The ghost of Steve Jobs is hovering over Santa Fe.
On July 22, the world premiere of "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs" opened and will have only five performances this summer. America's emperor of technology died in 2011 at age 56. Four years earlier, he introduced the iPhone. His complicated, stormy rise to fame has long been the subject of books, articles, doctoral theses, biographies, films and now an opera.
Commissioned by SFO in partnership with the San Francisco Opera, "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs," by American composer Mason Bates and his librettist Mark Campbell, begins in 2007 when Jobs unveiled the iPhone. From that starting point, the opera unspools in a sequence of 18 scenes, flashing backward and forward in time. Described as cinematic in style, the opera is sumptuously orchestrated and combines Bates' musical signature - a fusion of orchestral texture with electronica, including spoken word. Recently, Bates fulfilled another commission - for the Kennedy Centennial. Bates integrated recordings of JFK's voice with lush orchestral sound.
Here's a summary of Santa Fe Opera's 61st season:
"Die Fledermaus," by Johann Strauss Jr., opened June 30 with a new production of this waltz extravaganza. Knowing the opera's worldwide popularity, the company has scheduled a total of nine performances. At the heart of this bubbly, urbane drama, there's a prank, a disguise, some seductive romancing and flagons of champagne. Lilting Viennese waltzes underscore all the action. "Fledermaus" plays Aug. 1, 7, 14, 19 and 26.
"Lucia di Lammermoor," by Gaetano Donizetti, opened July 5 in another new production. Last performed at SFO in 2001, the production features soprano Brenda Rae with tenor Mario Chang as her lover.
Donizetti was the last of the great bel canto composers and incorporated an unusual instrument in the "Mad Scene," a glass harmonica. Invented by Benjamin Franklin, the mechanism consists of water revolving through graduated glass bowls. For the 2017 SFO production, a guest glass harmonicist, Friedrich Heinrich Kern, will play from the original score as intended.
"Lucia" runs Aug. 5, 8, 12, 16 and 24.
"Alcina," by George Frideric Handel will open tomorrow night in a new production - a company premiere.
On her own enchanted island, Alcina, a magical sorceress, surfs through lust, lovers, sadness and rage. Eventually, she succumbs to the inevitable - six arias, baroque filigree and resignation.
Director David Alden's imaginative production was first conceived in 2012 for Bordeaux Opera. It traveled to Madrid's Teatro Real, and now will mesmerize Santa Fe. Alden has transformed Alcina's island into a theater with a stage-within-a-stage configuration. Along with Handel's music, it heightens the dreamlike quality of the tale.
"Alcina" runs July 29, Aug. 2, 11, 17 and 23.
"The Golden Cockerel," by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov is a new co-production with the Dallas Opera and a company premiere.
Based on a Russian folk tale as interpreted by Alexander Pushkin, the story centers on an aging, power-hungry tyrant. King Dodon's outsize ego drives him to constant warfare. A sorcerer from Breitbart suggests a warning system in the guise of a mechanical bird. The tyrant loves the golden cockerel, makes lavish promises of reward, but won't sign the sorcerer's contract. Warnings come and go. One leads to another war where the tyrant's sons are killed. But Dodon doesn't care because he has met a beautiful foreign queen. They return to his kingdom, and you can guess what the sorcerer wants as payment.
This extravagant fable runs Aug. 3, 9 and 18.
"The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs," by Mason Bates, libretto by Mark Campbell, will be one of the most innovative productions in SFO history by interweaving technology into contemporary operatic practice and merging expressive electronics, natural sounds and a traditional symphony orchestra.
The 19-scene work will center on Jobs (baritone Edward Parks) and his wife, Laurene (mezzo soprano Sasha Cooke). "The story exists at the intersection of creativity, technology and human communication," Bates has written. "I want to give every character a sound-world and see what happens when they collide."
The opera runs Aug. 4, 10, 15 and 15.
Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theater Critics Association.