The Santa Fe Opera

9119 Santa Fe Hero

The Santa Fe Opera

The design for this open-air theater creates a new iconic identity while preserving operagoers’ memories of the historic house.


The design is contextual, yet evocative of distant times and places: its roof form subtly echoes the profiles of the surrounding mountains and evokes the billowing tents associated with itinerant festivals appropriate to opera’s origins and Santa Fe Opera’s summer season.

James S. Polshek, Design Partner

The waved roof of this formally-striking, technically-sophisticated and enlarged venue is the design’s signature element. Suspended from a skeletal structure, the orchestra and balcony roofs act as giant acoustic reflectors that parallel the movement of sound outward from the stage and toward the seating below.

The original columns framing the stage support the new roof: a unique structural system of white steel masts and tension rods minimizes bulk and carries the roof’s dead load onto the reinforced columns.

9119 Santa Fe Seating

The balcony mirrors the sweeping form of the main roof, and its cantilevered structure affords unobstructed sightlines.

Steel wind splitter rails along the roof edges and wind baffles on the north side of the theater diffuse the strongest winds and decrease weather-related distractions during performances.

A three-story Rehearsal Hall building provides space for rehearsals, small performances, lectures, banquets and other functions.

9119 Santa Fe Circulation


Santa Fe, NM
75,000 GSF
2,166-seat Opera Theater, Entry Plaza, Balcony-level Bar, Mezzanine, Restrooms, Terraces


Ennead Design Team
James S. Polshek, 1930-2022, Timothy Hartung, D. Blake Middleton, Damyanti Radheshwar, Crystal Anderson, Gary Anderson, Judi Bauer, Christopher Borchardt, Minsuk Cho, Denis Dambreville, Stefan Hastrup, Joann Hermance, Jihyon Kim, Sally Leung, Francelle Lim, Robert Oh, Darius Sollohub, Shawn Sullivan, Kyle Yang
Associate Architect
Jeff Goldberg/Esto, James S. Polshek, 1930-2022, Robert Reck


  • 2000
    • Award for Excellence in Design, AIA/New York State
    • American Architecture Award, The Chicago Athenaeum
  • 1999
    • Citation, AIA/New York Chapter
    • USITT Award of Merit, United States Institute of Theatre Technology
    • Best Buildings Award, Exteriors Category, New Mexico Business Journal
    • Exterior Design Citation, Best Buildings Magazine
  • 1998
    • Certificate of Commendation for Excellence in Construction, Association of Contractors, Inc.
    • Excellence in Construction, Associated Building Contractors


  • 2004
    • Winckler, Suzanne. "WHAT'S DOING IN; Santa Fe " (The New York Times, 7/4/2004)
    • "New Mexico: A State of the Arts" (Smithsonian, 6/2004)
  • 1999
    • Apple, RW. "Culture with Adobe" (The New York Times, 9/17/1999)