Mellon Foundation Helps Minnesota Opera Keep It Fresh

By Espeland, Pamela | MinnPost.com, July 18, 2014 | Go to article overview

Mellon Foundation Helps Minnesota Opera Keep It Fresh


Espeland, Pamela, MinnPost.com


For any art form to survive, it must innovate and grow. Minnesota Opera knows that; its landmark New Works Initiative (NWI) program commissions new operas and stages revivals of contemporary works, freshening and expanding the repertoire. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation also knows that; it just gave Minnesota Opera a three- year, $750,000 gift -- its third major gift to the opera in six years. The first, $500,000 in 2008, helped fund the NWI, and the second, $750,000 in 2011, supported the creation of the opera "Doubt," which premiered here in 2013.

Mellon's latest gift raises its total support of the NWI to $2 million to date. The new money will go toward three commissions: "The Manchurian Candidate," "The Shining" and "Dinner at Eight." Minnesota Opera President and General Director Kevin Ramach called Mellon's act "a great testament to the vitality of the operatic art form in the 21st century."

The Fringe is fast approaching (it starts July 31) and next week we'll tell you how to work it like a pro. Meanwhile, get a taste of what to see (and not to see) at Fringe Previews #2 on Monday, when 30 different companies perform three-minute previews, laced together with Fringe executive director Jeff D. Larson's intros and wry comments. At Fringe Previews #1 last Monday, we saw several intriguing bits and were reminded that anyone can get into the Fringe; shows are chosen by lottery, not jury. Seriously, that could be yours truly on stage, playing "Carmina Burana" on the accordion. 7 p.m. at the Rarig Center. Admission: $4 Fringe button, available there.

Pop-up art will return to the Fair with a new lineup and in specific locations. Launched last year, "Arts A'Fair" brings performing arts groups to our state's great get-together for on-the- spot shows. Returnees include In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre and Minnesota Centennial Showboat. New this year are Black Storytellers Alliance, HUGE Improv Theater, Open Eye Figure Theatre, Voice of Culture Drum & Dance, Z Puppets Rosenshnoz and more. Performances will take place in the Education Building Courtyard and KSTP Heritage Plaza at the new West End Market (old Heritage Square). You can find your favorites on the daily schedules when they go live later this year.

If anyone knows books, it's Hans Weyandt, former co-owner of Micawber's Books in St. Anthony Park and editor of "Read This! Handpicked Favorites from America's Indie Bookstores." It fits that he's the latest artist-in-residence in Coffee House Press's "In the Stacks" program. Weyandt will spend a month in the Minneapolis Central Library's Special Collections exploring its History of Books and Printing collection, which covers bookmaking, typography, collecting, and printing. At 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, he'll give a talk at the library.

Those attending this year's Rondo Days in St. Paul on Saturday will have a rare opportunity to help create an important new work of public art. Forecast Public Art, SoulTouch Productions and In the Footsteps of Gordon Parks are in the early stages of planning a Gordon Parks Memorial in downtown St. Paul. Parks was a celebrated photographer, humanitarian, composer, author and filmmaker who got his start in the city; here's a brief biography.

The memorial site is planned for the Landmark Center plaza. Forecast and SoulTouch want to ensure that the memorial is thoughtful and meaningful, honors Parks' values and legacy, and encourages young men and women to walk in his footsteps. At Rondo Days, you'll be able to meet and talk with Parks' family members about his life and legacy, learn more from actor Ronald Collier, who will be playing Parks, and contribute feedback and ideas for the memorial by filling out a survey or participating in an interview. You can also complete the survey online. …

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