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Subject: Santa Fe Opera
From: Charles Schug <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Charles Schug <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 16 Aug 1998 22:11:48 -0700
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        I have just returned from Santa Fe, where I attended performances of
"Salome" (8/12), Berlioz' "Beatrice and Benedict" (8/13) and "The Magic
Flute" (8/15), and will post reviews of them over the next couple of days.
What I wanted to comment on here is the remodeled theatre itself.  In a
word, it's a smashing success (guess that's two words, but then opera is a
medium for excess).

        I have attended over 20 performances in the "old" theater during the
last 12 years and got rained on frequently. This year there's a new roof
over the *entire* theatre (although the sides are still open). Since there
was only light rain one evening of the three performances I attended, I
can't judge what will happen in a true downpour, but it is clear that one
need not shun any seats in the "new" theatre for fear of being soaked
(although raingear is not to be abandoned). The distinctive roof-line of the
"old" theatre has been lost--and with it, the enchanting view from Highway
84--but on balance, the pluses outweigh the minuses.  From inside, the blond
wood of the interior of the new roof adds a pleasing lightness and airiness
to make up for the loss of the starlight sky otherwise visible on clear
nights. (The theatre also seemed warmer to me, another plus.)

        But more important even, there has been a dramatic improvement in
the acoustics. I never had any particular problems with the acoutics in the
"old" theatre, whether seated in the second row or the balcony. Now,
however, there is a crispness and clarity to the voices that wasn't there
before. The orchestra sounded somewhat subdued, more mellow, even in the
Strauss, while the voices were more prominent.  This was especially
noticeable in the Berlioz and Mozart during the spoken dialogue: it was
actually possible to hear the words (both were done in English) clearly even
from the back of the house. The balance between singers and orchestra is now
different and better, giving an enhanced sense of intimacy, which has always
been one of Santa Fe's strengths.

       More rest rooms have been added (on the second level as well now) and
there is a huge central aisle for handicap seating.  One curious change is
the newly-widened wall between the orchestra pit and the audience--it has
water running along the entire length of the top surface, which is about 2
to 3 feet across. I am not sure why the water, except I do remember that
many audience members tended to lean across the old wall at intermission. I
suppose the water is to provide better separation for the musicians.  In
addition, on the south side of the theatre are a dozen or so
baffles--columns with rectangular pieces of cloth like sails on a
ship--jutting up along the side of the orchestra seating. I am not sure of
their function but suppose they have something to do with the
acoustics--what I am not sure, especially since they are on the one side
only. There's an enlarged and covered gift shop with, curiously, not very
much of interest in it. The old shop had a better and more varied selection
of tee-shirts and sweatshirts and the like. (For those who like to drink,
the bar area has been enlarged and remodeled as well.)

        Next season will see the installation of the electronic libretto
system like the Met's. (Let's hope this system will allow the company to
abandon forever the perfectly dreadful English translation of "The Magic
Flute" that it inflicted on us on Saturday; but more about this dismal
affair anon.)

        I have always found the Santa Fe Opera House a charming and
delightful one, and now it's even better than it was before.  After San
Francisco's renovation, I marvelled that somebody actually got something
right.  Now I am marvelling again.

Cheers,

Charles Schug
[log in to unmask]

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