Biography and Music

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A Vision of Voices: John Crosby and The Santa Fe Opera

Craig A. Smith

Winner of the 2016 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Biography—New Mexico

A destination for thousands of opera lovers every year and the anchor of Santa Fe’s thriving arts scene, The Santa Fe Opera owes its existence to the vision and hard work of one man: John O’Hea Crosby (1926–2002), who created the company when he was only thirty years old and guided its fortunes for the next forty-five years. This book, the first in-depth exploration of Crosby’s career, shows how the Opera reflected his passions for music and the arts.

A Vision of Voices depicts the many sides of Crosby—a dreamer and tough-minded businessman, an artistic explorer and conservative programmer, and a competent conductor and sharp critic. His devotion to quality and his obsessive oversight bore an enduring harvest that forever changed Santa Fe, the state of New Mexico, and the operatic world.


Craig A. Smith was an arts writer for the Santa Fe New Mexican for twenty years and has written about music for many other publications.


“Santa Fe Opera’s distinguished history of Strauss productions is examined, along with a great deal else, in Craig A. Smith’s detailed and readable study.”


Chicago Tribune

“Smith, an arts writer for the Santa Fe New Mexican for twenty years, has exhaustively documented his work, and he certainly brings to life a fascinating and perplexing character. This is an important book about an important figure in American cultural history.”


Dallas Morning News

“Splendid. . . . In this meticulously researched, handsomely produced biography, Smith’s style is admirably direct and unfettered.”



“Smith can’t get inside Crosby’s head, but he does the next best thing, and without whitewashing any of Crosby’s unpleasant characteristics, he manages to convey how, in spite of them, this difficult man was able to enlist fellow believers in pursuit of a singular vision.”



“Craig Smith’s welcome new book A Vision of Voices is a revealing biography of John O’Hea Crosby.”


Albuquerque Journal

“Whether the reader is deeply ensconced in art music of a neophyte interested in how the other half lives, Smith’s book is a perfect summertime ticket to a program both profound and pleasant.”


Weekly Alibi

“Written with access to [The Santa Fe Opera’s] extensive files (including correspondence), Smith’s book provides a well-paced, intimate, insight-rich look at Crosby’s formative years, his forty-plus years as [The Santa Fe Opera’s] general director, and his legacy.”


New Mexico Magazine

7 x 10 in. 288 pages 46 color plates, 46 halftones