The 2,128-seat Santa Fe Opera (U.S. 84/285, 800/280-4654, www.santafeopera.org ) is the city’s premier arts venue. The elegant open-air amphitheater seven miles north of Santa Fe acts as summer camp for the country’s best singers to perform a mix of repertory and modern works during July and August.
Even if you think opera is all about tuxes, plush seats, and too-long arias, you shouldn’t miss the SFO, where half the fun is arriving early to “tailgate” in the parking lot—a chummy, artsy picnic that involves gourmet goodies, lots of champagne, and time to mill around and check out other attendees’ bolo ties.
In addition to your picnic dinner, also pack blankets to ward off the chill after the sun sets. If you have kids to entertain, visit on a designated “youth night,” a special dress rehearsal with extra info to introduce young ones to the art form.
Set in a fantastical 1931 Moorishly curlicued palace, the Lensic Performing Arts Center (211 W. San Francisco St., 505/988-1234, www.lensic.com ) is Santa Fe’s best stage after the opera house, with everyone from Ladysmith Black Mambazo to the Santa Fe Chamber Orchestra playing to the 821-seat house.
For the rest of the year, the chamber orchestra of Santa Fe Pro Musica performs in Loretto Chapel  and other intimate venues (505/988-4640, www.santafepromusica.com ). The eclectic organization also sponsors performances by the likes of Loudon Wainwright.
Also check the schedules at Gig (1808 2nd St., 505/690-9408, www.gigsantafe.com ), where singer-songwriters and other acoustic acts take the stage.
High Mayhem (1703-B Lena St., 505/501-3333, www.highmayhem.org ) is a raw community arts space that hosts all-ages rock shows, experimental jazz, and lots more.
And Paolo Soleri Outdoor Amphitheater (1501 Cerrillos Rd., 505/989-6318), on the grounds of the Santa Fe Indian School, is a beautiful setting for a summer concert. With some 2,500 seats, the venue attracts big touring bands and festivals.
If it’s live theater you want, visit the historic Santa Fe Playhouse (142 E. De Vargas St., 505/988-4262, www.santafeplayhouse.org ), which occupies a small adobe in Santa Fe’s oldest neighborhood. It stages a selection of melodrama, folk plays, and work by Latino and gay playwrights. Sundays are “pay what you wish.”