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PREVIEW: Minnesota Opera’s 2017-2018 Season

One of the production designs for Minnesota Opera’s November 2017 production of The Marriage of Figaro. Photo by Dana Sohm.

Minnesota Opera formally announced its 2017-2018 season today. The slate of some of opera’s greatest hits is sure to please even fans who were pulling hard for the company to continue its journey through Wagner’s Ring cycle: works by Donizetti, Heggie, Massenet, Mozart, and Verdi.

Minnesota Opera’s production of Don Pasquale will use the same production design as a recent Arizona Opera production. Photo by Ed Flores.
The 2017-2018 season kicks off with Gaetano Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, one of the most popular Italian comic operas of all time. Craig Colclough will star as the titular Don, with Susannah Biller as Norina, David Walton as Ernesto, and Andrew Wilkowske as Dr. Malatesto. The opera’s 1950s setting includes Don Pasquale as a former silent movie star, and seems to poised to recall elements of The Artist and Sunset Boulevard. 

  • Don Pasquale plays Oct. 7, 10, 12, 14, and 15, 2017.

The second work in the season is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s classic The Marriage of Figaro. Figaro will star Richard Ollarsaba as the mischievous majordomo, Angela Mortellaro as Susanna, South African baritone Jacques Imbrailo as Count Almaviva, and Adriana Zabala as Cherubino.

  • The Marriage of Figaro plays Nov. 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, and 19, 2017.

Ringing in the new year is Dead Man Walking by Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally, which fills MN Opera’s New Opera Initiative slot. At 17 years old, this stirring work is slightly older than recent premieres. The opera, Heggie’s first, was premiered by San Francisco Opera in 2000 and propelled Heggie to classical music stardom. Its riveting narrative is based on Sister Helen Prejean’s book of the same name, which was also adapted as a 1995 feature film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. Highlights of the score include the arias “Don’t Say a Word” and “This Journey…this Journey to Christ” as well as several truly chilling ensemble pieces. Catherine Martin stars as Sister Helen, Seth Carico as Joseph De Rocher, and Karen Slack as Sister Rose.

  • Dead Man Walking plays Jan. 27, 28, 30, Feb. 1, and 3, 2018.

Next up is Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto, which stars Icelandic tenor Olafur Sigurdarson, one of the great Rigoletto specialists of our day, as the titular jester. Soprano Marie-Eve Munger stars as Gilda, Joshua Dennis as the Duke of Mantua, and Matt Boehler as the menacing assassin Sparafucile. This tale of seduction and revenge is filled with sublime musical moments, from the famous arias “La donna è mobile” and “Caro nome” to seeming laundry list of gripping ensemble pieces like the quartet “Bella figlia dell’amore.”

  • Rigoletto plays Mar. 17, 22, 24, 25, 27, and 31, 2018.

Not to be outdone by last season’s turn of soprano Kelly Kaduce as the much-beset Floria Tosca, the 2017-2018 season closes with Kaduce as the titular courtesan in Jules Massenet’s Thaïs. This tale of piousness battling with lust and sensuality is set to some of the most beautiful music written in the 19th century, including “Dis-moi que je suis belle” and the famous Meditation. Lucas Meachem stars as Athanaël, the monk who swears to turn Thaïs into a chaste nun, and John Robert Lindsey as Nicias, one of opera’s best party planners.

  • Thaïs plays May 12, 15, 17, 19, and 20, 2018.

The infamous bed duet in The Marriage of Figaro, as seen in a Kansas City Opera production with the same design. Photo by Dana Sohm.
Although the full creative teams for next season have yet to be announced, Michael Christie will return to the podium for FigaroDead Man Walking, and Rigoletto. Jonathan Brandani will conduct Don Pasquale and Christopher Franklin will conduct Thaïs. Andrea Cigni, who stage directed last year’s Tosca, returns again for Thaïs, rounding out a season of changing director faces: Chuck Hudson (Don Pasquale), Stephen Lawless (Figaro), Joel Ivany (Dead Man Walking), and Austin Regin (Rigoletto).

Basil Considine