News of Art
Already before the opera Cold Mountain was unveiled in its world premiere at Santa Fe Opera last August, interest was running so high that the company arranged to have live performances recorded for commercial release on CD. The recording has now come to fruition in the form of a handsome two-CD box set being issued this month on the Pentatone label, with an accompanying booklet that includes the complete libretto illustrated by 13 production photos inserted at relevant junctures. A Dutch recording firm founded 15 years ago, Pentatone specializes in producing recordings with multichannel surround sound, an audiophile format that is also playable on “normal” home-entertainment systems. The label is just now embarking on what it calls the “Pentatone American Operas” series, which will spotlight contemporary operas by American composers. Cold Mountain, by composer Jennifer Higdon and librettist Gene Scheer (after Charles Frazier’s novel), is one of three releases that launch that incentive, the others being The Ghosts of Versailles (music by John Corigliano, libretto by William M. Hoffman; recorded at LA Opera in February 2015) and The Canterville Ghost (music and libretto by Gordon Getty, after Oscar Wilde’s tale; recorded at the Leipzig Opera in May 2015). This is the third recording to document a Santa Fe Opera production, an exercise that has come about every 20 years. Cold Mountain was preceded by Santa Fe Opera recordings of Virgil Thomson’s The
Mother of Us All (on New World Records) from 1976, the company’s 20th season, and Tobias Picker’s Emmeline (on the Albany label), recorded during the company’s 40th season, in 1996. Miraculously, both of those remain in print in CD format.
During this upcoming 60th season, by the way, Santa Fe Opera will honor its history on Aug. 20 and Aug. 21 by hosting “Come Home to Santa Fe,” a reunion of employees, technicians, artists, and apprentices who have been associated with the company over the years. It could be quite a crowd. Interested parties can check in with the plans at www.linkedin.com/company/the-santa-fe-opera.
Financial hardship has forced changes upon the Santa Fe Traditional and Bluegrass Music Festival, which for about a decade was held every August at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds. Though the festival is well attended by musicians and music lovers, organizers have never turned a profit and for several years have been operating in the red because of a combination of economic forces, including the loss of a major recurring private donation and the impossibility of selling enough tickets to recoup the basic costs of producing the three-day festival — about $13,500 in total, which accounts for everything from renting the fairgrounds to controlling the flies that plague the dining area. “To break even, we’d have to have 800 people seated for each evening concert, and the venue only holds 550 chairs,” Bob Dodge, president of the host organization, the Southwest Traditional and Bluegrass Music Association, told Pasatiempo. As the association looks for new accommodations, a one-day festival is planned for Saturday, Aug. 27, at the 140-acre Wildlife West Nature Park in Edgewood, for a rental cost of just $500. Dodge emphasized that Edgewood is still in Santa Fe County so the festival hasn’t been moved too far away, and festival-goers are welcome to camp there for the entire weekend.
Deborah Nansteel and Nathan Gunn in Santa Fe Opera’s Cold Mountain; inset, Isabel Leonard and Gunn