Santa Fe Opera Tailgate Picnic

- August 17, 2011

"...this is the tradition here: white linen, champagne, paté, goat’s cheese etc----that’s what’s on the menu for this crowd"

This was an event which several neighbors and myself had been planning since April. That’s how far ahead you need to buy tickets for the marvelous and enchanting Santa Fe Opera. Tonight’s performance was “Faust” by Charles Gonoud, sung entirely in French. But the simultaneous translators (an LED screen embedded in the back of the seat just in front of you) allows for translations into English or Spanish. I would have liked to have seen French as well. I had read the libretto beforehand and was able to follow most of it in French. But words put to music, even in English sometimes, can be difficult to follow. So, since there was no “original language” option, naturally I chose English. Although, as an aside; I will be taking a Spanish course this Fall. So maybe for next year’s performance I’ll choose “Spanish” instead.

From what I can glean, the text of this “Faust” was quite different from Goethe’s. This is ostensibly a libretto which is supportive of Christianity, the final choir singing, “Christ has risen again! Christ is born again...”. Yet I couldn’t help notice that when Marguerite is in the confessional, her father confessor is none other than Mephistopheles masquerading as a priest! Some of the scenes in hell were interesting to me, from a woman’s point of view that is. All of Satan’s consorts, helpers or denizens, however you want to refer to them, are all women. Every single one! Granted, they were all quite attractive and not surprisingly, they all had great voices and sleek bodies. Imagine that. Well, that’s what happens when a man writes his version of hell. Ha! How would I write it and stage it ? Not sure entirely, but the “hotter-than-hell-staff” would consist of men and women in equal parts. There were also some subtle visual references to the abolishment of any form of earlier religion, especially those that might have any grounding in, or association with, goddesses. We see a giant pentagram come crashing down among other activities over which Mephistopheles presides. Of course the pentagram also has some remote Christian connections; and in hell Mephistopheles could want to destroy that use of the pentagram. Still there are other, better known associations with the pentagram linking it to pre-Christian religions and traditions. I’ll let this one rest.

I’m off topic for a change. The production was a feast for the eyes and the ears. Every scene was magnificent and riveting. So, you’re asking, “If it was so riveting, did you fall asleep?” Well....considering that I had cooked all day.....NO, I did not fall asleep....except for 5 or 10 minutes just before the end. Not bad. My favorite character by the way, both for voice and presence, was Mark Doss playing Mephistopheles. I had my binoculars, so I was able to catch his facial expressions which were always perfect for the emotions he was portraying at the moment. And the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra were outstanding as well. Always a treat to hear them.

I really had been cooking most of the day. One of the odd things about opera-in-the-summer-in-Santa-Fe, is that many patrons choose to have a tailgate picnic right there in the parking lot! If you didn’t see it for yourself, you wouldn’t believe it. I just don’t associate “opera” and “tailgate picnic”, ever. If you said “Green Bay Packers” and then “tailgate picnic”, I’m with you. But this is the tradition here: white linen, champagne, paté, goat’s cheese etc----that’s what’s on the menu for this crowd. They arrive early, really early. About three hours before the performance begins they start getting their tables ready with the most elegant fare you can imagine. I felt it was my obligation, as a photographer, to go to every table and see what they were having---and then to invite myself to their feast if I liked their “vittles”. There wasn’t one group that didn’t say, “Hell yea, pull up a chair and join us.” Since they were all so nice I invited everyone over to our “place” to share what we had. Only two people took me up on it though, but they were grateful and lavish in their praise.

On our menu, was: starter: fresh gazpacho, prepared by Mary. It was fresh and bright, and I could have made the meal out of that alone. I made Pizza Siciliano, as one of our invitees referred to it. But hey, I’m from Buffalo; we called it Pan Pizza. There was a lot of prep on that entree, as well as the other one. You’ll see why when you see the photos either on this website or on my blog (link below). I also made a curried shrimp salad with pine nuts, fresh mango, dried cranberries and celery. I seasoned it with a reduction made from the steaming and seasoning of the shrimp. Some people thought they were eating crab. “Reductions” always add depth like that. My neighbors across the street, Bill and Kay, brought gorgeous desserts. The chocolate ganache got a little crushed, but that did nothing to diminish the stupendous flavors. And nothing could diminish the joy and delight of this evening with The Santa Fe Opera!

Happy Trails to you from Santa Fe, New Mexico.

For more photos, I invite you over to my Blog at : Trips and Quips