The best concert I saw in Santa Fe was at a venue where the plush seats had a view not only of the giant stage, but also of the sun going down in flames over the Jemez Mountains right behind it. I was at the world-famous Santa Fe Opera House and the man up front was no basso profondo singing in Italian. It was David Byrne, of Talking Heads fame, who was working the crowd into a frenzy with his acrobatic dance moves and willingness to play well-worn classics like “Burning Down the House.” That night brought out the best in the Santa Fe music scene, which can be world-class or eclectic or homespun or all of the above at once. Beyond the occasional monsoon thunderstorm, which rolls through town at around 4 p.m. and is long gone by late evening, there’s only one good reason (see below) to go inside to listen to music anytime during summer in Santa Fe.
The Santa Fe Opera
Beyond the physical beauty of the open-air Opera House, this company brings together world-renowned talent and a mixture of classic and avant-garde performances. The 2014 season’s top billing was Carmen, for which the Opera imported Argentinian Daniela Mack and Puerto Rican Ana María Martínez to share the title role.
The Plaza Bandstand
Almost every night of the summer there’s a live musical act performing in the heart of the city. Whether it’s the country-Hispanic-bluegrass of Fiddlin’ Doc Gonzalez, the traditional Norteño folk music of La Familia Vigil and the Northern New Mexico Folk Ensemble, or the local rock of Sol Fire, there’s always an entertaining show and good people watching.
Sol Santa Fe Patio
If listening to great national acts on tour, while drinking quality craft-brewed beer and eating a grilled burger sound like the perfect night out on the town, this venue with ample space for dancing on the far southern end of Santa Fe just off I-25 is the place to be.
Music on the Hill
The lush green grass at St. John’s College is the perfect place to let kids run wild while parents mind the picnic basket and sit back in their camping chairs with a bottle of rosé to listen to the Brazilian jazz of Bert Dalton or dance to the Rumba Flamenca of Manzanares.
Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
It requires going inside, but the world-renowned musicians who descend on Santa Fe for six weeks every summer, play everything from Schubert and Brahms at the St. Francis Auditorium to Mozart and Poul at the Lensic Performing Arts Center. This moving series is worth every moment out of the sun.