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Nutcracker2_bySharenBradfordHoliday shows are thick on the ticket-buyer’s table in December, when venues lay out their yummiest confections for the family to savor.

Santa Fe Opera puts on a distinctly New Mexican pageant with Shoes for the Santo Niño at the National Hispanic Cultural Center on the first weekend and The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis on the second weekend. This 40-minute children’s opera is based on the story by Peggy Pond Church out of Northern New Mexico Hispanic and Native American folklore. Composer Stephen Paulus and librettist Andrea Fellows Walters were commissioned by the University of New Mexico to write this work first performed in 2011, and Kathleen Clawson stage directs.

Dec. 1-2, nhcc.com, 505.724.4771; Dec. 8-9, santafeopera.org, 505.986.5900

Popejoy Hall serves up a yummy assortment of treats for your pleasure each December. Any one of these selections would brighten my holiday—all of them together would leave me exhausted in January, but with a smile on my face. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder was the 2014 Tony Winner for Best Musical and the touring company kicks off the month. As far as I can tell, it has not much to do with Christmas, which recommends it in itself. Then Mannheim Steamroller Christmas and Mariachi Christmas appear, each an annual sell-out among fans. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol does a one-nighter just before the holiday, and we are left with plenty of time for last-minute shopping and private feasting.

Dec. 7-22, see separate listings for above shows, unmtickets.com, 505.925.5858

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Music Drives Out the Darkness

GMarks-PerformanceSF-01On a recent October school day, one of Performance Santa Fe’s 2017-18 scheduled artists, Julie Fowlis, renowned Scottish Gaelic singer and multi-instrumentalist, gave a large group of third and fourth grade public school students their own private concert. “We bussed them in,” says Cav Cavanaugh, PSF’s operations and education coordinator. “She’s singing to them in a strange language, telling them the fairy tales behind the songs and what they mean, with accompanying instruments; she performs the song she sang as Merida in Disney Pixar’s movie Brave—the kids lost their minds!”

That firsthand experience of music’s power to evoke passion is exactly what Cav and fellow collaborator Leanne DeVane, music education coordinator for Santa Fe Public Schools, work very hard to ignite through an impressive collection of PSF education programs. The nonprofit’s motto, “Changing lives through the power of performing arts,” applies not only to Santa Fe’s adult population but also to over 2,800 students enrolled in elective music courses in 24 public schools. Having a partnership with PSF, says Leanne of the collaborative music programs, “brings the whole thing to life.”

Perhaps closest to PSF’s heart, Cav says, is the Bravo! Kids program, bringing opportunities to children grades one through 12 to interact with performers of Julie Fowlis’ caliber. Along with school performances, Bravo! Kids also provides master classes taught by various PSF visiting artists, whose level of expertise—and inspiration—is far beyond most kids’ experience and expectations. Cav describes one master class, taught by another of this season’s performers, musical pioneer and cellist Matt Haimovitz. “He sat down onstage with five chosen students, one on one, at the Scottish Rite Center, where, by the way, the acoustics are amazing,” she says. “They each perform something for him, which is so nerve-racking—it feels like they’ll never get to his level—and he was showing one of them, Lila, a bowing technique. Then, using it, they played a version of a note together for the first time and, as it kind of hung in the air, they both registered it at the same time and, looking up above their heads, they said, ‘Did you hear that?!’” Continue reading

Hip Hop – Here and Now

WakeSelf-COVER01-DSC_1149Mescalero Apache and Mexican on his father’s side, Wake Self, a small-town kid from the Fort Wingate and Gallup areas, says that, growing up, the surrounding lakes, mountains and Native American reservations “had a profound impact on my outlook on life.”

Living in epic times is not for the feint of heart. Since Local Flavor began this series last November, the times have only gotten dizzyingly more confounding. “We’re on a hero’s journey—and it’s scary,” Native activist and artist Cannupa Hanska Luger said in our first installment of the series. He called this a time of “Here Be Monsters,” requiring passionate, dedicated monster-slayers stepping up to put their hearts on the line for what they believe. We can do this, Cannupa said, if we act collectively. And then, he added, “seven generations we’ll never meet could look back and tell tales of this mythical time.”

And in fact, even in the face of dauntingly overwhelming obstacles, stouthearted heroes are indeed emerging. Standing tall among these is born-and-bred New Mexican Andrew Isaac Martinez, better known as Wake Self. Now in his mid-20s, he’s been a performing hip-hop artist since he was 15; starting at 12, he began teaching himself to write poetry lyrics. “They were my own personal counseling sessions,” he says unabashedly. “I was having some depression, some growing pains.” Mescalero Apache and Mexican on his father’s side, Wake Self, a small-town kid from the Fort Wingate and Gallup areas, says that, growing up, the surrounding lakes, mountains and Native American reservations “had a profound impact on my outlook on life.” Early on, he honed his focus, mentioning without fanfare, for example, “I’m a rapper artist who’s proudly sober.” And as his DJ name makes clear, he’s committed to diverging from typical mainstream rapper obsessions—wealth, conspicuous consumption, male domination—to help us wake up from all that. The first few lines of a recent song “Fluteboxsesh,” filmed at Yellowstone with longtime DJ friend Def-i, express Wake Self’s priorities: “Ever felt so alive/Your brain stretched to wide open/no sense of ego, no swollen pride/Nothin’ is holdin’ you back/Wakin’ up outta the trap?”   Continue reading

Top Tix

“A working musician is all I ever wanted to be,” Alejandro Escovedo says. That he is, and you can hear him in an intimate setting at GiG Performance Space courtesy of AMP Concerts. Roots-rock, punk rock…he always sounded like a version of Dylan to me. I’m not saying he’s derivative, not at all, but just as honest and poetic as ol’ Bobby—that’s what I hear when he writes and sings his own stuff. Alejandro’s on his Burn Something Beautiful tour, and Santa Fe will embrace him. One of the cuts on this album is “I Don’t Want To Play Guitar Anymore.” Don’t believe it. Nov. 4, AMPconcerts.org, holdmyticket.com

Because FUSION Theatre Company always sells out its shows, include Fulfillment Center in your early November plans at The FUSION Forum, the newly re-christened Cell Theatre (plus) in ABQ. This play is fresh from The Manhattan Theatre Club, but playwright Abe Koogler is from New Mexico; his parents live in Santa Fe. FUSION was searching for a Santa Fe venue as of press time. Continue reading

El Farol

ElFarol_DSC3535There were serious offers on the table from five potential buyers for El Farol on Canyon Road, a Santa Fe icon and one of America’s hundred most historic restaurants. Four of the bids were from out of state. Lucky for Santa Fe, the winning offer, from lead investor Richard Freedman, was not only local, it was hyperlocal. Rich also owns The Teahouse, right across the street.

“Lately, I’ve been wearing out a path between the two places,” Rich says on Day 12 of the newly refurbished and reopened El Farol, which translates from Spanish as “The Lantern.” “We let the lantern idea guide us as we chose every detail of the design,” part owner and General Manager Freda K. Scott says. “The warmth and light, the sense of welcoming that a lit lantern symbolizes, and which historically signaled the cantina was open for service.”

Rich and Freda eschewed the services of a professional designer, preferring to make their own selections of casual comfortable, dark wood furniture, locally sourced lighting fixtures and sconces, the new modern and elegant logo, the flatware and other décor details, down to the alabaster candleholders on every table, which are meant to convey: “You’re home, you’re invited, you’re welcome here.” Continue reading

The (R)Evolution of Steve Jobs at Santa Fe Opera

HXHH96 STEVE JOBS STEVE JOBS: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE (2015)

STEVE JOBS: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE (2015)

At 420 years old, opera is a venerable art form: The first recorded opera was Jacopo Peri’s Dafne, which premiered in Florence, Italy, in 1597. But opera also is ever young. New works are written and regularly performed today, and greeted with much applause by audiences. That’s certainly long been the case at The Santa Fe Opera. Since the first season in 1957, the company has regularly commissioned and premiered new operas––14 to date––and has given the American premieres of some 45 other pieces.

This 2017 season has its premiere as well. The spotlighted opera is The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, with music by Mason Bates, and libretto by Mark Campbell. Yes, the opera is an exploration of the life, work and inner journey of techno-giant Steve Jobs, who made the Apple brand ubiquitous. It is being awaited with anticipation not only by operatic cognoscenti, but by those immersed in the contemporary Zeitgeist of computers, technology and global information access. Continue reading