“I started my career here, in the resident program,” says Ryan Taylor, the new President & General Director of the Minnesota Opera. “This was one of the three markets, that I’d always said, I’d really like to live there. It’s such a great community for the arts and such a special place in the heart of the country. I’m so excited to be back.”
Minnesota Opera’s previous season ended on a striking note—the world premiere of The Shining, an intense and captivating rendition of the Stephen King novel. The company looks to continue that boldness with the five works in their 2016-17 season.
Here’s Taylor, on what to expect:
Romeo & Juliet (September 24-October 2. Tickets On Sale.)
The season kicks off with Charles Gounod’s version of Shakespeare’s ultimate tragedy.
“We have a new director to us who’s making his house debut, Matthew Ozawa,” Taylor says. “He’s incredibly creative, a young guy in the field but he’s already worked with Chicago, Houston, and a number of high-level opera companies. He has a very inventive personality. I’m eager to see what he does with this piece. The period is traditional but the visual has a modern aesthetic.”
“The other thing I love, is that the cast looks like they could be these people,” Taylor beams. “They’re young, vibrant, incredibly accomplished singers and I can’t wait to see what they bring to the stage.”
Das Rheingold (November 12-20)
The first of the four dramas that comprise Richard Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle, Das Rheingold, perhaps more than any of this season’s performance, speaks to the direction of the company. “Any company that begins to dip their toes into the Ring Cycle is saying something about their aspirations as an organization,” says Taylor. “It was bold for them to make this gesture.”
Of course, this gesture is not without its complications. “There are size restrictions to the piece,” Taylor explains. “For example, our orchestra doesn’t fit in the pit for Rheingold. And we didn’t want to present Rheingold in concert, so we had to be very creative about how we get everyone in the same space at the same time, and give the audience a full show. The result is that the orchestra is on stage, but they’re built into the set, it’s not going to look like a symphony is on stage. It’s not going to look like the orchestra is playing and we’re carting singers in front of them. They’ll be a part of what the singers work in and around.”
And how will the audience respond? “If they like it, if there is interest in how we push forward, we’re leaving the door open to be able to doing more of that. It’s a bit of experimentation for us, which is what this company has always been known for. So it fits beautifully.”
Diana’s Garden (January 21-29, 2017)
This comic opera, set in the realm of the Gods, is the piece Taylor is excited to learn the most about. “I have such an affinity for the Mozart trilogy [Così Fan Tutte, Don Giovanni, and The Marriage of Figaro] and this was written by the same librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte,” he says. “There’s an insightfulness he brings to storytelling and how music influences that story. I can’t wait. It’s going to be fun.”
Vicente Martín y Soler “is not a composer we’re very familiar with, a contemporary of Mozart’s,” he continues. “And I find that period of music to be particularly satisfying to me. That, combined also with another tremendous cast, and a local director, Peter Rothstein, it’s really gotten my attention.”
Dinner At Eight (March 11-19, 2017)
This world premiere which, like The Shining, is a result of the opera’s New Works Initiative, isn’t exactly like some of its previous adaptations.
“I watched the film—it was billed as this raucous comedy—but it was not funny. It’s really sad, actually,” Taylor laughs. “These are Manhattanites who’ve lost everything in the Great Depression and to mask the loss, are planning a big social dinner parter, and figuring out what they can afford, what they can wear, and save face in the process. You uncover things that are very painful in each of these people’s live. What I love about what [composer] Bill [Bolcom] and [librettist] Mark [Campbell] have brought to the project is that the play—that the movie and opera are based on, by George Kaufman and Edna Ferber—is much more insightful and witty than the movie. It has a good balance of comedy and tragedy.”
“The costumes and set are extraordinary,” he continues. “I’ll just say that this is a period in our history that it’s past nostalgia for most of us. It’s something that’s just sumptuous. We have something that’s so clever and so beautiful, and with this team, it’s going to be really cool.”
La Bohème (May 6-21, 2017)
And to round out the season, they’ll go back to Puccini (after last season’s gorgeous rendition of Tosca) for one of the all-time crowd favorites.
“Who doesn’t love Bohème?” Taylor says. “I think it’s the opera that I’ve seen, and been in, most in my life. I never get tired of it. It’s the most beautiful love story ever set to music.” And they’re doing enough performances to feature two distinct casts. “It’s a perfect way to end the season,” he says. “Humming on a high note.”