Artistic Director Jonathan Pell, Santa Fe Opera Part 1

by Megan Meister

I am convinced that Santa Fe must be a suburb of Dallas (or maybe it is the other way around?) but it seems as if I have run into half of the people I know since I got here two days ago!

Last night was the first of two Apprentice Concerts that showcase the aspiring young singers who come here every summer to sing small roles, cover major roles and sing in the chorus.  These young artists are usually the cream of the crop of singers taken from conservatories and young artist programs all across the country, and if last night was any barometer about the future of opera, we are in safe hands.

This was by far the best group I can remember hearing here— one wonderful young singer after another.

David Holloway, who in his performing days was a great favorite at The Dallas Opera, oversees the program and has skillfully selected scenes that showcase these singers to their best advantage.  There were some singers, naturally, who stood out even among this remarkable collection of talent, perhaps most notably a mezzo-soprano currently studying at Philadelphia’s prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts, who sang a stunning “Princess Eboli” in the “Garden Scene” trio from Verdi’s DON CARLO.  Her name is Cynthia Cook, and I expect we will be hearing a lot more about her soon.

The program seemed to feature a lot of this summer’s tenors, and one of them stood out for me, Joshua Dennis, who happens to be from McKinney, Texas.  He was “Ruggero” in the second act quartet from Puccini’s LA RONDINE, and he not only sang beautifully, but he also waltzed quite well.

There were two scenes that featured soprano Devon Guthrie (one from Monteverdi’s POPPEA and an extended excerpt from Frederic Chaslain’s new opera based on WUTHERING HEIGHTS) and she was exceptionally lovely.

Baritone Christian Bowers was also in two contrasting scenes (from Menotti’s THE CONSUL and the previously mentioned DON CARLO “Garden” trio) and he also made a very strong impression.

I could go on and on, and mention several more singers, including bass Erik Anstine, but this will have to do for now.

If next week’s “scenes” are as good as the ones I heard last night, then it will have truly been an exceptional year for this program.

Tonight I attend the first of five productions I will hear—Bizet’s THE PEARL FISHERS.

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