The numbers are in for “The Magic Flute,” which ended the Minnesota Opera’s 2013-14 season on Sunday. The most successful show in the opera’s history — a new staging created by Komische Oper Berlin and the British theater group 1927, featuring projected animations and a silent-film theme — ran for nine performances (one more than the previous record-breaker, “La Bohème” in 2010) and sold 15,413 tickets. Revenues, which had been forecast at $845,000, exceeded $950,000. On average, the Ordway was at 97 percent capacity. For the final performance, even standing room sold out. All this for an opera that’s not usually among the top sellers, which typically include “Bohème,” “Butterfly,” “Carmen,” “Traviata,” and “Turandot” (which closed the opera’s 2012-13 season and sold just under 13,000 tickets). “It’s really gratifying to end a season like that,” Minnesota Opera’s Lani Willis told MinnPost. “Both of the last two seasons have ended on – pardon the pun – a high note. People have left feeling satisfied and happy.”
The New York Times has been following our Minnesota Orchestra woes almost as closely as local media. Maybe more closely, since it’s the one that broke the news Sunday of the romantic relationship between newly reinstated music director Osmo Vänskä and concertmaster Erin Keefe. The Times reported in November that Keefe was playing concerts with the New York Philharmonic and was being considered for the position of concertmaster there. The Times reminded us that she’s auditioning. Will she stay, or will she go?
The personal relationship was part of Vänskä’s discussion with the Minnesota Orchestra’s board during the negotiations for his return. Gordon Sprenger, orchestra board chair, said in a statement, “Osmo was open with the board regarding his relationship with Erin Keefe.” He needed to be, because at the Minnesota Orchestra, like most major orchestras, the music director and committees of musicians make the decisions about hiring and advancing individual players. In a statement released to MinnPost on Monday, MOA board leadership offered this clarification: “If a conflict of interest exists with regard to any of these issues, the individual with the conflict steps aside, as Osmo Vänskä has indicated he will do in any decisions relating to the concertmaster’s status. Instead, these decisions will be made collectively between the musicians and the Association.”
Vänskä told the Times that he would avoid taking part in any decisions relating to Keefe’s status; Keefe declined to comment. Predictably, others couldn’t resist. There are plenty of comments at the Strib, if you care to dip your toe into that murky pool. Meanwhile, although we enjoy love stories as much as the next person, we’re more interested in what the new season will bring. What will the orchestra play? Who will be the guest performers and conductors? As the Times noted, most major American orchestras announce their seasons in February. Now that they’re back together, Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra will have to hit the ground running.
Northern Clay has announced the recipients of the 2014 Jerome Ceramic Artist Project Grants. Margeaux Claude of Coon Rapids, Matthew Krousey of St. Paul, and David Swenson of Minneapolis was each awarded $6,000 for projects that include implementing a design studio (Claude), creating a tile-based body of work (Krousey), and making modular dinnerware using a 3-D printer he’ll build himself (Swenson). The Ceramic Artists Project Grant program is now in its 24th year.
Cuban choreographer Osnel Delgado Wambrug has been chosen as the 2014 McKnight International Artist, Northrop and McKnight announced earlier this month. The program provides a Minnesota residency for an international choreographer to work with Twin Cities dance artists to develop and showcase new works. This year’s residency will be cohosted with Zenon Dance Company, for whom Delgado Wambrug will create a new work to be premiered at the Cowles Center November 21-30 of this year. He’ll be here for two weeks in August and again for a week in November, during which he’ll teach classes in Cuban dance at the Zenon Dance School.
Mu Performing Arts’ 2014-15 season, announced last week, includes two world premiere plays, classics from the Asian-American canon, and a new adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” Highlights include the world premiere of “Middle Brother,” written by and starring longtime Mu performer Eric Sharp (“Yellow Fever”), opening Sept. 12 at the Southern; the return of “A Very Asian Christmas Concert” on Nov. 29-30; the Obie-winning play “F.O.B.” by David Henry Hwang (Jan. 30-Feb. 15, 2015, at Mixed Blood); a collaboration with the History Theatre on their world premiere of “The Debutante’s Ball” by Eric “Pogi” Sumangil (March 21-April 12); and the aforementioned “Twelfth Night” (May 29-June 21), Mu’s first foray into Shakespeare since 2006. Discounted season subscriptions ($100) are on sale now through May 4. FMI.
Our picks for the week
Tonight (Tuesday, April 29) through Thursday at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theater: “The Unknown Known.” Oscar-winning director Errol Morris (“The Fog of War,” “The Thin Blue Line”) has created a chilling and fascinating portrait of Donald Rumsfeld, former congressman, adviser to four Presidents, twice secretary of defense and a key architect of the Iraq War. Here’s the trailer. In Rumsfeld’s words, “Everything seems amazing in retrospect.” Four showings daily. FMI and tickets ($5-$8.50).
Wednesday at Jazz Central: Kevin Gastonguay Quartet. Wednesday is International Jazz Day, a big deal on the world stage. The United Nations has issued new postage stamps in honor of the occasion, and Osaka will host a star-studded concert to be webcast worldwide. Here in Minnesota, the Artists’ Quarter has been closed since Jan. 1, and the Dakota was originally scheduled to present Lisa Marie Presley (she has now been postponed until sometime in 2015), but there’s jazz in many other places, if you know where to look. Jazz Central now features five nights of jazz every week. For tonight’s New Music Wednesday, keyboardist and composer Kevin Gastonguay leads a fine quartet including Zacc Harris on guitar, Greg Schutte on drums and Andrew Germann on bass. 8:30-11 p.m., 407 Central Ave. SE, Minneapolis (across from Aveda). Donations accepted.
Thursday at the Westminster Town Hall Forum: Cantus: “The Power of Music.” Based in Minneapolis, the nine-member men’s vocal ensemble is a treasure. This event will be more concert than presentation; after the performance, pianist and former radio host Stephanie Wendt will facilitate a talk with Cantus members on the power of music to heal, transform, and celebrate the human spirit. 7 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis. Free and open to the public. Arrive early to get a good seat and to hear choral groups from the high schools of St. Michael-Albertville and Andover starting at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday at the Mall of America: If you can’t attend Minneapolis Comic Con this weekend, you can still eyeball the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno), Tommy Oliver of “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” (Jason David Frank) and Merle Dixon, the much-lamented redneck of “The Walking Dead” (Michael Rooker) in person. They’ll be at the Mall for Q&A sessions and on-site giveaways for photo ops and tickets. 5:30-6:30 p.m. in the Rotunda.
Thursday at Subtext: Gerald Vizenor. An enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, the award-winning novelist, screenwriter and poet will read from his new novel, “Blue Ravens,” about Native American soldiers in World War I. He’ll also dip into his new collection of haiku written over the past 40 years, “Favor of Crows.” 7 p.m. Free and open to the public.
Thursday at the Walker: “Free Verse: Michael McClure.” Poet, playwright, songwriter and novelist McClure was one of five poets (including Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder) who read at the San Francisco Six Gallery in 1955, an event later immortalized in Jack Kerouac’s “Dharma Bums.” Like Snyder, who read for Plymouth Congregational’s Literary Witnesses series in 2011, McClure is a Beat who writes about nature. 7 p.m. in the Walker Cinema. Free and open to the public.
Thursday through Sunday at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts: Art in Bloom. After an endless winter and days of rain, there’s no such thing as too many fresh flowers. Thousands will be on display at Art in Bloom, presented by Friends of the Institute and now in its 31st year. Get in free, then enjoy more than 150 floral displays inspired by works of art in the MIA’s collection.
Thursday through Sunday at the Southern: “The Threepenny Opera” presented by Frank Theatre. “Who is the bigger criminal, the man who robs a bank or the man who founds a bank?” Bertold Brecht and Kurt Weill asked that question in 1928. We’re still asking it today. Starring Bradley Greenwald as Macheath, with Janis Hardy, Gary Briggle, and Vern Sutton as the street singer, Frank’s take on this timeless satire is winning raves. If you ever wondered where the song “Mack the Knife” came from, here’s your answer. Directed by Wendy Knox, musical direction by Sonja Thompson, choreography by Wynn Fricke. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. FMI, video, and link to tickets here ($23-$25).
Friday through Sunday at the Cowles: James Sewell Ballet’s “Inferno.” Amber Tritabaugh of Theoroi, a young professionals’ group sponsored by the Schubert Club, wrote this preview for MinnPost: “The ‘Inferno’ is a ballet? Isn’t it a 14th-century epic Italian poem? Yes and yes. A tour of hell seems like an unusual choice for a ballet. Yet the story is not only a landmark cultural reference, but universal: a man in the middle of life is shown what it all means. City Pages described the James Sewell production as ‘dark, funny and thought provoking.’ Humor will be welcome in a travelogue that greets visitors with ‘Abandon All Hope, You Who Enter Here.’ City Pages also said viewers should expect an ‘immersive video environment.’ … I look forward to seeing this old story in a new setting.” 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. FMI and tickets ($30/$36). Please note that “Inferno” is rated R because of graphic depictions of sex and violence. It is Hell, after all.