MUSIC REVIEW | Gypsies invade Mankato for “Kiss Me, Kate”

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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. Like chocolate chip cookies, it’s a classic recipe for a good time.

Highlights of the performance included Nieto’s breath-catching reprise of “So In Love,” Vargas’s peppy rendition of “Always True To You (In My Fashion),” Baker and Benoit’s “From This Moment On” duet, and Baker’s “I Hate Men.”

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