History of the Opera Guilds, Part 2
Prologue: Important Milestones After 1992
Many changes took place at the Santa Fe Opera during the period that this history covers. The following are the major ones.
* The existing opera theatre was torn down at the close of the 1997 season and work was begun on the present theatre, now known as the Crosby Theatre and named for John Crosby as well as his parents, Laurence and Aileen Crosby. It was built between the end of the 1997 season and the opening of the 1998 season. It seats 2,128 people (an increase of about 500), expanded restroom facilities, and new refreshment stations.
The new opera house won the U.S. Institute of Theater Technology Award of Merit in 1999, and the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design's “American Architecture Award” in 2000. (Seen in photo right: Ken Howard, courtesy of The Santa Fe Opera)
* An electronic titles system was installed in 1999, with Christopher Bergen translating the text. Bergen is fluent in French, Italian, German, and Russian. This system greatly improved attendance at the operas.
* John Crosby, (photo left at his retirement lunch) founder and General Director of The Santa Fe Opera, retired after his 567th performance with the company on August 25, 2000.
Mr. Crosby retired to Palm Springs, California, but returned to Santa Fe and conducted Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore at the Lensic Performing Art Center in November 2000 and went on to conduct main stage productions at the Opera of Strauss’ The Egyptian Helen in 2001 and La traviata in 2002. John Crosby died on December 15, 2002 following complications after emergency surgery at Eisenhower Memorial Hospital in Rancho Milagro, California at age 76. His remains are buried at the National Cemetery in Santa Fe.
A beautiful Memorial was held in the theatre, now the Crosby Theatre (named for the Crosby family, John’s parents included), which was attended by singers, opera staff, many dignitaries and many members of Guilds, Inc.
* Richard Gaddes (in photo, right) came to the Opera in 1969 as Artistic Administrator and remained until 1976, when he left to start the Opera Company of St. Louis. A longtime friend and associate of Mr. Crosby’s, he returned to Santa Fe in 1994 to oversee the plannng for a new opera theatre and became General Director on October 1st 2000. He held the post for eight years until he retired at the end of the 2008 season.
* Stieren Hall was completed in 2001. This adjunct to the opera theatre is used for orchestra rehearsals, costume storage, vocal and instrumental practice, pre-performance lectures, board meetings, and many other functions, including fundraisers by the guilds.
* The Cantina underwent a huge remodel and became the beautiful Dapples Pavilion in time for the Opening Night of the 2008 opera season.
The old cafeteria was completely demolished (photo left: John Webber) and a brand new bar area opened in its place. A spacious buffet area was built, new restroom facilities created on the same level as the dining area, and - the feature most welcomed by members of the different guilds - was the paved ground.
No more would Preview Dinner volunteers and attendees ruin their heels on the gravel surface it had before! A state-of-the-art roof was installed so that diners would be better protected from the sudden summer rains. An SFO campaign - "High Hopes for High Heels" - got underway to sell pavers leading to the dining area, and several guild members purchased one. (photo above right: Robert Goodwin, Courtesy of The Santa Fe Opera)
Charles MacKay (in photo, left) was appointed to replace Richard Gaddes, whom he succeeded as Director of the Opera Theater of St. Louis. However, Charles MacKay had had a long association with The Santa Fe Opera in varied capacities dating from volunteering during his teenage years. He took over on October 1st 2008.
* While General Director John Crosby was not visible to the Guilds, Inc. members, at the Annual Guilds, Inc. Meeting at the end of each season he would generally make an appearance to express his thanks for the many volunteer hours and the funds allocated to the company each year. Richard Gaddes, his successor, was a bit more visible, making it a point to pop into different Guilds, Inc. gatherings, such as the Volunteer Annual Picnic/BBQ, the Annual Meeting, and he made an occasional visit to one of the outlying guild functions.
Since October 2008, Charles MacKay quickly became a large part of Guilds, Inc. activities and meetings. I was very impressed when he remained until the end of the Guilds, Inc. meeting when introduced as the new General Director in 2008. He has attended retreats and the OVI Conference in July 2009, as well as member guilds' events over the last few years.
At a time when morale of guild members was flagging, his presence has boosted things considerably and there is a new eagerness and dedication to the work of the guilds.
Click here to see Guilds History, 1992 to 1995