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PREVIEW: Mixed Precipitation’s Pickup Truck Opera Returns

Singers Kara Morgan, Corissa Bussian, and Mark Billy in Mixed Precipitation’s 2023 operatic production of Romeo and Juliet.

In the not-so-distant future, scientist and entrepreneur Dr. Johann Faust faces a planet in crisis but no motivation to spare humanity its fate. He yearns to find a life of meaning and love. Méphistophélès, a mysterious extraplanar entity with a devilish charm, appears with a bargain: Relocate Earth’s climate refugees to a lunar colony and win the love of the brilliant physicist Marguerite. Together, Faust and his mysterious companion launch a fanatical quest to save humanity and reach beyond the limits of human potential. Dr. Faust finds himself torn between the love of his life and the conditions of his bargain. The music of Depeche Mode is laced into this tale…

The combo of scifi, a novel out of German Romanticism, and the music of Depeche Mode might sound a little out of left field – but it’s exactly on brand for Mixed Precipitation. For 16 seasons, the opera company has been delivering its uniquely offbeat and irreverent take on opera and popular culture, brewing up mashup after hilarious mashup.

Let’s take a step back. Do you like opera? Theatre that surprises you? Perhaps a nice, amuse-bouche taste of something different with live performance that adds some pizzaz to your afternoon, but doesn’t take all evening? Then Mixed Precipitation is definitely something that should be on your radar.

Radar is practically a must, too, as the company embarks on its fourth Pickup Truck Opera installment – the pandemic-expanded follow-up to its popular Picnic Operetta series. Their 2024 summer tour takes performances in sprawling parks, nature centers, and farms all over Minnesota. (Audiences are encouraged to bring a lawn chair and beverages for comfort and hydration.) Each performance lasts 75-90 minutes, and all shows are outdoors.

Pickup Truck Opera: Volume 4—Faust is the brainchild of a tetrad of creators – music director Gary Ruschman (returning for his seventh production with Mixed Precipitation), playwright and theologian [sic] Max Yeshaye, and stage directors Scotty Reynolds and Jacob Miller – and the Mixed Precipitation ensemble.

Tenor Maurice Fields leads the cast as Faust. Bass Justin Spenner returns to Mixed Precipitation in the role of Méphistophélès, and sopranos Caroline Kouma and Corissa Bussian split the role of Marguerite. Galina Đorđević, Joshua Eidem, Joni Griffith, Jill Morgan, and Nick Miller play multiple roles and multiple instruments under the leadership of Ruschman. The production is completed with contributions by designer Alex Hathaway, costume designer Rhiannon Fiskradatz, props and supertitles designer Karly Bergman, and stage manager Ches Cipriano.

A promotional image for Mixed Precipitation’s new Faust show.

Pickup Truck Opera Schedule

Thursday, August 8th at 7:00 pm 
Whiteside Park
721 East Sheridan Street, Ely, MN 55731

Friday, August 9th at 6:30 pm
Hovland Town Hall
4957 East Highway 61, Hovland, MN 55606
Benefit performance for the Hovland Volunteer Fire Department.
Presented by the North Shore Music Association and Opp-Hvidston Foundation

Saturday, August 10th at 3:00 pm
Sweethearts Bluff in the Grand Marais Recreation Area
114 South 8th Avenue West, Grand Marais, MN 55604
Presented by the North Shore Music Association and Opp-Hvidston Foundation

Sunday, August 11th at 1:00 pm 
Finland Heritage Site 
5653 Little Marais Rd, Finland, MN 55603
Presented by Lovin’ Lake County 

Thursday, August 15th at 7:00 pm
Loring Park Garden of the Seasons
1382 Willow Street, Minneapolis, MN 55403

Friday, August 16th at 7:00 pm 
Caponi Art Park
1220 Diffley Road, Eagan, MN 55123

Saturday, August 17th at 6:00 pm 
Cheateux St. Croix Winery
1998 Highway 87, St Croix Falls, WI 54024

Sunday, August 18th at 3:00 pm
Franconia Sculpture Park
29836 St Croix Trail N, Shafer, MN 55074

Thursday, August 22nd at 7:00 pm
Dodge Nature Center, Farm Education Center
1701 Charlton Street, West St. Paul, MN 55118

Friday, August 23rd at 6:30 pm
DreamAcres Farm
17289 County Road 8, Wykoff, MN 55990

Saturday, August 24th at 3:00 pm
Patton Park
112-114 South High Street, Lake City, MN 55041
Presented by the Lake City Area Arts

Sunday, August 25th at 3:00 pm
Cedar Lake East Beach, “Hidden Beach”
2000 S Upton Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55405
Presented by the Kenwood Neighborhood Organization, Hidden Acoustics

Wednesday, August 28th at 6:30 pm
Silverwood Park
2500 County Road E, St. Anthony, MN 55421

Saturday,  August 31st at 2:00 pm
Alexis Bailly Vineyard
18200 Kirby Ave. Hastings, MN 55033

Sunday, September 1st at 2:00 pm
Alexis Bailly Vineyard
18200 Kirby Ave. Hastings, MN 55033

Thursday, September 5th at 6:30 pm
Bronx Park Community Garden
2500 Georgia Avenue South, St. Louis Park, MN 55426

Friday, September 6th at 6:30 pm
Ojibwe Park
2695 Ojibway Dr, Woodbury, MN 55125
Presented by the Merrill Arts Center 

Saturday, September 7th TBA

Sunday, September 8th TBA

Thursday, September 12th at 6:00 pm 
River Bend Nature Center 
1000 Rustad Road, Faribault, MN 55021
Presented by the Paradice Center

Saturday, September 14th at 3:00 pm
Swede Hollow Park
657 East Beaumont St, St. Paul, MN 55106

Sunday, September 15th at 3:00 pm
JD Rivers’ Children’s Garden
2900 Glenwood Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55405

Amy Donahue