant, Le Rossignol. The company’s sensational 1973 outing of the Stravinsky will be a tough act to follow. Go see for yourself.
The ambitious 40-concert Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival series enters the scene on July 20. Hold on for the first of their delectable noon concerts at St. Francis Auditorium two days later. Van Cliburn gold-medalist Jon Nakamatsu offers an enticing all-Schumann program concluding with his dashing, demanding “Carnaval.”
Welcome back, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, in another romantic composer’s “Romantic Evening with Brahms” on July 26 at First Presbyterian Church. Will we get to hear a few of the ebullient “Liebeslieder Waltzes”? One can but hope.
More vocalism happens on July 31 when Performance Santa Fe presents the first of four 4 pm “Festival of Song” programs showcasing artists from the SFO. This one features a husband, tenor Alek Shrader (Ernesto in Don Pasquale) and wife, mezzo Daniela Mack (Carmen in, well, Carmen), in recital at St. John’s United Methodist Church. To follow: soprano Corinne Winters on Aug. 3, tenor Paul Groves on Aug. 8, and soprano Brenda Rae on Aug. 10.
Meanwhile, let’s return to the SFCMF for the second of their five mostly baroque 5 pm Saturday concerts, this one on Aug. 2, again at the auditorium. It’s an impressive all-Handel affair with the main event being his savage, hyper-dramatic cantata, “La Lucrezia” sung by up-and-coming mezzo, Sasha Cooke, in a molto furioso mode. Later programs include all six Brandenburgs.
Santa Fe audiences get two chances to hear the Desert Chorale in Mozart’s Requiem, Aug. 7 and 9 at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi at 8 pm. Santa Fe fave, mezzo Susan Graham, is among the soloists, with members of the Santa Fe Symphony on hand. Performances feature Robert Levin’s acclaimed 1991 completion of the unfinished work.
More Mozart arrives at the SFCMF’s Aug. 14 concert, now the Divertimento, K. 563. But this must-hear 6 pm program at SFA concludes with the sublime mystical-ecstatic Quartet for the End of Time, composed in 1940 while Oliver Messiaen was imprisoned in Silesia. Then, nearing season’s end, the Festival presents a couple of so-described “Beethoven’s Last” concerts. Note, especially, the Aug. 20 program at the Lensic, offering yet more sublimity.
This would be a reading of the composer’s last work of substance, his radiant F Major Quartet, Op. 135. Ralph Ellison famously remarked (pay attention, please) that “Anyone who listens to a Beethoven quartet or symphony and can’t hear soul is in trouble.”
That goes triple for Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio. Catch it as a summer finale on Aug. 21 when the composer’s harrowing, triumphant paean to freedom receives its last not-to-miss performance at the SFO. You want tears and goose bumps? Check and check.
Your bossy concert guide has to stop right there. Explore for yourselves the rest of the musical muchness that overflows a Santa Fe summer. And forget Mies: sometimes less is just less.