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PREVIEW: Minnesota Opera Returns…to the Baseball Stadium?

CHS Field at sunset. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Opera.

When you hear “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, opera is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Yes, there are opera singers who’ve sung the national anthem. Over in football land, you might even call the hullabaloo around the 2020 Superbowl Halftime Show operatic in scale. But a baseball stadium as the setting for opera?

This is the audacious proposal given by Minnesota Opera, which opens its revised season tonight with a series of opera excerpts being presented to an in-person audience. Where? In Lowertown St. Paul, at CHS Field – a capacious venue where social distancing, to put it mildly, will not be much of a problem.

This isn’t the first time that the company has decided to play ball. The 2018-2019 saw the world premiere of The Fix, an opera about the infamous Black Sox Scandal surrounding the 1919 World Series. One of that work’s weaker elements was the lack of actual baseball – the few pitching scenes were some of its better moments. Fittingly, the Opera in the Outfield that begins tonight includes a quartet from The Fix, “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” and the aria “The Tale of Shoeless Joe”.

Two musical excerpts from the 2018-2019 season’s The Fix will appear – sans locker room lack of social distancing – in Opera on the Outfield. Photo by Cory Weaver.

It’s been a long time since most Minnesotans have been to a performance outside of their living room, much less one of opera. It might even feel a bit strange, especially since many of the faces will be new.

How new? How about the newest cohort from MN Opera’s Resident Artist program, including Mia Athey, Leah Brzyski, Allen Michael Jones, Aaron Keeney, and Joseph Leppek. If you think the rest of the performers look more familiar, you’ve probably seen them before: all five members of The Steeles – J.D., Jevetta, Fred, Jearlyn, and Billy – will be taking to the green.

Tonight’s performance marches through a number of opera’s classic hits, including music from CarmenLa TraviataThe Marriage of FigaroDon PasqualeLucia di LammermoorBlue, Roméo et Juliette, Eugene Onegin, and the rarely heard Scott Joplin opera Treemonisha (yes, Maple Leaf Rag Scott Joplin). The music is conducted by Lidiya Yankovskaya and the scenes directed by David Radamés Toro. Visuals will be supplemented with video designs by David Murakami.

Jeanine Tesori’s Blue was originally planned for the 2020-2021 season, and will make a cameo appearance in Opera in the Outfield . Photo by Karli Cadel.

Minnesota Opera’s Opera in the Outfield program premieres tonight at 7:30 PM at CHS Field in Saint Paul, MN. The program repeats this Saturday at 7:30 PM.

Basil Considine