Top Ten Refined U.S. Music Festivals

Santa Fe Opera, New Mexico
Santa Fe Opera at night
The summer sun sets over the Santa Fe Opera (Robert Godwin)
8. Santa Fe Opera, New Mexico
The settings in Santa Fe are as spectacular as the sounds. Santa Fe Opera (July and August) takes place at the company's handsome sheltered but open-air venue on a hilltop north of town, strategically positioned to wow the audience with a view of each night's stunning sunset across the New Mexico high-desert landscape. Typically five operas are in repertory, mostly familiar ("La Traviata," "Carmen") but almost always with one contemporary work, often a world premiere. It draws world-class performers and conductors. Locals have begun to hold elegant early-evening tailgate parties in the parking lot.

In Santa Fe itself, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival offers works by everyone from Vivaldi and Bach to Britten and Reich played by top groups and soloists, and performed in the St. Francis Auditorium, a 450-seat historic hall designed in Spanish mission style, and in the Lensic, a gorgeously restored pseudo-Moorish vaudeville and film theater originally built in 1931. The festival typically runs from mid-July through late August.


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