Wagner Voilá!

- January 23, 2012

"The Santa Fe Wagner Society the society's mission is 'to gather Wagner aficionados, novices and those who are curious about the oeuvre of this enigmatic man' "

Yes, yes and yum yum, just what I needed... more opera in Santa Fe.

With an abundance of local opera-tunity--including that modest summer venue up near Tesuque, the Metropolitan's "Live in HD" series at the Lensic, occasional recitals by stars on tour like Eric Owens or Kathleen Battle, the ongoing Performance at The Screen and 75-minute, door-to-door driving proximity to Opera Southwest in Albuquerque--you'd think all that would be enough, but it simply is not.

That's why I signed up for something new called the Santa Fe Wagner Society at a table in the Lensic lobby before a November Met broadcast. Nothing specific was announced there, and I'd been waiting eagerly for some word about the society's seemingly imminent, but as yet undated, inaugural endeavor. So had about another 100 signer-uppers.

So goody, goody, for now the SFWS is for real, offering a warm treat in the throes of winter.

On Saturday January 28, the newly-formed coalition serves up its premiere presentation, focusing on Richard Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde."

Hosted by the Santa Fe Concert Association Artistic Director, pianist-conductor Joseph Illick, and spotlighting selections performed by internationally-known soprano Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet, this introductory event launches the society's mission "to gather Wagner aficionados, novices and those who are curious about the oeuvre of this enigmatic man."

Led by an affable, five-headed hydra--Tom Arthur, Yoko Arthur, Joyce Idema, Karen Loud, and Maxime Ohayon--the society promises "informal settings with leaders in the field." The married Arthurs describe themselves as "passionate Wagnerites [who] just love to hear Wagner's music, even without a big orchestra." They feel that hearing his music in what they call "the Valhalla of the Southwest" is, in a word, enchanting.

This debut effort will be at 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28 at the United Church of Santa Fe, 1804 Arroyo Chamiso. Tickets are $25 for adults and $12.50 for students, and available through the SFCA (321 W. San Francisco, 984-8759, www.santafeconcerts.org) and the Lensic box office (225 W. San Francisco, 988-1234, www.ticketssantafe.org), as well as at the door the day of the concert.      

Additional tasty goodies are still to come for hungry Wagnerians. Under SFWS auspices, The Screen will show La Scala's interpretation of "Tristan und Isolde" March 3 at 11 a.m., at a discount for the January 28 ticketholders. Those audience members may also benefit from reduced prices for the Dallas Opera's live staging of "Tristan und Isolde" in February, again top-lining Charbonnet.

All too truly, I do love Wagner--the music, not the man--as he was a thoroughly reprehensible character but also an undeniable and undenied genius, kind of like Newt Gingrich. Like many, I'm slowly swimming my way through the 17 hours of Cirque du Soleil director Robert Lepage's dreamlike contemporary version of the monumental Ring Cycle.

But, as I said, I need more.

You, too? Write wagnersocietyofsantafe@gmail.com.