Hannes Richter

The Santa Fe Opera

Hannes Richter

Maintaining the Outstanding Tradition
by Peter Pabisch


Now in its fifty-third season, the Santa Fe Opera has seldom omitted Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart from its program during the summer series. This year is no exception with the performances of The Marriage of Figaro, under conductors Kenneth Montgomery and Robert Tweten. Don Giovanni under the opera house’s chief conductor Edo de Waart is scheduled for 2009. Since Mozart is performed repeatedly, it led us to suggest in an article written for Austrian Information (Nov/Dec 2006) that Santa Fe seemed to be modeled after Salzburg. In an interview some ten years ago with the now deceased founder and chief conductor John Crosby, he insisted that his opera house was not designed after the summer events of Salzburg but those of Bayreuth, where Richard Wagner’s operas are performed during a month-long festival. He did admit, however, that the variety of programs in Santa Fe was similar to programs scheduled in Mozart’s birth place and only rarely was Richard Wagner a chosen composer.

Almost every summer, one out of every five to seven productions is dedicated to this great composer. During a total of fifty-three seasons the following statistics indicate the number of times Mozart has been performed: The Marriage of Figaro (15); The Magic Flute and Così fan tutte (11); The Abduction from the Seraglio (2); Don Giovanni (6), and Idomeneo. (1). These numbers are indeed convincing and, although each opera is performed four to ten times a season, Mozart’s works rank higher in the number of presentations during the summer season. Thus, Salzburg, Mozart and Santa Fe have turned out to be inseparable after all.

At the same time, works of other composers have also been selected repeatedly over the years; among them, Richard Strauss; Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff (2008) and La Traviata (2009); Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus; Igor Stravinsky, and Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd. Other well known composers have also been chosen and introduced to a grateful audience in the Southwest. This has been largely responsible for Santa Fe’s reputation as a cultural center.

The Santa Fe Opera performs many premieres by contemporary composers such as Adriana Mater by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho with librettist Amin Maalouf in 2008 and the world premiere of The Letter by composer Paul Moravec and librettist Terry Teachout in 2009. In the 1960s Gottfried von Einem was also offered the opportunity  to have one of his operas premiered in Santa Fe, but declined since it would not have been completed in time. Invitations have also been extended to other Austrian composers, such as Alban Berg and Erich Korngold, and in recent years an opera by Joseph Haydn was also included.

The apprentice program for singers and technicians, however, serves as the major reason for founding the opera. By mixing renowned artists with young singers it gives young American artists a start before they enter the national or international scene. Following John Crosby, Richard Gaddes assumed the position of artistic director in 2002. After 40 years with the opera house, Gaddes will retire this year, leaving behind a legacy of talent and an ongoing tradition.

For the 2008/2009 Calendar, visit: http://www.santafeopera.org