Santa Fe Opera’s ‘Setting the Stage’ Campaign Undertakes $35 Million for Renovation and Expansion

Since New York conductor John Crosby founded the company in 1956 and presented to the public its first performance of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly a year later, The Santa Fe Opera has built up its influence becoming one of the world’s most highly regarded summer opera festivals. A major piece of real estate with a splendid fusion of nature through its dramatic adobe theater, it calls home a 200-acre facility with its own waste water treatment plant, features that no other opera company in the world can claim.

Since New York conductor John Crosby founded the company in 1956 and presented its first performance of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly a year later, The Santa Fe Opera has built up its influence becoming one of the world’s most highly regarded summer opera festivals. The facility it calls home is a major piece of real estate with a splendid fusion of nature through its dramatic adobe theater. The 200-acre facility has its own waste water treatment plant, a feature that no other opera company in the world can claim.

On the stage everything looks flawless—the props, the scenery, the costumes—but off-stage things are different. “There is a critical need to bring our backstage facilities into the 21st century,” said General Director Charles MacFay, and necessary steps toward achieving this goal are in progress. The opera will begin an ambitious three-year renovation program in September 2014, scheduled to be completed in time for the SFO’s 60th anniversary. The work has been carefully scheduled to not disrupt the opera seasons.

The daring project costs $35 million of which $24.3 million has been raised with help from the board of directors and friends of the company. The funds are being divided into three categories: $23 million will be spent on construction, $8 million reserved for upkeep and maintenance, and $4 million to support mainstage programming.

“This multi-year plan has been carefully thought out,” according to MacKay. “It follows the ‘Building a Sound Future’ campaign launched in 2006 during the company’s 50th anniversary season. That project addressed dining, rehearsal and practice facilities, and administrative offices.”

The work will be completed in three phases. Around 36,000 square feet will be renovated and more than 28,000 square feet added to current facilities.

The shop will be relocated and doubled in size, a covered food service will be added, the lavatories will almost double and they will be moved to more convenient locations, the dressing rooms will be refurbished and upgraded and the costume shop will be expanded. More importantly, the backstage and production areas will be renovated and enlarged. The parking lot will be repaved and enlarged and storage warehouses for sets and props will be built.

The architect hired for the new campaign, “Setting the Stage,” is New York-based Juan Matiz of Matiz Architecture & Design, formerly of Polshek Partners, the firm that designed the 1998 theater, and thus fully committed to maintaining the original aesthetic. Harris Consultants will oversee the construction.

Photos courtesy of The Santa Fe Opera.