On June 21, 1985, the Metropolitan Opera announced that it was ending more than a century of national tours. Not quite one year later, on May 31, 1986, the very last tour closed its doors with a farewell performance in Minneapolis’s Northrop Auditorium. Many commentators opined that this was a severe blow to the Twin Cities opera scene, from which it would be hard-pressed to recover – an especially topical comment, given that the final curtain dropped on Violetta’s death scene in La Traviata. Three decades later, a very different scene unfolds on both banks of the Mississippi. Minnesota Opera, then focused on experimental new works, seized opportunity by the (Viking helmet) horns and broadened its programming to encompass more of the classics that the Met had formerly imported.
The second annual “Your Crew vs. My Crew” dance competition finished out this year’s Rondo Days, which celebrates the black community that once thrived where I-94 now cuts through St. Paul.
“Every year we celebrate Rondo Days and the people and community who once stood there,” Leviticus Martin, the host of the event, proclaimed to a cheering audience during intermission of the competition. “So keep that in your minds and in your hearts when you come to Rondo Days, to the festival, to the parade, to the competition, that’s what it’s about. It’s about the community, it’s about love.”
The competition took place at Gangelhoff Arena on the Concordia University campus on Saturday, July 18th and lasted almost three hours. The competition and dance exhibition included nine crews from Minnesota, Indiana, and Nebraska. Continue Reading
Musical artists Jackie Beckey and Jonathan Kaiser perform their original live score for the 1921 Swedish silent film classic, Phantom Carriage, in the ASI historic ballroom Wednesday evening. Their musical compositions and improvisation for Phantom Carriage incorporate Beckey’s viola and Kaiser’s cello with amplifiers, electronics and sound effects to create richly textured and sparse soundscapes for this haunting ghost story, featuring ahead-of-its-time special effects and storytelling devices. Beckey and Kaiser, known for their work with bands Brute Heart, Myrrh and Dark Dark Dark, share a passion for cinema and for scoring silent films together. Phantom Carriage is their latest collaboration, a haunting, ethereal film that is a perfect match for their music style and experimentation.
Cyn Collins: How did you first begin collaborating? How did you have the idea to score silent films?
Jonathan Kaiser (JK): …We played music together for a long time, as a configuration for other people and as a duo and in bands and improvising. The scoring for silent films came from Jackie’s Brute Heart being commissioned for “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” for Walker Art Center Music and Movies. They invited me to join them for that. I’d worked on a couple film scores with Dark Dark Dark so I was in a certain mode of working in that kind of thing. So I and John Marks who plays synthesizer and electronics joined them for that. It was a really fun working experience and it was a great combination of five people working on the project. That was kind of the beginning of talking about film and music stuff and working together on film stuff. Continue Reading
Minnesota Opera’s Carmen may have closed, but its gypsy cast – the titular zingara included – appeared to be alive and well on Sunday, when four of the principles appeared in the Mankato Symphony Orchestra’s concert performance of the musical Kiss Me, Kate. Unlike their last onstage appearances, there were no stabbings involved and hippie chic was nowhere to be seen. The general mood of Sunday’s concert was pleasant and amiable: an afternoon idle to enjoy some excellent music with a full orchestra. Kenneth Freed led the orchestra with from the podium, while the spotlight fell alternately on Bergen Baker (Mercédès in the previously mentioned production), Brad Benoit (Le Remendado), Rodolfo Nieto (technically not present at said production, but who’s to quibble about an extra barihunk?), and Victoria Vargas (one of the Carmens). Technically, each member of this quartet sang a character in this abbreviated version of Kiss Me, Kate, but none of those details matter nearly so much as the basic recipe of classically trained singer + live orchestra + fun musical theater songs. Continue Reading
Take a walk over to Rice Park at night, peer through the glass at the Ordway, and you might notice that the Music Theater has been occupied by a squadron of marauding knights. This armored band bears the crest of a Camelot tour, but the production that they present and represent is not your grandfather’s Camelot. The first thing that stands out about this revamped production is that it bears a very strong visual resemblance to a certain Game of Thrones. The second thing that stands out is Mary McNulty (Guenevere), a riveting stage presence with a beautiful voice. Sometime after McNulty flits off the stage for the first time, it becomes increasingly obvious that most of the musical numbers have been cut down. Continue Reading
Mixed Blood Theatre arguably brandishes the strongest track record in Twin Cities’theatre scene for living up to its espoused mission to honor cultural diversity. Be it issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, politics, the shop’s founding artistic director Jack Reuler has, since 1976, sustained a hallmark of social comment cum theatrical expression. Last week, this season closed, conventionally anyway, with Pussy Valley, humanizing sex-industry working women. Convention being never having been Reuler’s long suit, he’s tagged on, for this coming weekend, the conclusion of Mixed Blood’s 55454 Series, limited-run productions to do with Africans and Muslims in America. It began in January with Yussef El Guindi’s Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World. Continue Reading
THEATER REVIEW | 20% Theatre Company’s “Q-Stage: Set C”: A perfect evening of red-nose clowns and angry dancers
20% Theatre Company has saved the best for last in this year’s Q-Stage. The red-nose clowns of Femme Cabaret: A Clown Burlesque and the angry dancers of Gifts of Set C couldn’t be more different in style or tone but together they make for a perfect evening of theater. Of course, you should see all the Q-Stage offerings this year, but if you can only fit one into your schedule, it should be Set C. Absolutely delightful from start to finish (and that includes the part where one of the performers attacks the audience – no, I’m not kidding.)
“I’m the ME in Femme.”
Creator/performer Shannon Forney calls Femme Cabaret “a playful romp on queer femme identity from the awkward center of a Red Nose Clown” and I can’t come up with a better summary statement than that. Shannon’s clown alter ego is Naughty Dottie, and with the help of her red-nosed partners in crime Charming (Emma Buechs) and Swish (Jacob Miller), she guides us through a whole quirky catalog of embarrassments and near misses as she attempts to understand the femme identity’s place in a queer culture. As an audience member, I was so charmed and bemused by Dottie’s misadventures that I didn’t realize until it was over that I’d actually been thinking quite a lot about the notion of identity, gender roles, and the sneaky enemy of conformity (a trap we all fall into, even as we try to set ourselves apart). Continue Reading
You know you’re a theater geek when you don’t really read the program before watching the show and then suddenly realize, “Oh, wait a minute, this is a drag version of Euripides’ Greek tragedy The Trojan Women” – and this revelation makes you fall in love with the play almost immediately. That was part of the fun of watching And She Would Stand Like This, a play in drag as part of Set B in 20% Theatre Company’s latest iteration of their Q-Stage new works program playing at Intermedia Arts. Even if you read the program more carefully than I did and were clued into the source material ahead of time, it’s also fun to see how they take that source and update it. Oh, the names remain the same, that’s the giveaway, but the context for the different relationships have shifted. Rather than the aftermath of the Trojan War, we’re in a modern day time of plague – though the plague is unnamed, you can fill in the blank for yourself fairly quickly. Continue Reading
The opera Carmen needs little introduction, but much can be said about how Minnesota Opera’s current production does things well. This classic femme fatale story is presented in Spain in the 1970s, when the Sexual Revolution first began to erode the edges of a conservative Catholicism previously enforced – sometimes brutally – by the repressive fascist regime of Generalissimo Franco. (The modern stereotype of sleazy Spanish men comes from just after this period.) This decision by director Michael Cavanagh heightens many tensions within the source material, and is a splendid excuse for a retrofabulous costume excursion. The music may be the same as normal, but the updated setting makes the characters much more relatable and heightens the already elevated emotional stakes. Note: This review discusses the Vargas cast of MN Opera’s Carmen, performing May 8 and 9; Check back later for our review of the Sourouzian cast, performing May 7 and 10. Continue Reading