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Opera everywhere; ‘The Prodigious Life of Clara S.’ at Orchestra Hall

Anne Wieben
Photo by Lisa Hancock
Opera on the Lake founder Anne Wieben has lived and worked as a professional opera singer in Vienna for the past several years.

With the Minnesota Opera between seasons (Strauss’ “Elektra” opens Oct. 5 at the Ordway) and Mill City Summer Opera having just wrapped its final season in the Mill City Ruin Courtyard (it will return next summer in a new venue), what’s an opera lover to do?

Make plans. There’s more opera in the Twin Cities and nearby than most people know, including three companies new to the scene.

At Como Lakeside Pavilion …

Starting tonight (Wednesday, July 24) at Como Lakeside Pavilion, an open-air setting with a roof, the brand-new company Opera on the Lake will present Johann Strauss’ operetta “Die Fledermaus,” a frothy brew of waltzes with a deliciously silly plot.


“Fledermaus” premiered in 1874 in Vienna, where company founder Anne Wieben has lived and worked as a professional opera singer for the past several years. The Minnesota-born University of Minnesota alum believes that “opera can happen anywhere, and it is this idea that I want to bring back home to Minnesota in the most Minnesotan way possible.” So she’s starting a new summer opera festival here. How cool is that?

Featuring Wieben as Rosalinde, sung in German and spoken in English, “Fledermaus” will be performed in modern dress with a small chamber orchestra led by Marco Real-d’Arbelles, associate artistic director of the Bach Society of Minnesota. 7 p.m. tonight, Friday and Saturday. FMI and tickets ($25). Here’s Wieben singing Rosalinde by a swimming pool.

… and the Summit Center for the Arts …

Next week, Bold North Baroque Opera, also brand new, will make its company debut at the Twin Cities Early Music Festival with Marco di Gagliano’s 1608 opera “La Daphne.” Based on the Greek myth about the river nymph Daphne and the god Apollo, in which he pursues her and she turns into a laurel tree to escape his advances, it’s an old, old story with contemporary themes of #MeToo and the abuse of power.

Soprano Sarah Jackson will sing the title role, with tenor Bill Pederson as Apollo. Phillip Rukavina is artistic director and the very busy Marco Real-d’Arbelles is music director. Performances will take place at the Summit Center for the Arts, home of the St. Paul Conservatory of Music. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 2 and 3. FMI on the opera. Tickets at the door: $30 adult, $50 two adults, $10 student, $5 for 12 and under.

… in Stillwater …

Another new company, Operatunity Theatre, aims “to curate an ongoing regular season of opera/musical theatre productions in Stillwater, including an annual summer music festival.” Its inspiration: Tanglewood. Artistic Advisor Jack Swanson is a Stillwater native and operatic tenor. Performances will feature amateur artists alongside experienced professionals.

Operatunity will make its debut on Saturday, August 10, with a concert at Lowell Park. Sponsored by Springboard for the Arts, “Opera on the River” will feature opera arias, romantic duets and musical theater hits. The park opens at noon and the concert begins at 7 p.m. Free. FMI.

… the cities and beyond …

On August 15, Mixed Precipitation will open its annual Picnic Operetta at the Dodge Nature Center Farm Education Center in West St. Paul. This year’s production will be “The Clemency of Tito’s Tennis Club,” a new adaptation of Mozart’s “La Clemenza di Tito.”


Mixed Precipitation, a beloved Twin Cities tradition now in its 11th season, is known for taking liberties and serving tasty bites. (Food is passed.) “Clemency” sets Mozart’s mature and serious work in a defunct tennis club and shamelessly mixes his arias and duets with new wave and synth-pop hits by Devo, Berlin, Yaz and Pat Benatar. Tenor Jim Ahrens will sing the title role, with mezzo-soprano Anna Hashizuma as Sesto.

Created by Producing Artistic Director Scotty Reynolds and his team, a Mixed Precipitation event is a unique experience. The show will travel to various sites in the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota; check the schedule to find a location near you. The final performance is September 29 in Loring Park. Most shows are on weekend afternoons; opening night (Aug. 15) is at 7 p.m. FMI and reservations. Seating is limited, so do reserve. Suggested donation $10-30. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

… in Brainerd …

The Lakes Area Music Festival in Brainerd always includes an opera. This year it’s Jacques Offenbach’s “The Beautiful Helen of Troy” (“La belle Hélène”), with soprano Anna Dennis as Helen and tenor Zachary Wilder as Paris. It will be sung in French with English supertitles and dialogue in English. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18. No tickets required. FMI.

… and more opera to come

Sometimes the Minnesota Fringe includes an opera or two, but not this year. (Fringe starts Aug. 1.) But as long as we’re on the topic of opera, let’s mention other companies that are based here (or nearby), with updates as available. If we missed any, please send us an email or leave a comment below.

Arbeit Opera Theatre. Arbeit’s inaugural production in November 2018 was Gian Carlo Menotti’s “The Consul.” In June it presented “Divas & Drag” for Pride. Its next 2019 production hasn’t yet been announced.

The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company. A Twin Cities institution since 1979. Up next: “Ruddigore,” March 13-April 5, 2020.

Out of the Box Opera. Its most recent performance was “The Amazing Adventures of Acis & Galatea the Wonder Nymph,” a romp through the Pillsbury A-Mill Artist Lofts in May. Led by Artistic Director David Lefkowich, whose ideas have included the popular Diva Cage Matches and performances fusing opera with other types of music, Out of the Box will be back in October.


Really Spicy Opera. Founded in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 2006 by Basil Considine, who serves as artistic director, Really Spicy Opera relocated to Minneapolis in 2013.  It made its Midwest debut at the 2014 Minnesota Fringe and has since toured nationally and internationally. Plans are to workshop a new opera in the style of Gilbert & Sullivan in August, then showcase pieces written for its Women in Opera initiative in December.

Skylark Opera Theatre. Founded in 1980 as Opera in St. Paul, this company has gone through name changes, leadership changes, changes in focus and financial ups and downs. With Robert Neu as artistic director since 2016, Skylark has reworked its vision and broadened its scope. The new Skylark is stripped-down, agile and adventurous. Productions have included a site-specific “Don Giovanni” at the Woman’s Club, the Minnesota premiere of the transgender opera “As One” and, most recently, a “Cosi fan tutte” for the 21st century. Their next production will be announced in early August.

The picks

Jon Adler as Jeeves
Photo by Ron Ravensborg
Jon Adler as Jeeves
Thursday through Sunday at Theatre in the Round: Closing weekend for “Jeeves Takes a Bow.” Minneapolis’ longest-running theater ends its 67th season with a play by Margaret Raether based on the timeless and hilarious stories of P.G. Wodehouse. Bertie Wooster travels to America, tangles with a gangster and gets engaged by mistake. Luckily, he brought Jeeves along. Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., final performance Sunday at 2 p.m. FMI and tickets ($22).

Friday through Sunday at Crooners: Bobby Lyle Summer Weekend Takeover. Hey, Bobby Lyle! Over three nights, Crooners will feature the hometown hero and platinum-selling artist on all three of its stages, giving him plenty of room to stretch out between traditional and contemporary jazz, piano and Hammond B3. 7:30 Friday on the main stage with his jazz-funk band; 6 p.m. Saturday in the intimate Dunsmore Room on solo piano; 8 p.m. Saturday and 7:30 p.m. Sunday with his B3 Organ Trio in the Lakeside Tent. FMI and tickets ($20-30).

Bobby Lyle
Photo by Neil Schloner
Over three consecutive nights, Crooners will feature Bobby Lyle on all three of its stages.
Saturday at Orchestra Hall: “The Prodigious Life of Clara S.” In music, words, and movement, the Minnesota Orchestra and the Moving Company will tell the story of Clara Schumann, a composer in an age when women didn’t do that, the foremost concert pianist of her time, wife of Robert Schumann and lifelong friend of Johannes Brahms. With Sarah Hicks (conductor), Dominique Serrand (stage director), Sam Bergman (music and creative partner), Jennifer Baldwin Peden (as Clara), Steven Epp (as Robert) and Nathan Keepers (as Brahms). 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($65-12).

Saturday and Sunday: Loring Park Art Festival 20th Anniversary. Not too big, not too small, well-curated, family-friendly and sited in a beautiful park in downtown Minneapolis across from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (and accessible by Siah Armajani’s bridge). 140 visual artists will show and sell their original work. There will be live entertainment, lots of food, kids’ activities and a beer garden. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. FMI. Free. Metro Transit Pass here.

Sunday at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre: “Klimt & Schiele – Eros and Psyche.” Great Art on Screen, a series of documentaries for U.S. cinemas, continues with a tour of Vienna’s great museums and a look at the start of the Vienna Secession, a revolutionary time for art, literature, music and new ideas. 1 p.m. FMI, trailer and tickets ($15/10).

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