Lis­ten Up James M. Keller looks ahead to a new sea­son of Per­for­mance Santa Fe

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Per­for­mance Santa Fe be­gins its 80th sea­son this week with the sixth in­stall­ment of its Fes­ti­val of Song con­certs fea­tur­ing (mostly) singers who are ap­pear­ing on the sum­mer’s ros­ter at the Santa Fe Opera. The or­ga­ni­za­tion in­tro­duced the se­ries in 2011, the very first of those con­certs be­ing a recital by the mezzo-so­prano Is­abel Leonard, whose ca­reer has moved markedly up­ward since then. Un­for­tu­nately, this year it has also been moving in di­rec­tions that don’t lead to Santa Fe, such that she with­drew not only from the cast of Don Gio­vanni at the Opera but also from the duo recital she was slated to share with bari­tone Daniel Okulitch, who is cur­rently singing the ti­tle role in that work. In the event, her place will be taken by so­prano Keri Alkema, who is also fill­ing her shoes as Donna Elvira at the Opera — so we shall have a joint recital by the li­bidi­nous Lothario and his cast-off con­quest af­ter all. Their pro­gram con­sists en­tirely of mu­sic by Glen Roven, who is in the midst of a re­mark­able ca­reer that spans con­cert mu­sic, mu­si­cal the­ater, record­ing, and mu­sic di­rec­tion for tele­vi­sion. Alkema is set to sing his Six An­cient

Chi­nese Songs (with PSF’s artis­tic di­rec­tor Joseph Il­lick ac­com­pa­ny­ing) and to join Okulitch in an ex­cerpt from Roven’s Good­night Moon, based on the well-known chil­dren’s book. What the lo­cal au­di­ence is prob­a­bly look­ing for­ward to the most is Roven’s The

Santa Fe Songs, set to texts by poets as­so­ci­ated with our town, in­clud­ing Jimmy San­ti­ago Baca, Jane Lin, N. Scott Mo­ma­day, and Va­lerie Martínez. Roven him­self will as­sist in this per­for­mance, which will fea­ture Okulitch. The bari­tone’s ap­pear­ance as a recital­ist is all the more highly an­tic­i­pated thanks to the pris­tine, nu­anced singing he has brought to his por­trayal of Don Gio­vanni. This open­ing con­cert takes place at the Scot­tish Rite Cen­ter at 4 p.m. on Thurs­day, July 28.

The re­main­der of the Fes­ti­val of Song con­tin­ues apace there­after. The im­pres­sive so­prano An­gela Meade is not per­form­ing at the Opera this year, but she is spend­ing time here be­cause her hus­band, tenor John Matthew Myers, is one of the com­pany’s ap­pren­tice singers. Hers is a rel­a­tively rare type of voice, var­i­ously de­scribed as a spinto col­oratura or a dra­matic col­oratura, which sug­gests that it com­bines vo­cal heft, agility, and plush tim­bre through a range that reaches high when nec­es­sary — a so­prano for Bellini’s Norma, for ex­am­ple, or Donizetti’s Lu­crezia

Bor­gia, or for Verdi’s Re­quiem, which is the part I last heard her sing. Ap­par­ently she would rather be singing opera than lieder, since a good deal of her Fes­ti­val of Song recital on July 31 is given over to arias, but she does at least of­fer some art song se­lec­tions by Bellini, Liszt, and Strauss. So­prano Leah Cro­cetto, ap­pear­ing at the Opera as Donna Anna, has a voice of a not dis­sim­i­lar sort, which she will bring to bear on arias from Rossini’s Semi­ramide and Carlisle Floyd’s Su­san­nah, as well as art songs by Strauss, Liszt, and Rach­mani­noff.

At the Opera, tenor Ben Bliss and bari­tone Joshua Hop­kins are ap­pear­ing in Capric­cio as ad­ver­saries in the bat­tle for the count­ess’ af­fec­tions — Bliss as the com­poser Fla­mand, Hop­kins as the poet Olivier. But they will have to be on the same page at their joint recital on Aug. 7, at least at the con­cert’s end, when they join for duets from Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de

per­les and Sond­heim’s Into the Woods. Work­ing up to that, Hop­kins makes a tour of Vaughan Williams’ much-loved Songs of Travel and Bliss of­fers a sam­pling of songs by Brit­ten, Du­parc, and Chaus­son, among oth­ers. Both of these artists should prove well suited to the reper­toire they have cho­sen. Hop­kins has made a charm­ing im­pres­sion at the Opera in sea­sons past, most mem­o­rably as Nardo in La finta gi­a­r­diniera, Sid in Al­bert Her­ring, and a base­ball-cap-be­decked Pa­pageno in Die Zauber­flöte; read­ers of these pages may re­call our en­thu­si­as­tic re­sponse to Bliss as Tamino in the Los An­ge­les Opera’s per­for­mances of Die Zauber­flöte this past win­ter. Also dur­ing the com­ing month, PSF presents the an­nual visit of Stars of Amer­i­can Bal­let, headed by New York City Bal­let prin­ci­pal dancer Daniel Ul­bricht. The group, which in­cludes sev­eral NYCB prin­ci­pals and soloists as well as dancers from other com­pa­nies, of­fers two sep­a­rate pro­grams on Aug. 10 and 11.

Dur­ing the fall-through-spring sea­son, the pick­ings grow sadly slim for clas­si­cal mu­sic lovers. Per­for­mance Santa Fe adopted its name in April 2014 af­ter decades of be­ing known as the Santa Fe Con­cert As­so­ci­a­tion. This “re­brand­ing” was at least partly oc­ca­sioned by the fact that the or­ga­ni­za­tion, which formerly of­fered clas­si­cal con­certs and com­par­a­tively lit­tle else, was now pre­sent­ing a greater va­ri­ety of of­fer­ings. The 2016-17 sea­son clar­i­fies the ex­tent to which this is true. Apart from the four Fes­ti­val of Song recitals, the sea­son’s only full-fledged clas­si­cal con­certs will be a re­turn recital by pi­anist Stephen Hough on Nov. 29 (play­ing Schu­bert, Franck, Liszt, and his own Sonata III, Trini­tas), a Christ­mas pro­gram with The King’s Singers (Dec. 5), and the tra­di­tional or­ches­tral con­certs led by Il­lick on Christ­mas Eve (Rim­sky-Kor­sakov’s Scheherazade and Prokofiev’s Pi­ano Con­certo No. 2, fea­tur­ing Claire Huangci) and New Year’s Eve (Beethoven’s Ninth Sym­phony). On Jan. 21, the nine-mem­ber “vo­cal orches­tra” Room­ful of Teeth per­forms a sig­na­ture pro­gram, which one

ex­pects will draw heav­ily on “world mu­sic” sounds and aes­thet­ics; and Il­lick con­tin­ues his Notes on Mu­sic lec­ture se­ries, which this sea­son fo­cuses on Wag­ner’s Lo­hen­grin (Aug. 30), the art of con­duct­ing (Oct. 4), and Schu­bert ( Jan. 31, the com­poser’s birth­day).

Among PSF’s “fam­ily events,” one notes par­tic­u­larly its pro­duc­tion, in abridged form, of The Mikado by Gil­bert and Sul­li­van (Jan. 13-15). It is a sur­pris­ing se­lec­tion, since in re­cent years the piece has be­come a hot potato due to its stereo­typ­i­cal por­trayal of Asian char­ac­ters. Per­haps this will be a non­tra­di­tional re­vi­sion, but the pho­tos in PSF’s brochure sug­gest oth­er­wise.

The re­main­der of the sea­son is given over to what the in­dus­try calls “at­trac­tions,” pack­aged shows de­signed for gen­eral-in­ter­est au­di­ences and max­i­mum mar­ketabil­ity. Three of the at­trac­tions PSF will host are man­aged by Columbia Artists Man­age­ment Inc. (CAMI), the New York-based mega-agent of the con­cert world. CAMI shows tend to be slick, en­er­getic, and am­pli­fied. That is what we can ex­pect of the Shanghai Acro­bats of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China (Oct. 6), The Ha­vana Cuba All-Stars (Nov. 10), and Taj Ex­press (April 12). CAMI de­scribes the last, for ex­am­ple, as “a fu­sion of film, dance, and mu­sic,” a “daz­zling in­ter­na­tional sen­sa­tion” that cap­tures “the vi­brant, ex­pres­sive spirit of the world of Bol­ly­wood movies that have been en­ter­tain­ing bil­lions of peo­ple in In­dia for gen­er­a­tions.” Two other at­trac­tions, not from the CAMI port­fo­lio, may be a bit less or­nate. Cui­sine and Con­fes­sions (Feb. 21-22) is a pro­duc­tion of the Mon­tréal-based con­tem­po­rary-cir­cus com­pany Les 7 doigts de la main, which says it com­bines the group’s “usual eye-pop­ping flight of ac­ro­batic chore­og­ra­phy and pul­sat­ing mu­sic” with senses as­so­ci­ated with the kitchen — “the touch of hands in bat­ter, the smell of cook­ies bak­ing, the taste of roasted oregano” — in a per­for­mance that in­cludes the ac­tual prepa­ra­tion of food and the au­di­ence’s con­sump­tion of same. Round­ing out the sea­son is Well-Strung (March 14), an ever-so-gay string quar­tet com­pris­ing four tal­ented, gym-sculpted gen­tle­men who sing and play in a cross­over style that ref­er­ences clas­si­cal, pop, and coun­try mu­sic.

There’s noth­ing wrong with at­trac­tions. Au­di­ences have ev­ery rea­son to hope that all of these will hew to high artis­tic stan­dards. But two points ought to be made. The first is that Per­for­mance Santa Fe was se­ri­ous about its re­brand­ing. It is no longer the Santa Fe Con­cert As­so­ci­a­tion in deed as well as in name. Dur­ing this 80th-an­niver­sary sea­son, it can point back with pride to a le­gacy that reg­u­larly brought to town pi­anists like Mur­ray Per­ahia, Radu Lupu, and An­drás Schiff; vi­o­lin­ists like Ye­hudi Menuhin, Joshua Bell, and Gil Sha­ham; singers like Feodor Chali­apin, Kath­leen Fer­rier, and George Lon­don; and en­sem­bles like the Cleve­land Quar­tet, Kronos Quar­tet, and Beaux Arts Trio. “Much has changed since 1937,” states the group’s web­site, “but Per­for­mance Santa Fe con­tin­ues its mis­sion to present and pro­duce the best in per­form­ing arts, and to en­liven the hearts, minds, and spir­its of the com­mu­nity through artis­tic ex­cel­lence.” Clas­si­cal-mu­sic lovers, who are abun­dant in Santa Fe, may adopt a wait-and-see stance for the time be­ing.

The other shift is per­haps less ob­vi­ous. The PSF events that fall in the at­trac­tions cat­e­gory will be held at the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter, which is en­tirely ap­pro­pri­ate given the the­ater’s ca­pac­ity and tech­ni­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties. But all of them are the sorts of at­trac­tions that, in the past, have char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally been pre­sented not just at the Len­sic but by the Len­sic. For many au­di­ence mem­bers, the dis­tinc­tion is mean­ing­less; they buy their tick­ets the same way, they sit in the same hall, and they have no rea­son to care what invisible party has made the ar­range­ments that make the evening pos­si­ble. The Len­sic has been rented out for world-mu­sic, world-dance, and cross­over per­for­mances in the past, but by and large, the full scope of pro­duc­ing and pre­sent­ing such events seems to have been a high-pro­file part of that or­ga­ni­za­tion’s home turf. The Len­sic is cur­rently in the throes of a man­age­ment tran­si­tion that, from the out­side look­ing in, ap­pears none too smooth. It is ac­cord­ingly dif­fi­cult to proph­esy what its pro­gram­ming stance will be when things set­tle down. PSF could not have fore­seen this when it planned its cur­rent sea­son. From one per­spec­tive, you could view it as a happy co­in­ci­dence that PSF is bring­ing in so many gen­eral-au­di­ence at­trac­tions at a mo­ment when the Len­sic is prob­a­bly not book­ing big acts very far in ad­vance.

For my part — and my part in­cludes speak­ing on be­half of Santa Fe’s lovers of se­ri­ous con­cert mu­sic — I don’t re­ally care who presents em­i­nent con­cert per­form­ers as long as some­body does. A kind of ecol­ogy ap­plies to a city’s con­cert life, and a healthy ecosys­tem al­ways in­volves di­ver­sity. Dur­ing the sum­mer, our mu­si­cal scene over­flows; although one might like to see it tweaked this way or that, its great­est chal­lenge is over­pop­u­la­tion. Santa Fe has also struck a good bal­ance dur­ing what in other cities is the “nor­mal” con­cert sea­son, with Per­for­mance Santa Fe be­ing the prin­ci­pal pur­veyor of big-name clas­si­cal-mu­sic tal­ent. Other or­ga­ni­za­tions add im­por­tantly to the mix, to be sure. Santa Fe Pro Mu­sica, for ex­am­ple, usu­ally presents recitals by a cou­ple of ac­claimed soloists or en­sem­bles ev­ery year, and this year the Santa Fe Sym­phony will be ex­per­i­ment­ing with Pro Mu­sica’s model of hav­ing a con­certo soloist also of­fer a solo recital. Nonethe­less, it is PSF that has as­sumed the great­est re­spon­si­bil­ity for top-tier clas­si­cal mu­sic recitals, and it has done so com­mend­ably over the course of fourscore years. I would like to see them con­tinue along the same lines. But if they are in­tent on head­ing in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion, I hope the new ad­min­is­tra­tion at the Len­sic, when it is fi­nally in place, will leap in to oc­cupy the niche for what is an es­sen­tial strand of Santa Fe’s cul­tural life.

Per­for­mance Santa Fe’s Fes­ti­val of Song se­ries takes place at 4 p.m. on Thurs­day, July 28, and on July 31, Aug. 4, and Aug. 7. Recitals take place at the Scot­tish Rite Cen­ter (463 Paseo de Per­alta). Tick­ets ($45-$75) for these recitals, as well as for en­su­ing events dur­ing the 2016-17 sea­son, are avail­able through www.per­for­mance­santafe.org (505-984-8759) or www.tick­etssantafe.org (505-988-1234).

An­gela Meade Ben Bliss Joshua Hop­kins Leah Cro­cetto Stephen Hough

Cui­sine and Con­fes­sions

Well-Strung

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