‘Swede Hollow’ to premiere at St. Paul fest

Swede HollowMost neighborhood art festivals have live music. Few, if any, present the world premiere of an opera. This Saturday, June 2, the Swede Hollow Park Art Fest in St. Paul may be the first. As part of the day’s events — which include Korean drumming, Hmong dancers, a Cambodian orchestra, Hawaiian hula, and Latin pop – Scotty Reynolds will direct the new opera, “Swede Hollow,” by composer Ann Millikan.

Swede Hollow Park is located on the former site of Swede Hollow, an immigrant community on St. Paul’s East Side that was settled by waves of Swedes, Italians and Mexicans starting in the mid-19th century through 1956, when the city of St. Paul emptied it out and set it on fire. (Here’s some background.) Millikan moved to the East Side from the San Francisco Bay area in 2004 and started hearing stories about Swede Hollow – stories about leaving home, finding home and losing home. As a composer, she wanted to preserve and share those stories through music.

Why an opera? “Because opera has been traditionally inaccessible to most people,” Millikan says. “Opera is an amazing vehicle for storytelling; it’s the deepest connection classical music can have to theater. I had never written an opera and always wanted to. The time was right, and the subject appeared. It’s a powerful story, with extremely poignant moments. So many cultures are represented, different perspectives and time periods. I hope that people come away with an appreciation for the strength of the communities that lived here.”

A cast of four singers will perform multiple roles; the score will be played by members of the Mankato Symphony Orchestra, led by Joseph Rodgers, associate conductor. The opera begins at 4 p.m. and lasts about 40 minutes. FMI. Free.

The Flint Hills International Children’s Festival Family Weekend happens this Saturday and Sunday in downtown St. Paul, outdoors on three stages and indoors at the Ordway, the Landmark Center, and the Lowry Lab Theater. The outdoor events – international artists, music, dance, magicians, balloon artists, storytellers, face painters, a butterfly garden, arts activities, and more – are free; tickets to the indoor performances are $5 (though most are sold out by now). Earlier this week, more than 14,000 schoolchildren participated in the festival’s School Days. FMI.

2011 Flint Hills International Children's FestivalCourtesy of Flint Hills International Children’s FestivalThe Flint Hills International Children’s Festival returns to Saint Paul this weekend.

On Saturday, tpt’s Family Fun Day at Como Town and Como Zoo lets you tire the kids out and support public television. The day begins with a character breakfast (with Clifford the Big Red Dog, Curious George, and other characters from children’s books), then caroms through music, activities, celebrity readers, science experiments, rides, a character lunch, and likely celebrity sightings (watch for Mudanna from the Saint Paul Saints). FMI and wristband sales.

The Giant Sing Along – crowd karaoke at the State Fair – was such a hit last year that it’s returning in 2012, with a longer playlist and extended hours. In 2011, some 50,000 fair visitors took part in this public art experience on Murphy Ave. across from the Pet Center. You can help to shape this year’s song list. Go here to submit as many songs as you like. But do it by Thursday, June 14, when voting closes. According to the web page, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” is No. 1 on the list of the best of last year’s songs. Wonder if that had anything to do with Journey playing the grandstand this year? Um, probably not.

Giant Sing AlongCourtesy of the Minnesota State FairWhat songs will they sing at this year’s ‘Giant Sing Along?’

Opening today (Friday) at the Science Museum’s Omnitheater: “The Living Sea.” Narrated by Meryl Streep, featuring Sting’s music (“How fragile we are”), this spectacular giant-screen film travels the world’s oceans, from the waves in Hawaii to 3,000 feet down. Daily at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. all summer long. FMI and tickets. Trailer here

Paul Kelpe "Machinery (Abstract #2)," 1933-1934, oil on canvasCourtesy MN Historical SocietyPaul Kelpe, ‘Machinery (Abstract #2)’

Opening Saturday at the Minnesota History Center: “1934: A New Deal for Artists.” The traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian American Art Museum features 56 paintings created during the depths of the Great Depression under the New Deal’s 1934 Public Works of Art Project. Artists were asked to depict “the American scene” but allowed to do it in their own way. The paintings are surprisingly vibrant, idealistic, even optimistic – images of strength, determination and drive. Now wrap your head around the fact that federal officials once considered art essential to sustaining America’s spirit, especially in dark times, and paid artists to produce work for display in public buildings. Can you imagine that happening today? Me neither. Here’s the History Center’s web page about the exhibition. Through Sept. 30.

Opening tonight (Friday) at the Chanhassen: “Xanadu” in the Broadway musical version, a spoof of the cult classic Olivia Newton-John film. Suspend your disbelief – better yet, leave it at home in front of the TV – for an evening of pop songs from the 1980s (“Magic,” “Evil Woman,” “Have You Never Been Mellow”), disco dancing and roller skating, set to a story about a Greek muse sent from Mt. Olympus to Venice Beach. FMI and tickets.

This weekend at Heart of the Beast Theatre, internationally recognized puppeteer Eric Bass and Sandglass Theater present “All Weather Ballads,” a love story that follows two rural Vermonters from childhood to old age. Through puppets and songs, Eric and his wife, Ines Zeller Bass, reflect on art, aging and identity in a series of five scenes, each a metaphorical world. If you’re thinking “puppets, meh,” please watch the trailer. This is spellbinding work. Small, beautiful puppets, exquisitely manipulated. And not for kids; the show is recommended for ages 14 and up. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. FMI and tickets; click on the links on the calendar. Or pay what you can starting 15 minutes prior to each performance. And hats off to HOBT for opening its doors to Walker Community United Methodist Church, which was destroyed by fire last Sunday.

Katha Dance TheatreCourtesy Katha Dance TheatreKathak is one of the six major classical dances of India.

This weekend at the O’Shaughnessy, Katha Dance Theatre celebrates its 25th season with a series of performances and reunions. Kathak is one of the six major classical dances of India. Over the years, Katha’s co-founder and artistic director Rita Mustaphi has pushed the form’s boundaries by collaborating with other companies and artists. “In Retrospect” dips into the past and looks to the future with excerpts and premieres with the Ethnic Dance Theatre, Zorongo Flamenco Dance, and gospel legend Robert Robinson. Read Caroline Palmer’s piece for the Strib (and enjoy Tom Wallace’s photos) here. FMI and tickets.

This weekend at the Artists’ Quarter, Red Planet — Dean Magraw on guitar, Chris Bates on bass and Jay Epstein on drums — bring joy, a sense of adventure and great affection to music by John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, and Solomon Linda (“The Lion Sleeps Tonight”), plus original compositions by Magraw and Bates. I’ve heard this trio several times and they always make me happy. 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

For artists: The St. Paul Bureau of Arts & Beverages holds its monthly happy hour meeting at the Black Dog in St. Paul’s Lowertown on Monday. This month’s topic is “The Creative Economy.” Harry Chalmiers (McNally Smith College of Music president), Sean McPherson (Hieruspecs), and Chris Cloud (MPLS.TV) will discuss how artists’ unorthodox career-planning skills are informing the workplace of the future. Or maybe Mr. Peabody and Sherman will arrive with a Wayback Machine and take everyone back to the Great Depression, when artists made real money. Co-presented by Springboard for the Arts and the Black Dog. 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

On sale today:

“Beauty and the Beast.” The musical based on the Oscar-winning Disney film launched its national tour at the Orpheum in 1995. This all-new production returns to its Minnesota home. Oct. 16-21. FMI and tickets.

“All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914.” First presented by Theatre Latté Da in 2009, created by its artistic director Peter Rothstein, this tale of the spontaneous truce between the Allies and the Germans in No Man’s Land has already become a Twin Cities holiday tradition. With Cantus, the superb men’s vocal ensemble based right here in Minnesota. At the Pantages Dec. 19-22. FMI and tickets

Still available:

For Kristin Chenoweth at the State Theatre on June 17. For her first world tour, the Emmy and Tony winner peforms music from her latest CD, the country pop album “Some Lessons Learned,” plus selections from her Broadway hits “Wicked,” “Promises, Promises,” “Glee,” and more. FMI and tickets.

For the Jonathan Coulton Band at the Guthrie on June 18. Coulton is the very model of a modern major musician. In 2005, he left his day job writing software to pursue music full time. Each week for a year, he recorded a new song and gave it away on his website, becoming an internet superstar. His first actual album, “Artificial Heart,” for which he’s now on tour, was produced by John Flansbergh of They Might Be Giants. FMI and tickets.

For Dan Savage at the Pantages on June 22. Creator of the internationally syndicated “Savage Love” sex advice column (see City Pages), founder of the widely lauded, internet-based “It Gets Better” anti-bullying project, Savage is coming to town to advise us, talk about the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, take questions, make us blush, and speak his colorful, unfettered mind. FMI and tickets.

For Wilco at Bayfront Festival Park in Duluth on July 1. Tickets here.

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