Minnesotans are in for a rare treat this weekend, weather permitting*. Minnesota Opera is offering an Opera Under the Stars series of free outdoor concerts, beginning with a performance on St. Paul’s Harriet Island Friday evening. Saturday night, the show will move to Minneapolis and the Lake Harriet Bandshell; on Sunday, Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault, Minn. will host the event.
Specifically, the Knight Arts grantee company will perform Giacomo Puccini’s beloved “La Boheme” as an encore to this year’s recently concluded 50th anniversary season, “in appreciation for five decades of generous community support.” In addition to the Minnesota Opera Orchestra and Chorus, the company has lined up a terrific cast of players: tenor Harold Meers and soprano Karin Wolverton will play ill-fated lovers, Rodolfo and Mimi. I’m particularly looking forward to hearing up-and-comer Christie Hageman again (she’ll be “Musetta”); a resident artist with Minnesota Opera, she stole the show as “Liu” in the company’s recent production of “Turandot.”
A digital program is available online, complete with the usual background information on cast and composer, behind the scenes tidbits, as well as a detailed story synopsis. The run time for the opera is around two hours, with one intermission; English subtitles for the Italian libretto are available on Minnesota Opera’s mobile site (launching June 14).
I’d urge parents, especially, to take note. You can’t lose: here’s a chance to hear Puccini’s most accessible opera, the work which inspired the Broadway hit, “Rent,” as performed by world-class musicians, for free and in an easygoing setting. There’s no need for you to hog-tie your children to enjoy the show! There will even be beer and food trucks (Foxy Falafel, R.A. MacSammy’s, Sassy Spoon and AZ Canteen) on-site at Harriet Island for Friday’s performance in St Paul.
Frankly, there’s no need to sell Minnesota Opera’s legions of fans on this idea – they’re already in, I’m sure. But if you’re the one doing the convincing, looking for something that might convert the opera-averse: I can’t think of a more congenial, no-risk way to introduce newbies to this lovely music. My advice: bring the family and friends, pack a picnic and some blankets. Make a night of it, because this promises to be a glorious show.
Minnesota Opera’s “Opera Under the Stars” concert performances of Puccini’s “La Boheme” are scheduled for Friday, June 14 (Harriet Island Target Stage, St. Paul, 7 p.m.); Saturday, June 15 (Lake Harriet Bandshell, Minneapolis, 7:30 p.m.); Sunday, June 16 (Shattuck-St. Mary’s School, Faribault, Minn., 7 p.m.). All shows are free and open to the public.
*Given the on-and-off storms forecast for late this week, it’s worth noting the stated weather policy: “If there is a chance of inclement weather, Minnesota Opera’s president will be in conversation with production techs, performers and venue contacts the day of the event, and make a decision to continue or cancel. Since the weather can change rapidly, a final decision will be made as close to show time as possible. Off and on drizzles may not necessarily cancel the show, but there is no cover for the audience at these concert locations.” Alas, there are no rain dates currently scheduled.