Don Giovanni, Simon Boccanegra, Beatrice and Benedict, Agrippina, & La Sonnambula at the Santa Fe Opera.

The Santa Fe Opera had modest beginnings in the late 1950s: open-air seating, a reflecting pool behind the orchestra pit, and the mandatory wearing of sweaters and ponchos by the audience in case the weather turned sour. Now it plays five operas to packed audiences in a covered theater of imposing dimensions, watched over from one side by the solemn, spotlit bust of Igor Stravinsky—an early champion of the company. Santa Fe’s founder, John Crosby, can be said to have done more for summer opera—and for the performance of contemporary work as well as the operas of his beloved Richard Strauss—than any other American impresario. Since Crosby’s death last year, the company has been in the capable hands of his longtime assistant (and founder of another opera company, in St. Louis) Richard Gaddes. This...


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