Minneosta Opera Looks Ahead and Back at the Same Time

I’m encouraged by the news that the Minnesota Opera has decide to commit to an initiative “designed to invigorate the operatic repertoire with an infusion of contemporary works.”

Minnesota OperaWorks. 7 years. 1 international coproduction. 3 revivals of American works. 3 newly commissioned operas.

Pioneer Press, Star Tribune and MPR all have stories.

People who’ve been around town long enough (or people like me who happen to talk to those people) no doubt see this as a blast from the past. This kind of commitment to contemporary American opera is how the opera company got its start. So it makes sense that the 2009-10 season will feature a revival of Dominick Argento’s Casanova’s Homecoming, which had it’s premiere during the company’s first season.

I don’t actually know that piece at all, but I’m a little skeptical. If we really want to propel the art form forward then maybe we should stop defining pieces that are 25 years old as contemporary. (I’m generally fascinated by how we define classical music) This Argento opera is being listed as a revival, but what about their upcoming production of Faust this winter. Isn’t that a revival too? At what point is a production still considered new or contemporary? And at what point do we just accept it into our standard repertoire?

I realize that those details, although important from a broader context, are somewhat superfluous. I do think this can be a very good thing. Amid a storm of depressing opera headlines (the NYC Opera ordeal, the Corligliano to Verdi switch, and the WNO’s incomplete ring cycle just to name a few), I’m proud that the Minnesota Opera is willing to be bold in the face of our failing economy. And at least from what they’re saying now, this is no auxilary program. As quoted in the the Pioneer Press:

“We try to do something contemporary every season,” said the opera’s president, Kevin Smith. “What we want to do is make it a primary focus of where we’re going in the next decade.”


“There’s so much doom and gloom here, so at least there’s a bit of good news coming out of Minnesota,” he said. “Minnesota is the best place to be if you’re an opera company and you’re trying to be adventurous in your programming.”


~ by ohactually on November 16, 2008.

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