Opera in the Outfield: not perfect, but welcome

Opera in the Outfield: not perfect, but welcome

Callie Cooper

Minnesota Opera began their fall 2020 virtual season with Opera in the Outfield at CHS Park in St. Paul. This is their only in-person experience in the fall, and it felt good to be around fellow opera fans. The seventy-five-minute presentation featured current resident artists singing selections, over a slideshow of production photos from past seasons. During the event I became a little confused on whether the singers in the photos were singing; I was hoping for more new video content, as there was only one recital shot of resident artist Mia Athey singing a selection from the new opera Blue, which was set to be produced at Minnesota Opera in March with singers who originated roles. (Blue is set to play at the Washington National Opera in July 2021.)

Minnesota Opera's Opera in the Outfield. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Opera.

“We will trust you as our leader” from Scott Joplin’s 1911 opera Treemonisha (also referred to as a ragtime opera) juxtaposed the traditional operatic sounds, in an arrangement performed by The Steeles. It was great to hear and learn about this work; of course, MN opera is known internationally for their focus on new works, and I hope they incorporate rediscovering and exposing old ones like Treemonisha.

It felt weird being surrounded by opera lovers (socially distanced, of course) just a few days after the Metropolitan Opera essentially “cancelled” live opera in North America until late September 2021 (or maybe winter of 2022?). Things haven’t been super well in Europe, but I sincerely admire the attempts. As many others have pointed out, the Met’s decision will have trickle-down effects for artistic administrators, orchestra and choir members, stage staff, and costume designers - the list could go on and on. I am surely not qualified to speculate where this will lead the industry in the country.

Minnesota Opera's Opera in the Outfield. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Opera.

On the micro level, the Twin Cities has a thriving opera and theater community filled with small grassroots companies. I hope these companies survive and continue to engage their audiences until live performances are safe. When I attended a outdoor production in a rural part of Minnesota this summer, I never thought that we would be looking at another year (or years??) of no live theater.

Ugh - I don’t want to end this on a pessimistic note. Kudos to Minnesota Opera for getting us all (safely!) out of our houses and allowing us to applaud and cheer artists together again.

Next up on Minnesota Opera’s digital season is pay-per-view streams of past productions, Wuthering Heights and Das Rheingold.

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