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New leaders at Mill City Summer Opera; Cat Video Festival at CHS Field

Cory Johnson
Cory Johnson
What’s opera without drama? Mill City Summer Opera recently lost the venue for which it was named and where it has performed every summer since 2012. On Monday, it announced a new executive director and a new artistic advisor. Meanwhile, its most recent artistic director has quietly departed.

MCSO’s home from the start has been the Ruin Courtyard at Mill City Museum in Minneapolis. Mill City is a Minnesota Historical Society museum, and the society chose not to extend MCSO’s contract beyond the 2019 season. MCSO has already found a new home at Paikka, an indoor/outdoor event venue in St. Paul’s Vandalia Tower complex. It will lose the ambience of the Ruin Courtyard but gain the options of air conditioning and a roof when needed, two things everyone would have welcomed this summer. But will it still be called Mill City Summer Opera? Paikka Summer Opera doesn’t have the same ring.

Crystal Manich was named artistic director in September 2018 and led this summer’s production of “Cosi fan tutte.” She wasn’t mentioned in the release announcing the two new appointments.


Cory Johnson will be MCSO’s executive director, and Eric Einhorn will be artistic advisor. Johnson has been MCSO’s development director for two years. He brings extensive experience in arts fundraising and large-scale gala event management, along with global meeting and travel planning expertise. Einhorn is the co-founder of On Site Opera, a New York City-based company that specializes in immersive, site-specific productions. He has directed productions for Chicago Lyric Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, and Pittsburgh Opera, among others, and has been a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s stage directing staff since 2005.

Eric Einhorn
Photo by Matt Harrington
Eric Einhorn
In a statement, MCSO founder Karen Brooks praised Johnson and Einhorn’s “bold visions and willingness to innovate and take risks, allowing us to explore new opportunities, directions and approaches as we enter this new era.”

Manich wrote in an email to the Star Tribune: “I elected to not seek contract renewal as the company investigates new venues and enters a new artistic chapter. I look forward to following Mill City Summer Opera’s future success.”

Manich had taken over from Brian DeMaris, who served as interim AD following the departure of David Lefkowich, who was AD from “Pagliacci” (MCSO’s debut in 2012) through “Maria de Buenos Aires” (2017). Lefkowich is now AD of Out of the Box Opera in Minneapolis.

We don’t yet know what next summer’s opera will be, but we do know that MCSO has commissioned Minneapolis-based composer Mary Ellen Childs to write a new opera. “Stone Arch: A Walking Opera” will be performed on the Stone Arch Bridge sometime next year.

Hennepin History Museum names new ED

John R. Crippen has been named Hennepin History Museum’s new executive director. The Minnesota native was an undergrad at the University of Minnesota and earned his MS in history museum studies at SUNY-Oneonta. He spent 30 years at the Minnesota Historical Society, where his positions included director of Mill City Museum and director of historic sites and museums, overseeing all 31 of Minnesota’s state historic sites. Crippen helped form and sustain the Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership and co-founded the Mill City Farmers Market.

John R. Crippen
John R. Crippen
“After living in Hennepin County for the past twenty-five years,” Crippen said in a statement, “I am eager to get to know all of its communities better and find creative ways to tell their stories.” He’ll start his new position in early September.

Crippen succeeds Cedar Imboden Phillips, who served as director from 2014 until late last year. Phillips is now a foreign service officer at the U.S. Department of State.

Hennepin History Museum was founded in 1938, in part with funds from the Works Progress Administration. Located in the historic Christian Family Residence at 2303 Third Avenue South, just up the street from the Minneapolis Institute of Art, it offers exhibitions, an archive library, collections, publications and educational programs on Hennepin County history.

The picks

Tonight at CHS Field: Cat Video Festival. The passing of Grumpy Cat in May was widely mourned. This year’s Cat Video Fest – the eighth iteration of the popular annual event that began at the Walker – will feature a special tribute to Grumpy, whose family will be there. Also the usual videos, games, eating, drinking, costume-wearing and fireworks. 6-9:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($10 general admission).

Now through Sunday: Minnesota Fringe Festival. The Fringe recommends, and rightly so, that you see your top picks ASAP – before the weekend rush, if you can. Don’t know what to see? Visit the website, scroll through the shows, look for the ones with high star ratings (five or four and a half), then read some reviews. “You Are Cordially Invited to the Life and Death of Edward Lear” by Winding Sheet Outfit has tons of five-star reviews. Ditto John Heimbuch’s one-man “Beowulf.” And “Chisago: The Musical.” Just to name a few. FMI. Last day: Aug. 11.

Joey DeFrancesco
Photo by Michael Woodall
Joey DeFrancesco and his trio will be performing Friday night at the Dakota.
Friday at the Dakota: Joey DeFrancesco Trio. It’s been 30 years since Hammond B3 organist (and trumpeter, and singer) Joey D released his debut album, the strong and swinging “All of Me.” He was all of 17. His latest, “In the Key of the Universe,” released in March on Mack Avenue, is a mind-blowing collaboration with the great tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders. One word: whoa. We won’t see Sanders at the Dakota, but we will have a night with the artist who’s been called “the best B3 player on the planet.” With Troy Roberts and Khary Shaheed. Shows at 7 and 9 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25/35).

Friday at the Pantages: Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers. Hornsby’s signature song, “The Way It Is,” still rings with greatness (and relevance) 33 years after its release. Hornsby has had an amazing career since, collaborating with the Grateful Dead, Bon Iver, Spike Lee, the Staves and many others, exploring classical, bluegrass, gospel, and jazz. His latest album, “Absolute Zero,” described as “folk-jazz,” features Jack DeJohnette, Vernon, and the contemporary classical ensemble yMusic along with Twin Cities musicians JT Bates, Mike Lewis and Jeremy Ylvisaker. The New York Times called it “complex and untrendy.” Hornsby will perform here with his current band, the Noisemakers, and S. Carey, who will also open for him. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($68-78). Every ticket includes a download or CD copy of “Absolute Zero.”

Saturday at Hamline’s Sundin Music Hall: Lyra Baroque Orchestra: Across the Alps with Pedro Gandia, violin. Part of the Twin Cities Early Music Festival, this concert will explore the spread of the Italian Style across Europe in overtures, sinfonias, and concertos by Vivaldi, Biber, Bach, Locatelli and other composers. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($30/25/5).

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Sarah Nagle on 08/10/2019 - 04:39 pm.

    Huh. Growing pains? I really enjoyed the foray into Baroque Opera with La Serva Padrona this summer.

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