Opera can sometimes feel inaccessible. As someone who loves live theater and music, I have always been intrigued by opera, but I was always a little intimidated. Luckily, two Albuquerque theater companies are working to make opera readily available to new and long-time opera fans alike.

Opera Southwest

I attended an Opera Southwest performance of “Before Night Falls” at the National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC). Tickets are only $15 for those 30 and younger, and $5 tickets are also available to anyone receiving SNAP or WIC benefits.

The NHCC’s stunning architecture makes it a beautiful venue for opera performances. Opera Southwest utilizes the Albuquerque Journal Theatre, which is the perfect size to immerse the audience in the music, costumes, sets and story. The audience feels close to the performers without being packed into a tiny theater.

An image of the program of "Before Night Falls"

“Before Night Falls” is a modern opera based on the autobiography of Reinaldo Arenas. The story follows Reinaldo, a gay writer in Cuba, and his struggles with poverty, imprisonment and eventually his escape and exile from Cuba. The production I watched was produced with the New Mexico Gay Men’s Chorus.

An image of a dress rehearsal of the opera "Before Night Falls"

Photo Credit: Mark Werner

The caliber of performers blew me away. Each singer was incredibly talented. I also enjoyed the live orchestra, which brought another layer of excellence to the show. The set was also particularly impressive and transported the audience from New York City to Cuba and back. English and Spanish captions were projected above the stage, so it was easy to follow what was happening.

A man sits at a desk and two women stand over his shoulders during a performance of the opera "Before Night Falls"

Photo Credit: Mark Werner

Watching an Opera Southwest performance was a great way to spend a weekend afternoon. The season runs from fall to spring. The final show for 2024 will be Bizet’s “Carmen,” the famous tragedy about a love triangle between a bullfighter, a soldier and a gypsy girl.

Opera on the Menu

Opera on the Menu is a recent addition to the New Mexico opera scene. This operatic dinner theater offers opera performances paired with fine dining experiences. Attendees enjoy a meal prepared by a local chef while watching an opera.

A woman pours a glass of champagne as people are welcomed to an Opera on the Menu performance

Photo Credit: Facebook

The highlight of the 2024 season is Pauline Viardot’s “Cendrillon,” which tells the story of Cinderella in four acts. The performances, which will take place at the Los Ranchos Agri-Nature Center on May 31 and June 1, will be accompanied by a four-course French meal presented by Mila’s Mesa and Los Ranchos Bakery. In October, Opera on the Menu will present “Nightmare on the Rio Grande,” a selection of songs from some of opera and Broadway’s infamous criminals and scoundrels, ranging from “Don Giovanni” to “Sweeney Todd.”

Graphic that reads Opera on the Menu presents: Pauline Viardot's Cendrillon

Opera on the Menu offers inclusive pricing to allow more people to experience the joy of opera. Select the ticket price option that works best for you.