travel: a thin veil of vibrant blue…

Santa Fe, New Mexico

I’ve been looking for a good excuse to visit Santa Fe for quite some time. Natalie Dessay gave me one.

She was to appear at the Santa Fe Opera, a spectacular venue I have longed to see in person.

I had to go.

Since you probably don’t read my blog for my opera reviews, I’ll move on to the eating portion of my trip.*

New Mexico (2009)
New Mexico sky

Hand-in-hand with its vibrant arts community, Santa Fe has a small, but focused, restaurant scene. With a high percentage of jet-set and wealthy visitors from afar, the restaurants in this tiny town are used to catering to a somewhat sophisticated audience.

Pro: The menus I saw boasted high-quality ingredients.  In line with the progressive and hippie nature of the local population, the restaurants emphasized sustainable and organic agriculture.  Produce was notably fresh, spices were vibrant and alive, and meats were full of flavor.

Con: Prices were uniformly inflated.

Although I had a good variety of recommendations for restaurants, I chose to stick largely to the old favorites – the restaurants, like Cafe Pasqual’s and Geronimo, that first made Santa Fe an object of dining interest nearly two decades ago.

Here is where I ate:

Cafe Jean-Pierre
Cafe Pasqual’s
Coyote Cafe and Cantina
The Shed
Terra at Encantado Auberge & Resort
tune-up cafe

Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe, New Mexico (2009)
Loretto Chapel
Santa Fe, New Mexico

I’ll hyperlink this list to the reviews when they get posted in the coming weeks (or, months, more likely).

Santa Fe and its environs offer more than just food and opera.

At an elevation of 8,000 ft. above sea level, the air is considerably thinner in Santa Fe, making the sky a brilliant and dazzling sight to be hold.  Clouds sweep by with an added touch of drama. And at night, there are countless more stars in the sky.

Although I had hoped to eat in Taos, my drive up there was limited to a short time.  The pueblo – which I had specifically driven up there to see was, unfortunately closed.  But a short journey outside of that town rewarded me with a breathtaking walk over the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.  The bridge looks its age: constructed over forty yeas ago.  It rattled and shook with the passing of large trucks. It is not for the faint of heart.

Rinconada Valley, National Petroglyph Monument, New Mexico (2009)
New Mexico sky

I wasn’t able to make it out to Georgia O’Keeffe’s home in Abiquiui, but I did visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in downtown Santa Fe. She is an amazing woman with an amazing story.

Lastly, while killing some time before my flight back, I went for a nice hike through the Rinconada Valley in the Petroglyph National Monument, near Albuquerque.

* The Santa Fe Opera is set in the mountains and is exposed to the elements. It makes for a wonderful evening if the weather is as gorgeous as it was the night I went. Holding steady in the upper 60s (Farenheit, of course) the occasional breeze that drifted through the house was quite lovely.

Tailgating, Santa Fe Opera, Santa Fe, New Mexico (2009)
Santa Fe Opera

Pre-opera tailgating is a huge past time. We’re not talking beer and grills. These hoity toits set up camp with linen-lined card tables, bottles of wine, boards of cheeses and fine meats, and multi-coursed dinners. The view, if you manage to park toward the look-out, is fantastic. The opera has also set up a couple of designated picnic areas with tables and benches.

It is somewhat unfortunate that Ms. Dessay was not to appear in a more interesting production. For me, “La Traviata” holds all the appeal and excitement of watching my neighbor (who is not a super-model) mow the lawn. It features one of the biggest schmucks in all of operadom (Germont), and boasts one of the most abusively agonizing deathbed scenes this side of “La Boheme,” with the heroine hopping in and out of bed until she draws her long-overdue, last breath. It’s an opera that’s repeatedly cursed by unimaginative productions like the one I last saw earlier this year in February.

Santa Fe Opera, Santa Fe, New Mexico (2009)
Santa Fe Opera

Thankfully, this production was made bearable – and at times quite enjoyable – by a strong cast. The vocal talent was solid. I’m not convinced that Dessay was in her finest form, but she was wonderful all the same. [It is a pity I missed seeing Dessay and her husband (L. Naouri) sing opposite each other (he played the roll of the schmuck for the majority of the season). His engagement ended before the last two performances (for reasons unknown to me, but anticipated by the playbill).]

The set, which had been heavily criticized, I found quite compelling, a reflection of the local landscape: the large, dark boxes stacked on a rise with walkways and stair steps woven throughout looked like a mountainside tumble of boulders. This set was used to great effect in the second act, when the stage was convincingly converted to a mountain-side stretch of green, with the “boulders” peeking out here and there.

~ by ulterior epicure on September 1, 2009.

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