In a letter dated 1677, Sieur de Saint-Évremond described opera as “a bizarre mixture of poetry and music where the writer and the composer, equally embarrassed by each other, go to a lot of trouble to create an execrable work.” In the next century, Samuel Johnson called it “an exotic and irrational entertainment,” while Lord Chesterfield dismissed operas as “essentially too absurd and extravagant to mention.” And yet the art form persists, and great numbers of people find themselves drawn in by opera’s magnetism even if they worry that they aren’t entirely savvy to its secrets. The Santa Fe Opera Guild has invited conductor and lecturer Oliver Prezant to help usher neophytes through the mysteries of the lyric stage in the course of two lectures, each of which gets a pair of go-rounds. Part One, which takes place at Collected Works Bookstore (202 Galisteo St.) — at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2, repeated at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 5 — offers a historical overview of opera. Part Two, held at Santa Fe Opera’s Stieren Hall (seven miles north of Santa Fe on U.S. 84/285) — at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 9, repeated at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 12 — peeks into the nuts and bolts of how operas are created. To reserve a place ($15 for the two sessions together), call 629-1410, Ext. 130, or register online at www.opera101santafe.com.