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NEWS: Silent Nights Return in Minnesota Opera’s 2018-2019 Season

A scene from Minnesota Opera’s 2011 production of Silent Night. Photo by Michal Daniel.

Minnesota Opera announced its 2018-2019 season last night. The company, one of the ten largest opera companies in the United States, will produce five mainstage operas at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, MN:

  • Puccini’s La Rondine,
  • a revival of the Puts/Campbell gem Silent Night,
  • Nino Rota’s The Italian Straw Hat,
  • a new commission called The Fix, and
  • Verdi’s La Traviata.

The new season will formally kick off on October 6th with a 5-performance run of Giacomo Puccini’s 1917 opera La Rondine (“The Swallow”). The opera, Puccini’s last full-length work before Turandot, had a troubled genesis including its world premiere in Vienna being canceled by Italy’s declaration of war on Austria-Hungary. The composer rewrote the work twice, but died before the last version could be performed. Allied bombing in World War 2 literally set Puccini’s music on fire, requiring that La Rondine be reorchestrated from surviving fragments and piano-vocal scores. That reorchestration, premiered in 1994, triggered something of a revival – although the opera is generally one of the least-performed of Puccini’s mature works. (Skylark Opera staged the opera in English in 2015.) The production will be helmed by stage director Octavio Cardenas and conductor Sergio Alapont. Celine Byrne sings the titular role of La Rondine, Magda.

On November 10th, Minnesota Opera will open a 6-performance revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Silent Night by Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell, timed to coincide with the centennial of the Armistice Day that ended the First World War. The opera’s story and music capture the unofficial Christmas Eve truce of 1914, in which opposing soldiers from the Western Trenches laid down their weapons to sing, commiserate, and play sports in the No Man’s Land in-between the lines. MN Opera commissioned Silent Night as part of its New Works Initiative and premiered the opera in 2011. The original stage director Eric Simonson returns for the remount.

Karin Wolverton as Anna Sørensen and William Burden as Nikolaus Sprink in Minnesota Opera’s 2011 premiere of Silent Night. Wolverton returns for the 2017 revival. Photo by Michal Daniel.

After a Christmas recess, MN Opera returns with The Italian Straw Hat (“Il cappello di paglia di Firenze”) by Nino Rota. Haven’t heard of Nino Rota? You’ve certainly heard his music – Rota wrote the score to The Godfather, Part One and The Godfather, Part Two, as well as 11 operas. Rota’s 1955 comedy starts with Fadinard having his hat devoured by a horse on his wedding day – Fadinard’s, not the horse’s – setting off a comical sequence of events before wedding bells can ring. Jonathan Brandini conducts.

The world premiere of The Fix, the latest work to come from the company’s New Works Initiative, is fixed for March 16, 2019. This new opera with a libretto by Eric Simonson and music by Joel Puckett will run for five performances; its story is a dramatization of the Black Sox scandal of 1919, when players and bookies conspired to fix the World Series. Simonson does dual duty as librettist and director, and Timothy Myers conducts.

The season ushers towards close with seven performances of Verdi’s La Traviata starting May 4, 2019. The iconic story of a courtesan whose pursuit of love turns tragic with recrimination, scandal, and death will star Nicole Cabell as Violetta and Mexican tenor Jesús León as Alfredo. Christopher Franklin conducts.

Twin Cities Arts Reader