The Rape of Lucretia

Arbeit Opera Theatre (AOT) presents a new production of Benjamin Britten’s poignant opera The Rape of Lucretia during Women’s History Month alongside Community Partners Women’s Advocates, Violence Free MN, and Advocates for Human Rights.

The Rape of Lucretia was the first of Britten’s chamber operas and is based upon the ancient Roman tragedy of Lucretia. The story unfolds during a time of war when Rome is ruled by an Etruscan King who ascended to power through force. It is in this hostile society that Lucretia’s body is used as a tool for political ambition and power.

The production will be presented in English with English supertitles.

*Audience note: Recommended for ages 16+. This production contains scenes of sexual violence, misogyny, and suicide. There will be a trained response therapist from Women’s Advocates on-site at each performance.

The Southern Theater
Friday, March 20, 7:30pm
Saturday, March 21, 7:30pm, ASL Interpreted
Sunday March 22, 4pm

The Rape of Lucretia

Arbeit Opera Theatre (AOT) presents a new production of Benjamin Britten’s poignant opera The Rape of Lucretia during Women’s History Month alongside Community Partners Women’s Advocates, Violence Free MN, and Advocates for Human Rights.

The Rape of Lucretia was the first of Britten’s chamber operas and is based upon the ancient Roman tragedy of Lucretia. The story unfolds during a time of war when Rome is ruled by an Etruscan King who ascended to power through force. It is in this hostile society that Lucretia’s body is used as a tool for political ambition and power.

The production will be presented in English with English supertitles.

*Audience note: Recommended for ages 16+. This production contains scenes of sexual violence, misogyny, and suicide. There will be a trained response therapist from Women’s Advocates on-site at each performance.

The Southern Theater
Friday, March 20, 7:30pm
Saturday, March 21, 7:30pm, ASL Interpreted
Sunday March 22, 4pm

The Rape of Lucretia

Arbeit Opera Theatre (AOT) presents a new production of Benjamin Britten’s poignant opera The Rape of Lucretia during Women’s History Month alongside Community Partners Women’s Advocates, Violence Free MN, and Advocates for Human Rights.

The Rape of Lucretia was the first of Britten’s chamber operas and is based upon the ancient Roman tragedy of Lucretia. The story unfolds during a time of war when Rome is ruled by an Etruscan King who ascended to power through force. It is in this hostile society that Lucretia’s body is used as a tool for political ambition and power.

The production will be presented in English with English supertitles.

*Audience note: Recommended for ages 16+. This production contains scenes of sexual violence, misogyny, and suicide. There will be a trained response therapist from Women’s Advocates on-site at each performance.

The Southern Theater
Friday, March 20, 7:30pm
Saturday, March 21, 7:30pm, ASL Interpreted
Sunday March 22, 4pm

‘Rigoletto’ at Minnesota Opera: Who’s Laughing Now?

Olafur Sigurdarson as Rigoletto in Minnesota Opera new production of “Rigoletto” // Photo by Cory Weaver

A loathsome politician uses his power to prey on women, indiscriminately hopping from one dalliance to the next, abetted by the very people he’s likely to hurt.

But enough about current events. The Minnesota Opera has a good show going on right now.

Their penultimate main stage performance of the season is Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” imagined by director Austin Regan in an Orwellian state that fits this 19th century opera to a T. The Duke of Mantua (Joshua Dennis) lusts after Gilda (Marie-Eve Munger), unaware that she’s the daughter of his disfigured court jester, Rigoletto, played with well-earned confidence by Icelandic baritone Olafur Sigurdarson.

Joshua Dennis as the Duke in Minnesota Opera new production of “Rigoletto” // Photo by Cory Weaver

Rigoletto, usually shown as a hunchback, is presented in a leg brace. Rather than a bumbling clown, Siguardarson’s Rigoletto strikes a nuanced and melancholy figure—a shrewd opportunist who has to coolly navigate an oppressive regime to have his revenge when the Duke’s latest affair hits close to home.

Scenic designer Julia Noulin-Merat flanks the stage with oversized Shepard Fairey-like portraits of the Duke, a wall of security cameras, and just enough totalitarian mise-en-scène to remind us of the power dynamic, but not stifle the machinations of the characters.

Marie-Eve Munger as Gilda in Minnesota Opera new production of “Rigoletto” // Photo by Cory Weaver

In a strange dissonance, Dennis plays the Duke with effortless charm, making his sexual criminality seem more like impish fancy. It was truly difficult to watch him sing the buoyant “La donna e mobile” and remember exactly what deviance he’s planning.

But Sigurdarson ably reminds us of the stakes, especially through his character’s ups and downs in the tragic and ironic third act. The costuming of the chorus comes into powerful effect here—the once-fancy courtiers dissolve into a mass of shrouded bodies, an anonymous, pernicious threat to anyone (like Rigoletto and Gilda) who dares challenge the status quo.

The show is powerful and intimate, a timely reminder about the dangers of groupthink, and a deft example of the versatility of this Verdi masterwork.

Tickets are still available for the remaining performances, especially for those next Tuesday and Thursday (March 27 and 29).

Olafur Sigurdarson as Rigoletto and Matt Boehler as Sparafucile in Minnesota Opera new production of “Rigoletto” // Photo by Cory Weaver

‘María de Buenos Aires’ offers passionate opera and sultry Argentine tango

Soprano Catalina Cuervo // Photo by Dan Norman

From its sultry setting in a Buenos Aires barrio to its score brimming with expressive tango, “María de Buenos Aires” is not your typical opera, and the Mill City Summer Opera is not your typical opera company.

Rather than staging its sixth annual opera production on a classic proscenium stage positioning the audience directly in front of the action, the Mill City Summer Opera (MCSO) gave “María de Buenos Aires” the 360-degree treatment, with the audience encircled around a center stage offering a different view for each person who attends.

The unique staging layout coincides with the organization’s temporary shift in venue to the Machine Shop on the other side of the Stone Arch Bridge, says artistic director David Lefkowich. “The field trip to the Machine Shop gave us a terrific opportunity to change things up a bit,” he says. “We had to think about the opera and the experience of the audience in an entirely new way.”

Audience members are encircled around a center stage, offering a different view for each person who attends at the Machine Shop // Photo by Dan Norman

Restoration at the Ruin Courtyard at the Mill City Museum, which is MCSO’s usual venue, drove the leaders to look for an equally non-traditional location to host its production for the time being. “It is a more intimate setting, which was especially critical in the sensuality and experience of this opera,” Lefkowich says. “This opera brings the heat we all miss by being inside this season.”

Having long considered performing the sensual “María de Buenos Aires,” MCSO turns it into an event that is just as much a celebration of Argentine tango culture as it is opera performance. Attendees who arrive an hour before showtime are invited to take a tango dance lesson with dancers from the show, and the party continues after the show with more dancing. Add in the operatic performances by Catalina Cuervo, Luis Alejandro Orozco, and Milton Loayza to Fernanda Ghi’s choreography and JP Jofre’s talent on the Argentine bandoneon, a cross between an accordion and a concertina, and you have a world-class tango event transporting the audience to another time and place. “Mill City Summer Opera is more than just an opera company,” Lefkowich says. “We are about creating an operatic experience for our patrons.”

Related Post: Classical Conditioning: Attracting new blood to the world’s oldest performing arts

Managing to be both intimate and grand, the setting begets a memorable show that weaves song and dance, love and passion. The opera is performed entirely in Spanish, and although interested audience members can follow along with English subtitles on various screens, that is almost unnecessary because of the storytelling power of composer Astor Piazzolla’s thrilling and emotion-packed music. Nor will the audience want to take their eyes off of the dazzling dancers, atmospheric tango lounge scenery, and lively musicians on stage-level. The opera’s plot is relatively easy to follow and comes secondary to the exceptional musical talent onstage and in the orchestra pit.

“This is an unforgettable experience and the steamiest night in Minneapolis you can find,” says Lefkowich. “The tango is a dance of the embrace and the experience, so come for the sultry music, the incredible poetry, the brilliance of the performers, and an opportunity to experience opera in a whole new way.”

Limited rush tickets ($35, main level) for the July 18, 19 and 20 performances of “María de Buenos Aires” are available. These tickets go fast, so you’ll need to arrive and line up at least an hour before doors open (that’s around 6pm, doors at 7pm) to have a chance at them. If you’re a student, show your I.D. and your rush ticket is specially priced at just $10 with standing balcony views.

MN Opera to branch out from Ordway for 55th Season

'Fellow Travelers' at the Cincinnati Opera // Photo by Philip Groshong

‘Fellow Travelers’ at the Cincinnati Opera // Photo by Philip Groshong

The Minnesota Opera will present three new concerts and one extra full stage production, in addition to their five main stage operas, to commemorate their 55th season.

The 2017-18 season will include a departure from their home at the Ordway Center in St. Paul, for a staging of Fellow Travelers at the Cowles Center in June 2018. The contemporary work tells the story of a forbidden love affair between two men, one a State Department official, in McCarthy-era Washington D.C.

“Fellow Travelers, running during Twin Cities Pride in 2018, fosters inclusion and celebrates Minnesota’s LGBT community through a story focused on the romantic journey of two gay people,” says Minnesota Opera president and general director Ryan Taylor. “Through all these new initiatives, I’m thrilled to widen Minnesota Opera’s artistic footprint to be the best stewards of opera as possible.”

The three new concerts are: a 55th Anniversary Celebration, a concert featuring members of their Resident Artist Program, and a co-presentation of the Sphinx Virtuosi chamber orchestra with their fellow Arts Partners (Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, The Schubert Club, and SPCO).

The main stage operas for their 2017-18 season at the Ordway are Don Pasquale, The Marriage of Figaro, Dead Man Walking, Rigoletto, and Thaïs.

55th Anniversary Celebration
October 1, 2017 at 2 p.m.
Music Theater at the Ordway, St. Paul

“Featuring excerpts from each of this season’s productions and a variety of other opera selections.”
For additional details, visit mnopera.org/community-events.

The Sphinx Virtuosi
October 22, 2017 at 3 p.m.
Concert Hall at the Ordway, St. Paul

“Since their debut at Carnegie Hall in 2004, the Sphinx Virtuosi, led by the Catalyst Quartet, has been recognized as one of the nation’s most dynamic professional chamber orchestras. Comprised of 18 of the nation’s top Black and Latino classical soloists, these alumni of the internationally renowned Sphinx Competition come together each fall as cultural ambassadors to reach new audiences.”

Resident Artist Program Concert
April 8, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.
Concert Hall at the Ordway, St. Paul

“Surprise guests perform an eclectic musical program that promises a memorable evening in support of the past, current and future members of the highly selective program.”

Fellow Travelers
June 16, 17, 19, 21, and 23, 2018
The Cowles Center (528 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN  55403)
Sung in English with English captions projected above the stage.
An opera by Gregory Spears
Libretto by Greg Pierce
Based on the 2017 novel Fellow Travelers by Thomas Mallon
Developed and Co-Commissioned by G. Sterling Zinsmeyer & Cincinnati Opera

Classical Conditioning: Attracting new blood to the world’s oldest performing arts

The Minnesota Opera’s Project Opera gets kids grades 4-12 involved in opera productions. This image is from a Project Opera performance of “Memory Boy”. // Photo by Sigrid Redpath

Should you dress up to go to the opera? Unlike some other companies, Minnesota Opera hasn’t taken a position on the question. They haven’t felt they need to, said Minnesota Opera president and general director Ryan Taylor.

Some traditional operagoers, Taylor said, feel they need to clearly state, “This is a substantial piece of art, and it requires respect, and respect means that you dress a certain way.” Those messages are primarily directed at younger operagoers, but Taylor thinks that’s unnecessary.

“Some of the best-dressed audiences that you will ever see at the opera are student audiences,” Taylor said. “They get excited that they’re doing something they know is extraordinary.” The bottom line, in Minnesota, is “making sure that the environment is one that’s inclusive and comfortable for people to come in whatever way they find appropriate.”

Understanding young audiences is key to engaging them, say Taylor and his colleagues—but, they add, connecting their art form with new audiences doesn’t just mean catering to millennials. Only a small fraction of all Americans attend opera in any given year, so there’s room for growth across all demographics.

Minnesota Opera has recently been acclaimed for its New Works Initiative—responsible for new operas like the Pulitzer-winning “Silent Night” (2011) and last year’s blockbuster “The Shining,” which Minnesota Opera’s audience engagement manager Kristin Matejcek said filled almost half its single-show seats with people who were new to opera. Those operas share seasons with longtime favorites like Puccini’s “La Bohème” and lesser-known classics such as Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale.”

Noting the success of “The Shining,” Taylor said that conventional ideas about how new audiences approach opera are too simplistic. When he hears the statement, “Opera has an image problem,” it typically means that “someone who loves the art form has run into someone who doesn’t know anything about it, whose image is from a Bugs Bunny cartoon or a pasta commercial. Our job is not to convince everyone, but to take stepwise motion and change as many minds as we can in a given season.”

“The Shining” at the Minnesota Opera // Photo by Ken Howard

Every classical music organization peppers its programming with new works and other shows that might attract attention outside their typical audiences. The Minnesota Orchestra, like many symphony orchestras, has had huge success with live performances of the scores to accompany movies like “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has a Liquid Music series that sees the organization collaborating with the likes of Devendra Banhart and Poliça.

To sustain their organizations, though, these companies need to build relationships. “If you just do ‘Bohème,’ if you just do ‘Aida,’” explained Minnesota Opera chief marketing officer Darby Lunceford, “it doesn’t bring anybody closer to the art form. You really have to have it balanced, to understand how to keep people in the fold and get them into the habit of coming.”

Related post – Classical renegades: The genre-bending experimentation of Liquid Music

Of course, you’re more likely to invest your time in classical music if you understand how it works—and especially if you’ve personally participated. That’s why Minnesota Opera has education programs like Project Opera, which produces an entire kids-only opera every year. At the other end of the spectrum, the Voices of Opera program welcomes singers over age 55 to learn and perform operatic choruses. Both programs may lead to live performances at full professional productions.

“We’ve got access points,” said Taylor, “anywhere from five years old until you are no longer on the earth. I don’t know that there’s any other opera company out there who can boast a learning curve that’s designed for anyone at any age.”

“La Bohème” at the Minnesota Opera // Photo by Dan Norman

Okay, but we’re not all going to be opera singers—even at the amateur chorus level. How do you get young adults, or anyone, to take a break from all the big-buzz TV shows and come out to hear live classical music?

“It’s real easy to sit on the sofa,” acknowledged Lunceford. “It’s always interesting when someone says, ‘Opera is too long’ […] yet you sat and binge-watched ‘Downton Abbey’ for 12 hours.”

Like many organizations—from the Minnesota Orchestra to the Minnesota Zoo—Minnesota Opera has a program specially tailored for young adults. The opera’s program, called Tempo, provides discounted tickets as well as exclusive parties and chances to meet musicians. Unlike some comparable programs, Tempo comes with an annual membership fee ($50). “We’re saying to that generation,” explained Lunceford, “membership is important.”

Even with the membership fee, Tempo tickets are a bargain—but while economic accessibility helps, opera staff understand that price isn’t the make-or-break factor it used to be.

Increasingly, attracting audiences to performing arts events means helping them envision the full experience of an evening out. “This company has always been really high-quality” when it comes to what’s on stage, said Lunceford, “but everything around it matters now—from parking to walking into the theater to who you’re going with and where you go have dinner.”

Concertgoers at a Minnesota Opera Tempo performance // Photo by Corinne Standish

To that end, the opera partners with local restaurants to offer special pre-show meals. “Taste of Opera is an all-inclusive day or night out,” explained Matejcek. At the meal, “a classical radio host will do a panel discussion with people from our creative team. The restaurants market to their people, so that brings in new audiences.”

Diversity is a special challenge for any classical music organization: There’s no getting around the fact that most of the repertoire was written by dead white guys. “We’re working on a newer engagement model about community consensus-building in the arts,” said Lunceford. “How [do we become] less of an organization that produces and pushes out to the community, but actually goes to the community, talks with the community, and understands where we intersect?”

One consistent interest of new audiences today, staffers say, is to have the artistic process opened up: to feel like they’re understanding, even participating in, the excitement of opera.

“There was this facade of, ‘We’ll put on the show, and you come see it,’” said Lunceford about the old-school approach to opera. “That’s not how people act now. They want to see everything. They want to get connected to the singers. They want that access that used to be saved for board members, but now you have to open it up.”

Several years, ago, the opera started opening selected dress rehearsals to bloggers—who are invited not just to write about their experience after the fact, but to have their phones out and share updates as the show unfolds.

“One of our main social media preview night people,” observed Matejcek, “will come and tweet about the opera, and then she leaves that and goes to First Avenue to see a show. The people that follow her are watching her go from opera to a show at First Avenue, and they’re like, ‘Oh, if she likes that, might I?’”


This article was produced as a part of a collaboration between The Growler Magazine and The Current, Minnesota’s non-commercial, member-supported radio station playing the best authentic, new music alongside the music that inspired it. Find this article and more great music content at thecurrent.org.

MN Opera Announces 2017-18 Season: Mozart, Thaïs, and Dead Man Walking

Kelly Kaduce (l) seen here in last season's Tosca, will return for Thais in 2018 // Photo courtesy of Minnesota Opera

Kelly Kaduce (l) seen here in last season’s Tosca, will return for Thais in 2018 // Photo courtesy of Minnesota Opera

The Minnesota Opera has announced their five main stage performances for the upcoming 2017-18 season:

Don Pasquale by Gaetano Donizetti (Oct. 7, 10, 12, 14, and 15, 2017), will be envisioned in 1950s Hollywood, with the lively farce centered around the declining career of a silent film star.

The Marriage of Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Nov. 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, and 19, 2017), perhaps one of the most well-known and well-loved operas of them all, the classic comedy of errors returns to the Ordway stage.

Dead Man Walking by Jake Heggie (Jan. 27, 28, 30, Feb. 1, and 3, 2018). The most performed new opera of the 21st century, based on the memoir of Sister Helen Prejean that inspired the Oscar-winning film of the same name.

Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi (Mar. 17, 22, 24, 25, 27, and 31, 2018) “La donna e mobile /qual piuma al vento.” It’s the classic tale of the disfigured jester protecting his daughter from the clutches of a lecherous duke.

Thaïs by Jules Massenet (May 12, 15, 17, 19, and 20, 2018). Rounding out the season: Kelly Kaduce (pictured, top) returns in the title role, the Egyptian courtesan whose attempted conversion by a lustful monk is source of tragic drama.

Season tickets are available for the upcoming season, as well as the final two shows of the current season, Dinner at Eight and La Boheme.


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‘Rheingold’ shines at Minnesota Opera

Das Rheingold at the Minnesota Opera // Photo by Cory Weaver

Das Rheingold at the Minnesota Opera // Photo by Cory Weaver

Greed and power, love and revenge. All the elements of tremendous drama are on display at the Minnesota Opera’s production of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold.

The second performance of the 2016-17 season is an ambitious venture into Wagner’s “Ring Cycle,” which, as Minnesota Opera President Ryan Taylor told us earlier this season, “Any company that begins to dip their toes into the Ring Cycle is saying something about their aspirations as an organization. It was bold for them to make this gesture.”

The Rheinmaidens taunt Alberich in Scene 1 of Das Rheingold // Photo by Cory Weaver

The Rheinmaidens taunt Alberich in Scene 1 of Das Rheingold // Photo by Cory Weaver

Here’s the tale: A randy dwarf named Alberich (Nathan Berg) has his advances spurned by the maidens of the Rhine, so he forswears love and steals their powerful gold, which he fashions into The One Ring To Rule Them All.

Meanwhile, Wotan (Greer Grimsley) the king of the gods, had promised, in jest, the goddess Freia (Karin Wolverton) as payment to the giants who have just finished constructing Valhalla. But the giants are serious about collecting. So the wily fire god Loge (Richard Cox) convinces the giants to accept the Rheingold as payment instead, and he and Wotan set off to find it.

Greer Grimsley as Wotan in Das Rheingold // Photo by Cory Weaver

Greer Grimsley as Wotan in Das Rheingold // Photo by Cory Weaver

This performance gets the Minnesota Opera back on the right track after a lackluster opener in Romeo & Juliet. The orchestra, super-sized as Wagner demands, couldn’t fit in the regular Ordway pit. So they’re transported onto the stage, weaving themselves under and around the action.

Alberich uses the Rheingold to transform into a dragon // Photo by Cory Weaver

Alberich uses the Rheingold to transform into a dragon // Photo by Cory Weaver

The magnificent costuming and projected visuals, full of mechanical and electrical elements, strike a steampunk-of-the-gods aesthetic. Greer Grimsley, renowned for his Wagnerian panache, is appropriately imposing and bellowing as Wotan should be.

Nathan Berg as Alberich in Das Rheingold // Photo by Cory Weaver

Nathan Berg as Alberich in Das Rheingold // Photo by Cory Weaver

But the show is anchored by Nathan Berg, emoting in equal parts sadism and tragedy, as the lovesick, power-hungry, gold-thieving dwarf. And the fourth and final scene receives a remarkable jolt of power and charisma from Denyce Graves, who, as the earth goddess Erda, delivers some timely and sane advice to a pantheon sorely in need of it. So soothing and magnetic is her cameo, one wishes Erda had been around since the first scene to save the gods some heartache, and give the audience more time with Graves’ formidable presence.

Denyse Graves as Erda in Das Rheingold // Photo by Cory Weaver

Denyse Graves as Erda in Das Rheingold // Photo by Cory Weaver

The show runs a little over two hours with no intermission. Tickets are still available for tonight, Thursday 17 (probably your best bet), and a few are still hanging around for performances on Saturday and Sunday 19-20.

Young, Vibrant, and Bold: The 2016-17 Minnesota Opera Season

Romeo & Juliet at the Minnesota Opera // Photo by Dan Norman

Romeo & Juliet at the Minnesota Opera // Photo by Dan Norman

“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.”

Capulets and Montagues square off at the Minnesota Oper // Photo by Dan Norman

Capulets and Montagues square off at the Minnesota Opera // Photo by Dan Norman

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.”

Ryan Taylor // Photo by Keitaro Harada

Ryan Taylor // Photo by Keitaro Harada

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.”


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The Shining at the Minnesota Opera

Photo by Ken Howard // Courtesy of MN Opera

Photo by Ken Howard // Courtesy of MN Opera

A hotel in a blizzard. All work and no play. Lloyd the bartender. Room 217. The boiler room. Croquet mallets smashing through doors. One man’s descent into madness. The Shining made its world premiere from the Minnesota Opera at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts Saturday, May 7—a mix of dazzling multimedia and heartfelt, frantic vocals.

You remember Steven King’s story. Jack and Wendy Torrance agree to be the winter caretakers at the Overlook Hotel. Their son, Danny, has a telepathic sensitivity to the hotel’s haunted past. Those malevolent spirits work on Jack’s cabin fever, convincing him to give in to his inner demons and do away with his family.

Photo by Ken Howard // Courtesy of MN Opera

Photo by Ken Howard // Courtesy of MN Opera

Soprano Kelly Kaduce returns to the Ordway stage to premiere the role of Wendy; she also starred in Rusalka and Tosca earlier this season. Brian Mulligan brought warmth and depth to the manic implosion of Jack—his transition to evil feels more nuanced and natural than you would expect a grand stage performance to deliver. Perhaps the loudest cheers on opening night were for fifth-grader Alejandro Vega, who gave a convincingly possessed and tortured turn as Danny, and bass Arthur Woodley, whose reassuring strains gave remarkable presence to Hallorann, the cook who first notices Danny’s ESP.

Vega (l) and Woodley (r), Photo by Ken Howard // Courtesy of MN Opera

Vega (L) and Woodley (R) // Photo by Ken Howard, courtesy of MN Opera

The operatic adaptation does away with many of the visuals made famous by the movie (no moving hedgerows or tidal waves of blood from the elevator, for example) and instead focuses on the mental breakdowns more prominent in the novel. By inserting Jack’s abusive father as a recurring background character, we sympathize with a psychotic descent that could have otherwise felt rushed in the course of two short hours.

The Minnesota Opera constructed a scene that makes it clear that the characters are subservient to the machinations of the hotel itself—the set dwarfs its occupants, with rooms swaying in and out of view, pulsing and bleeding like a heartbeat. Intense visuals are projected on stage throughout the performance—some arresting (“redrum”), some more shadow-puppet hokey—but always contributing to a disorienting sense that there’s more to the hotel than meets the eye.

Photo by Ken Howard // Courtesy of MN Opera

Photo by Ken Howard // Courtesy of MN Opera

The Shining is the tenth work to debut from the Minnesota Opera’s New Works Initiative since 2009—a program that has become the envy of opera companies around the United States. New operas commissioned through the NWI have received worldwide acclaim and production, including the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music for Silent Night (which was also penned by Shining librettist Mark Campbell). Next season, the initiative will debut Dinner At Eighta comic opera based on the play by George Kaufman and Edna Ferber.

Photo by Ken Howard // Courtesy of MN Opera

Photo by Ken Howard // Courtesy of MN Opera

All the seats are sold out, but there’s a slim chance the final three performances of The Shining may still have a few standing room only ($28) tickets available. Call the Minnesota Opera Ticket Office 10am–5pm, M–F at 612-333-6669.

Tosca at the Minnesota Opera

Tosca and Cavaradossi embrace // Photo courtesy of Minnesota Opera

Tosca (Kelly Kaduce) and Cavaradossi (Leonardo Capalbo) embrace // Photo courtesy of Minnesota Opera

Hope and optimism, sincerity and faith—it’s amazing how much can be undone by jealousy and a couple poor decisions.

That’s the lesson from Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca,” now playing at the Minnesota Opera. The Ordway Theater is a perfect venue for this grand melodrama in three acts. The set dressing, both striking and minimal, underscores the drama that propels a jealous singer, lovestruck painter, and slimy officer into a triangle of deceit that—spoiler alert—doesn’t end well for anyone.

Baron Scarpia (Steven Powell) // Photo courtesy of Minnesota Opera

Baron Scarpia (Steven Powell) // Photo courtesy of Minnesota Opera

The beautiful singer Floria Tosca finds herself in an impossible situation. Her lover, the painter Cavaradossi, has aided the escape of a political prisoner, Angelotti. Enter the malevolent chief of police, Baron Scarpia, who schemes to find Angelotti by arresting and torturing Cavaradossi for information. He then proposes to Tosca, long the object of his lust, to spare Cavaradossi’s life—if Tosca will submit to him.

Stepping into the title role is soprano Kelly Kaduce, Minnesota native and St. Olaf graduate, who starred in the Minnesota Opera’s recent production of Dvořák’s “Rusalka,” as well as having played Tosca for the Houston Grand Opera in November. She laments her predicament in the opera’s most famous aria, “Vissi d’Arte,” near the end of Act II, which Kaduce emotes with considerable aplomb.

Cavaradossi (Capalbo) is lead to the firing squad // Photo courtesy of Minnesota Opera

Cavaradossi (Capalbo) is led to the firing squad // Photo courtesy of Minnesota Opera

On opening night, though, it was Leonardo Capalbo who stole the show as Cavaradossi—ably reassuring the jealous Tosca in Act I, and proving particularly heart-rending as a broken, tortured man anguished by his unfulfilled love in Act III. Puccini’s plot isn’t exactly bulletproof, but the actors obscure those holes with a full measure of passionate insistence at every turn.

The show runs a little over two-and-a-half hours, including two intermissions. The libretto is Italian, with English subtitles projected over the stage. “Tosca” runs through March 26; tickets are available here.