Monday, August 20, 2012

Fort Opera

It was one of those rare travels. We were headed out for the evening without cameras.

But this was an evening at the Santa Fe Opera, and I had been informed in very clear terms that cameras were not permitted in the open-air theater.

So I decided to enjoy "the panorama of breathtaking scenery, with the Jemez Mountains to the west and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east," as noted in the webpage.

"Breathtaking scenery" indeed. The walk from the parking lot to the theater presented us with a view of the mountains to the east bathed in a light pink as sunset neared.

The performance of "Tosca" with Amanda Echalaz, Dale Travis, and Andrew Richards under the direction of Frederic Chaslin was masterful and thoroughly enjoyable, but I really don't know how to elaborate on the performance.

But the theater was beautiful, and I wanted to take a tour during the day--and take some photos. However,..."We do not allow photographs to be taken during the tour..." was the answer I received when I called about the tours. "You can take photos from the grounds."

So, we returned the next day and were faced with challenges that we did not face the night before.

Every view was blocked with this fencing.

The theater is stunning. The open western side gave us a view of the sunset just before the first note of the overture.

But I am not able to show that view even during the morning.

There were small spaces to catch a glimpse of the roofline, but not much else.

Even when there was an open space, there were artistic obstacles in place to obscure the view.

I walked around the fencing to see if there was some angle or some other entrance.

I came upon this gate, which at first glance looked very promising,...until I saw the sign: "STOP. No Unaccompanied Visitors Beyond This Point."

Over the years the building has evolved from a 480-seat structure built in 1957, with a balcony added several years later to a second built in 1968 after a fire burned the original theater to the ground during the 1967 performance season.

Even though our friend John, an architect, may be the only regular reader who understands this, I wanted to included something about the roof's structure:

"The balcony structure was replaced and its roof joined to the main roof by a warped clerestory. The result eliminated the previously existing gap between the main and balcony roofs--and through which the rain regularly fell on the audience.

"The new roof structure, locally known as the “mothership”, is rod-stayed, off the star columns, from paired V masts splayed apart and supporting, through a fan or harp of rods, 4 primary ribs, each an inverted T.

"Between these, the roof, which is also the acoustical surface, is made of heavy glue-laminated decking. The balcony structure uses a molar-like rigid structure to translate the cantilever moment of the seating rackers into a vertical couple supported on a thin hanger and column" (
Today, the Crosby Theater has 2,128 seats and 106 standing room places.

Never mind that "the dramatic adobe theater blends harmoniously with the high desert landscape, a fusion of nature and art that leaves an enduring impression on all who come,"
never mind that some members of the audience arrive when the gates open three hours before the performance to enjoy a dinner, ranging from a champagne catered meal around a table and chairs brought from home to a picnic meal eaten at one of the picnic tables overlooking the surrounding hillsides,

never mind that during the presentation of the opera “Faust” when Faust descended into Hell, a thunderstorm was occurring in the area; the thunder and lightning added an effect that enlarged the “stage” to an area of several acres,
never mind that more than half of the season’s audience of 85,000 comes from outside New Mexico, representing every state in the union as well as 25 to 30 foreign countries, and
never mind that more than 1,600 performances of nearly 140 different operas have been given here, including 9 world premieres and 40 American premieres,

Rest assured that no "visiting" camera lens shall record a glimpse of this magnificent structure from inside. Fort Opera is secure from peering lenses.

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