Go ahead. Call the just-concluding season at the Santa Fe Opera the summer of the three (in alphabetical order!) divas: that would be Christine Brewer, Natalie Dessay and Patricia Racette. So why not call the just-concluded season at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival the summer of the three pianists?
Samuel Johnson’s remark about Paradise Lost—“None ever wished it longer than it is”—came to mind twice at the Aug. 10 Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival concert in St. Francis Auditorium. First time: hearing Marc Neikrug’s new work for piano quartet, “Green Torso—Green Torso Too.” Second time: enjoying the program’s main event, Franz Schubert’s generously scaled “Octet, D. 803.”
So far this summer we’ve heard quintets in various configurations by Claude Debussy, André Caplet, Gunther Schuller, Carl Maria von Weber, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Ludwig van Beethoven, Walter Braunfels, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Carl Nielsen. Yet to come in the two weeks remaining of the festival: more of the same by Anton Bruckner, Robert Schumann, Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, Mozart again and Franz Schubert. Wow.
The terms “noble” and “sublime” get tossed about with reference to Alceste. Sometimes that’s code for “slow” and “static.” But given the right conductor and an intent, vigorous orchestra, this needn’t be the case. Kenneth Montgomery, whose alliance with the SFO goes way back, could always be relied upon to conduct a reliable, four-square account of any score he’s led here. No departures from that norm now, although not a great deal of excitement, either.
Inon Barnatan, a 2009 Avery Fisher Career Grant winner, delivered the goods in one of the most exciting debut recitals Santa Fe has heard in a long while. A glance at the program showed the man meant business: Thomas Adès’ “Darkness Visible,” Maurice Ravel’s “Gaspard de la nuit” and Franz Schubert’s immense “Sonata No. 21, D. 960.”
Don’t forget the popcorn when you head for the Santa Fe Opera’s latest show, a drop-dead reincarnation of every steamy film noir you’ve ever seen. Make that a SFO-commissioned opera noir: The Letter, a dark, massively entertaining confection craftily put together by composer Paul Moravec and librettist Terry Teachout.
There’s nothing mild about the Santa Fe Opera’s current production of Don Giovanni, a revival from the 2004 season. It’s still the unsubtle, in-your-face show it was five years ago. Familiarity does not breed affection. This time around, minus the marvelous Mariusz Kwiecien, it’s even more of a bluster-fest. The SFO delivers a loud performance, and that’s not just because of the gaudy set and costumes.