Support the Santa Fe Opera, join the local guild

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By Special to the Monitor

“If music be the food of love, play on.” So starts Shakespeare’s play, “Twelfth Night.”

This brings to mind the beginning of the 52nd season of the Santa Fe Opera. For those who don’t know or have forgotten some of the rich, interesting history of the SFO, here are some facts.

The Los Alamos Ranch School influenced two individuals to make decisions that New Mexico and the rest of the world have reaped the benefits. One individual, J. Robert Oppenheimer, was inspired to use the Ranch facilities when he brought the highly secretive Manhattan Project to Los Alamos in 1942.

The second individual, John Crosby established the Santa Fe Opera (SFO) in 1956. Crosby, as a young student, was familiar with the Ranch School.

In July 1967, 10 years after its first SFO season opening, disaster hit. The theatre mysteriously burned down, leaving very little behind. The season concluded at Sweeney Gym of the old Santa Fe High School.

With hard work, collaboration and two shifts six days a week during construction commencing in November, the new and bigger theatre was ready in time for the 1968 season.

Since then the theatre has undergone one major renovation, which included increased protection of the elements for the audience and musicians, expanded seating, an added mezzanine, upgraded patron amenities and production facilities.

The seating capacity is now 2,128 with standing room for 106. The new roof also exhibits a green feature, which annually collects about  60,000 gallons of rainwater to water the opera gardens.

In its 52 years the Santa Fe Opera has had only three directors. Crosby, the founder retired in 2000 and passed away in 2002. Richard Gaddes, also founder of Opera Theatre of St. Louis, retired in 2008.

The new director, Charles McKay, is a native of Santa Fe and former director of The Opera Theatre of St. Louis. All three are known for their experience, innovation, talent and dedication.

The SFO owns the facilities and land - 190 acres. It features an opera apprentice program and brings world or American premieres to its stage. And it creates its own sets and costumes on the facilities. These attributes make it stand out in the world of opera companies.

Pre-opera dinner buffets served with wine in a outdoor venue are a recent added convenience for opera patrons. Tail Gate Dinners are also common and one can also purchase picnic trays.

While the SFO began its first season in 1957, the Los Alamos Opera Guild was also formed with volunteers willing to work to create interest and financial support for the SFO. Soon other guilds in the state were formed.

Currently, there are nine guilds that support the SFO: Albuquerque, Española, Las Vegas, Los Alamos, Roswell, Santa Fe, Taos, Lubbock, Texas, and Tri-State, El Paso, Juarez and Las Cruces.

The all-volunteer guilds comprise The Guilds of the Santa Fe Opera Inc., which is charged with supporting the SFO through fund raising and educational efforts such as Youth Night, chaperones and students attend a dress rehearsal at a modest fee.

Also the Pueblo Opera Program and the Annual Spring Apprentice Tour bring performances to schools in different parts of the state.

 There are several other apprentice performances for the general public in Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

Open to the general public are Opera Insider Days on Saturdays in June.  More information about this and the SFO, in general, can be found on the computer Internet at www.santafeopera.org.

If interested in knowing more about and supporting the SFO, people are encouraged to join the Los Alamos Opera Guild.

There will be a reception for members and interested new members from 3-6 p.m. June 28 at the home of Dr. Howard Wadstrom, 42 Loma del Escolar, Los Alamos. RSVP to Dean Petersen at 988-9942 or Lucy Malone at 672-0248.

Membership dues are $35 for single and $60 for family. Included with membership are two membership events, attendance of a dress rehearsal, hosting pre-opera buffet dinners and discounts at the Opera Shop. Please send dues to Los Alamos Opera Guild, P.O. Box 4771, Los Alamos.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Some information furnished courtesy of Kyle Gray, volunteer liaison of the SFO.