A still from the Minnesota Opera’s performance of Romeo and Juliet.

Gustavus artist series: Minnesota Opera

On Friday Oct. 12, 2018, Gustavus Adolphus College welcomes a group of artists from the Minnesota Opera to lead a vocal master class and perform in an evening concert.

The MN Opera Artist concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. this Friday as part of the Gustavus Artist Series.

The Gustavus Artist Series is a collaborative project centered on music, theater, dance, and art aiming to expose Gustavus students to a wide range of artistic forms by well-known artists from the Twin Cities as well as all over the country.

According to Mara Klein, Director of the Fine Arts Programs, every three years, the music department put together the concert by inviting professional and larger-name artists to perform at Gustavus.

“I think it’s fantastic that we can have such high-profile performances here on campus. Because we are one-hour-ish from the Cities, being able to bring some of those acts here so that out students can see them on campus is great. And it’s also really wonderful for the community around Gustavus, Saint Peter and Mankato, to be able to come to Gustavus and see those performances a little bit closer to home. It just makes those more accessible for more people, which is part of the goal of the series,” Klein said.

The MN Opera Artists come to Gustavus as the second guest of the Artist Series this year after Lazarus a few weeks ago.

The MN Opera is a successful musical production company based in the Twin Cities with 55 years of experience.

According to their website (mnopera.org), Minnesota Opera came to be in 1963 after Dominick Argento composed an opera (The Mask of Angels) for the Walker Art Center’s performing arts program, Center Opera.

Minnesota Opera started out focusing on progressive, alternative opera, but has gradually expanded their repertoire to include also the classical arias.

This week, four artists from MN Opera and their piano accompanist will perform at Gustavus a wide range of arias from classical works including Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Madame Butterfly, Tosca, The Magic Flute, Lohengrin, Die Walküre, Les Contes D’Hoffman, Hamlet, Cenderillon, and La Traviata.

The quartet of a soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, and baritone will perform their solo pieces, duets, and eventually join one another to sing an excerpt from La Traviata.

Dr. Patricia Snapp, Associate Professor and Voice Coordinator of the Music Department shared the opera quartet’s biographies.

Mezzo-soprano Christina Christensen sings Suzy and Lollette in La Rondine this season. Christensen has been a member of the MN Opera chorus since 2014 and has won the Encouragement Award in 2017. Christensen was also the 2014 regional finalist for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Baritone Pablo Siqueiros has been the teaching artist for MN Opera for two years. Siqueiros has delivered educational programming to thousands of people from diverse age groups.

Before moving to Minnesota, he has taught at the Florentine Opera Company in Milwaukee and sung at the Opera of Pittsburgh, Sugar Creek Opera, Skylight Music Theatre, and Milwaukee Opera Theatre.

Soprano Karin Wolverton and Tenor Matthew Opitz are talented natives of Minnesota. Wolverton leads a successful career on both the concert and opera stage.

Wolverton frequently performs with the MN Orchestra, MN Opera, and in many local concert series. This fall, Wolverton reprises the role of Anna for MN Opera’s remount of Silent Night and sings Schubert’s Shepherd on the Rock with The Hill House Players.

Opitz has been an acclaimed dramatic tenor well-known for his role in the American Wagner Project in conjunction with renowned dramatic mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick’s Institute for Young Dramatic Voices.

Opitz also took part in the newly founded Miami Wagner Institute with Wagnerian superstars Christine Goerke and Alan Held.

Their pianist Mark Bilyeu has been passionately pursuing his musical career as a teacher, performer, and curator. As a performer, Bilyeu was the only American finalist in the 2015 Das Lied Song Competition, while maintaining a busy concert schedule.

As an educator, Bilyeu has served on faculty at several universities, most recently at the University of Northern Iowa as a visiting artist in vocal coaching and collaborative piano.

As a curator, his pride and joy reside in the Source Song Festival: a week-long celebration of words and music in Minneapolis.

First year Alannah Rien is looking forward to the concert. “This concert is an exciting and different experience for me, because I haven’t had much exposure to opera. I expect great singers and drama,” Rien said.

As a vocal student and soprano in Choir of Christ Chapel, Rien hopes to enjoy the concert as well as learn more about opera as an art form.

Involved in putting together the concert series, Dr. Snapp hopes this event would encourage students to engage more in opera.

“Most people think it is an inaccessible and difficult art form, but opera is actually exciting and expressive. Do not be afraid, and try it so you can feel the excitement in the drama as well as in the music,” Dr. Snapp said.

Gusties can reserve their free ticket for the concert at: gustavustickets.com.